What A Vertically-Integrated Textile and Apparel Factory Looks Like Today

Video credit: Chenfeng group; 8th China and Asia Textile Forum 2020

Discussion questions (For FASH455, please answer all questions):

  • From the video, how is textile manufacturing (e.g., yarns and fabrics) different from apparel manufacturing?
  • Based on our lectures and the video, how do you see the impact of automation on shaping the future landscape of world textile and apparel production and trade?
  • Will you be interested in working for a textile/apparel factory after graduation? Why or why not?

Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

18 thoughts on “What A Vertically-Integrated Textile and Apparel Factory Looks Like Today”

  1. 1) From watching the video of textile manufacturing, I have realized even more how fast paced this industry is. It’s the constant roaring of machines and threads while apparel manufacturing incorporated more human contact with the apparel.

    2) As I touched on in the previous question, I believe the future landscape of the textile industry will transition to solely machine work. Machines now a days can do the work of 20 men without getting paid a salary so I believe this is going to be the future of the textile industry and could possibly seep into the apparel industry.

    3) I do not think I would be interested in working in a textile/apparel factory upon graduation. I say this because upon graduation I see myself working in more the business side of the industry, more focused in customer service where I would be in constant contact with consumers.

    1. great thought! I like your comment that “how fast paced this industry is.” Absolutely!

      For the second question, I am thinking as textile AND apparel manufacturing is becoming ever more automated, whether it means production will shift from developing countries to developed countries. Or in other words, whether the “market entry barriers” are becoming higher.

      1. Agree, but it will be far more difficult to automate apparel production than production of textiles (which is already automated to a high level as far as spinning, weaving and knitting is concerned). I do not see sewing robots for apparel production in short or medium terms (also because apparel production is mainly run by SMEs not being able to invest in advanced technology.

  2. Posted on behalf of jamieweiner
    -I believe the video starts out showing textile manufacturing, where there isn’t a lot of human labor involved or even necessary, given all of the machines utilized in the process. When it came to making the apparel, it was similarly as “robotic” where everyone has a job to do that they must follow in a certain way. More human labor was involved in the smaller, personalized details of shaping the garments.

    -This video showed me that factories aren’t always these dingy, dusty workplaces with smoke and crowded spaces filled with workers. I am assuming that’s because this video wasn’t shot in a developing country, so the machines and technology were intensive. Automation shows that the future is machines to get the job done faster, making products in bulk, and more efficient. Again, even the apparel manufacturing didn’t seem to have that many laborers, still relying on technology in making garments.

    -While I was impressed with one instance of high technology, clean, open spaces, and factories progressing to be better, I wouldn’t be interested in working for a factory. I am not a person who can do the same tasks everyday in only one sort of manner. The environment is too structural with little room to make mistakes. Plus, the income isn’t as high as an apparel design job. However, this instance comes to show that working in a factory is becoming more respectable and modernized.

    1. Thank you for the thoughtful comments! The video actually was filmed in China, featuring Chenfeng group (http://www.chenfeng.cn/English/channels/283.html)
      This video put me into thinking whether the video can be regarded as a successful model of the so-called export-orientation development strategy…

      On the other hand, even in countries like Bangladesh, automation in the garment industry is happening. However, like it or not, the impact of automation on social responsibility seems to be mixed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsSDI8wWAyQ

      Regarding the last question, I am curious about the supply of workforce in support of “reshoring” and “made in the USA”

      Welcome for any follow-up comments.

  3. 1. Textile manufacturing is much more dependent on machines to produce the yarns and fabric while apparel production relies on humans to cut and sew the actual apparel. This is why developed countries will usually be the ones making the yarns and fabrics because they have the funds to purchase all the machines while developing countries who are labor abundant will produce the apparel.
    2. The automation of the textile industry specifically is going to create fewer and fewer jobs in developed countries within the textile industry. Jobs that used to require 10 people can now be done by a machine and may only require 1 or 2 people now. Although the textile industry in developed countries is doing well, fewer people will actually be working in it. Since the apparel industry still requires humans to cut and sew products, this is helpful for developing countries because they can still rely on the industry for jobs and to boost their economies.
    3. I personally do not see myself working for the textile/apparel industry in the factories when I graduate. I would prefer to work for a bigger company in the office, however all the information I have learned about factories and the industry is crucial knowledge because no matter what sector of the industry I work for, I need to know what is happening at the factor level both in textiles and apparel manufacturing. It is important that companies check in on their factories and know what is happening in them.

  4. 1) Based on the video, apparel manufacturing is different from textile manufacturing because textile manufacturing is much more heavily dependent on machines, whereas apparel manufacturing is more dependent on human labor.

    2) The automation of the textile industry will lead to higher and more efficient product, however, will also unfortunately result in the loss of a lot of jobs for workers because machines can do the work faster than them and factory owners will not have to spend money on paying employees.

    3) I do not think I would like to work in a textile or apparel manufacturing company after I graduate because I would prefer to work in the business sector of the industry as a buyer or planner. However, all of the knowledge I have gained in regards to the manufacturing industry will definitely benefit me in those positions.

  5. From the video, how is textile manufacturing (e.g., yarns and fabrics) different from apparel manufacturing?
    – From watching this video, I have learned textile manufacturing is very different and faster paced then apparel manufacturing. Textile manufacturing is a fast process with machines and technology whereas apparel manufacturing manages to include employees and workers who have a first hand experience with creating products.

    Based on our lectures and the video, how do you see the impact of automation on shaping the future landscape of world textile and apparel production and trade?
    – I see the impact of automation on shaping the future landscape of the textile world and apparel production and trade decreasing the amount of jobs in the textile industry due to higher quality machines being produced to do the job faster, more efficient, and requires less workers. Developed countries who engage in this will ultimately lessen the job for its people. On the other hand, the apparel production and trade industry will continue to thrive in needing workers and this may increase jobs in developing countries, who I believe will be impacted and come out the most beneficial.

    Will you be interested in working for a textile/apparel factory after graduation? Why or why not?
    – I personally do not see myself working for a textile/apparel factory after graduation. I like to see the process of manufacturing, producing, etc., from start to finish. I think the textile industry is increasing rapidly to new extremes and new technology in the way their machines are made and how they produce. I would rather work on the business or creative side of the fashion industry.

    1. great thought! One quick follow-up question-you mentioned automation may result in more jobless production. But do you think automation will benefit “Reshoring”, i.e., making apparel products again in the US and other developed economies? why or why not?

  6. 1. Based on the video, it is clear that the textile manufacturing industry is much more heavily reliant on machinery. The pace is very quick and there is not a lot of human contact needed in order to be successful. The apparel manufacturing industry requires more people to be involved and more hand-on work in order to produce the end product.
    2. The automation of the textile industry will lead to more efficiency and potential saved costs for these companies as they will not require many employees. This being said, it will lead to a loss of jobs in these developed countries that produce these textiles. The apparel industry requires people and while parts can be automated, developing countries do not need to necessarily worry about a loss of these types of jobs. With more automation in the apparel industry, there is potential to shift more production to developed countries, but this is not a major topic at the moment.
    3. I do not see myself working in these areas. It is very important and I think under appreciated work and I will gladly take the information I learned about this portion of the fashion industry into my future jobs. I see myself working more on the business side.

    1. good thought. Just want to add–I attended several sourcing events last year. It was very interesting to notice that Asian garment factories were most interested in automation technologies and demonstrated the strongest will for investments. Meanwhile, it doesn’t seem many US apparel companies interested in shifting their business models back to manufacturing. Many US apparel mills are also too small –meaning purchasing these expensive equipments are beyond their affordability.

  7. 1. After watching the video, I can see how different apparel and textile manufacturing really are. Textile manufacturing, at least in more developed countries, seems to be a lot more reliant on machinery and other technology. Textile manufacturing also seems to go a lot faster than apparel manufacturing. This could be because apparel manufacturing, as we saw, involves more people doing labor which can slow the process down a little bit because humans obviously can’t work as fast as a machine can.
    2. The automation of textile and apparel production can shape the future of manufacturing in both positive and negative ways. For one, it can make the process much more efficient allowing companies the ability to produce more clothes to sell. On the other hand, it could also lead to higher unemployment because of the lack of people needed to produce these goods.
    3. Personally, I am not really interested in working for a textile/apparel factory once I graduate because of the increasing unemployment in this sector. It may be a good job now, but with the amount of companies investing in machinery to produce their products, it doesn’t seem like it will be very sustainable. In addition, I would rather work on the creative business side of the fashion industry rather than production.

    1. I completely agree with you wanting to work on the creative business side of the fashion industry rather than factory production. Yet, I do see corporate jobs sometimes as unsustainable as the factory ones. Albeit having different replacements, with the textile/apparel industry having mechanized replacements and the business side having human ones, every facet will be searching for the cheapest, most efficient labor.

  8. 1) From the video you can tell that textile manufacturing is mostly based off the work of advanced machinery. There are lots of quick moving parts working together to make the textiles. However, apparel manufacturing is more heavily reliant on the labor of man. Factory workers are physically perfecting each garment by hand, without the assistance of machinery or technology.
    2) I think that automation is really going to affect the landscape of world textile and apparel production and trade in coming years. We have already seen automation take over the textile manufacturing sector, and with the accuracy and efficiency of new technologies, automation is only going to spread to other sectors. Advanced technologies are able to do the jobs of humans faster, more accurately, and without the need for sick days or vacations, so more can be produced, with less mistakes, leading to a higher profit for companies. However, I think that this is going to drastically decrease the amount of jobs in the industry, specifically in apparel manufacturing. Also, I believe increased automation across the industry will begin to affect where and how companies source their products. Companies will begin shifting to automated factories over those with manual labor, leaving developing countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam crumbling due to their dependency on the apparel manufacturing industry.
    3) I would be interested in working in a textile/apparel factory. While I believe that increased automation will decrease the amount of jobs in factories, I would be interested to see the effects these machines are having on the industry first-hand. Is technology really better than manual labor? Or are we not just so reliant on technologies that we believe that this is the only way to go? These are questions I would want to figure out. Also, lets not forget the hard work these factory workers go through everyday. I would be interested in working for these factories, also, just to see if there are any ways to increase the working conditions of these people. Is it really as glamorous as this video shows? Articles and stories I have seen leads me to believe otherwise.

  9. 1) The video phrases the textile manufacturing process as, “addicted to machinery,” meaning it is completely mechanized. Those machines are wildly expensive, but their ROI is high because the textile manufacturing process adds a lot of value to the good. The textile manufacturing countries are capital and technology-intensive. There are more human involvement and interference in the apparel manufacturing process. Even if the machines complete a task the human capital is ensuring everything is running smoothly. The apparel manufacturing process requires an intricacy that is not yet mechanized, making the countries that produce apparel labor-intensive.
    2) The impact of automation is an expensive one: capital and technology-intensive countries will continue to invest in new technologies and labor-intensive countries will have increasing pressure to find ways to automate. Although I cannot see developing countries becoming fully automated in the near future, I do think that with COVID-pressures on efficiency are going to make the apparel-manufacturing process more mechanized (as machines do not get sick).
    3)I will not be interested in working for a textile/apparel factory after graduation because I crave variety in my day-to-day tasks. Although I respect the diligence and focus that it requires to work in these factories, my strengths are best suited to a position where I am changing and doing new things every day. I hope to bring levels of dedication similar to the workers in these factories to my future job after graduation.

  10. • From the video, how is textile manufacturing (e.g., yarns and fabrics) different from apparel manufacturing?
    From the video you can see how detail oriented the textile manufacturing is. You can see how much work goes into it and how people need to do things by hand, but there is also a lot of machines involved in the process. It is also different in the aspect that textile manufacturing is creating yarns and fabrics which would later be used in apparel manufacturing. This is cool because you can’t have apparel without the textiles. The video shows how complex and fast the process is.
    • Based on our lectures and the video, how do you see the impact of automation on shaping the future landscape of world textile and apparel production and trade?
    Automation is going to shape the future of the textile industry way more than the apparel industry. Automation is also going to make products a lot faster than if it were done by hand, and with less costs because then workers would not need to be paid. Automation in textiles would be a lot easier to do because of yarns and fabrics, there are more machines for that type of stuff rather than making whole clothes, you still need workers for that. But I do think in developed countries machinery will take over, but not as much for the less developed countries like Bangladesh. I do feel as though jobs will be lost soon due to automation.
    • Will you be interested in working for a textile/apparel factory after graduation? Why or why not?
    In my opinion I love what we learn in this class and it is definitely information worth knowing when going into a field of fashion with your career, but it is not for me. Fashion is my minor and business management is my major. I chose fashion as a minor because it is something I love and have fun with, but business is my main focus. Everything we I have learned so far in textile and apparel has been very interesting though.

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