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The textile industry was always at the forefront of great innovations, but the last 40 years, nothing new is being introduced.

We need to realize that the way in which the clothes we all wear is produced today will no longer be sustainable in the future. More and more groups are rising to make it clear that the pollution, for which the entire industry is responsible, is no longer possible if we want to keep our planet livable. The road that your clothing has traveled before you wear it, that is unheard of, a journey of many thousands of kilometers, to end up 2 years later in a garbage dump. The distance that clothing travels on average before it is consumed in the West has often doubled or far more than that since the 1970s. Clothing has become relatively much cheaper, but the shelf life of clothing has fallen dramatically since that time. A business model that cannot last long, at least that are our thoughts. What we predicted two years ago, when we researched the future of the sector and how the company should respond to it, has now become a clear message that is getting louder and louder. The time of the mega production facilities is over. More production will happen in the consumer’s region. To make this financially feasible, smaller production units will be realized, especially in the West, which will rely more on technology than on brute labor. The problem is, the sector is not innovating to make this possible.

Motion capture suit for data collection
Motion capture suit for data collection

The sector wants the public to believe differently, but the current situation is bad for real innovation in the production of clothing. This statement is somewhat clouded because everything falls under the textile industry and developments throughout the industry continue to follow each other quickly. But what has happened in the field of clothing assembly, to a lesser extent also for shoes? Nothing, and it has been like that for decades. Developments are taking place that demand attention, but is that what the clothing production sector is looking for? If you follow those developments, we think it is sad. Essentially nothing new is developed, only the manual labor is kept to a minimum. But production is carried out horizontally over several workstations, where we expect our production staff to do this in a three-dimensional environment on less than 2 square meters. The innovation needs many times more floor space, if you compare that to employees, we guarantee that the human variant will deliver much more production, which in turn translates into costs, then we will conclude that people win. In order to gain an advantage to keep costs down, we all demand that more pressure, read more numbers, be produced at an equivalent salary. In other words, because we are not creative enough in innovation for the textile industry assembly sector, the workload is increased for the production staff.

But talking and complaining without coming up with a solution does not help either. That is why we ourselves have begun to investigate what could be improved, what that innovation should look like, then we do not mean the aesthetic appearance, but the possibilities of movement, action, speed and accuracy. After that, the research focused on what is currently available in those individual areas. A total solution is currently not available. There are enough options for individual components, the big question remains, can we bring all these components together to come up with a total solution? In implementation, it answers without a doubt, YES. The control is a bigger question mark, because there is nowhere a software / operating system that has had to perform this type of task, or equivalent work. Another “problem” for which solutions must be found is the affordability of the innovation. What is quickly too expensive for Southeast Asia is often dirt cheap for the West, where can we find the balance? The speed of action is another issue that should certainly be addressed, because if it does not make any progress in relation to human actions, it will take a long time before the innovation will be adopted by the sector. Below you can read what we want to do about all these issues:

1st step:

Our plans differ from what is being developed so far. We start from the existing production methods, ie three-dimensional production instead of horizontal production. The data collection will be about digitally mapping every movement and action that a production employee does. This can be done by using a “motion capture suit”. Then it will not be a full body-covering suit, but upper body and arms and hands. So that we can digitally analyze every shoulder, arm, hand and finger movement. There will be sensors in the outer clothing that meticulously chart every movement. Not once or by 1 person, but hours, days, months and maybe years in succession. For every product what is made, but also for all different parts of a total production process.

A motion capture suit with sensors
A motion capture suit with sensors

This kind of “motion capture suits” is widely used in the gaming and film industry to simulate movements. We will use them in the first instance to analyze movements. A software program / algorithm must be developed that can translate these movements for production purposes. We are going to use the available staff for the data collection, who will also become data processing assistants. They will continue to do their normal work, only every movement is stored in detail. This data collection will be done in collaboration with a University in Yogyakarta that has a computer science faculty. We will also employ data analysts on a permanent basis.

2nd step:

An industrial designer and his team will conduct research and development into robotic arms for light production purposes. These robot arms, including the hands, must mimic the movements that are collected in the current production processes. What that design will look like also depends on the data that we collect. The data will show whether we should focus solely on the mobility of the arms and hands or take the shoulder part with us. It will therefore be important to investigate not only the imitation of the movements of the arms and hands, but also the spatial movement within the environment of a workstation, hence three-dimensional. Because with that we can make a total design. Within this step the pressure sensitivity of the hand and fingers should also be an important point of attention. The production process is with textile fabrics, which are sensitive to force during treatment. New developments in the medical industry will also be considered.

In addition, we must be creative in development. Most robot arms and hands are mainly motor-driven. Only, pressure adjustments of motor-driven robot arms, in particular for the grip of the hand, are unlikely to be accurate enough to ensure proper pressure during production execution. Do not think in terms of strength, but precisely in terms of sensitivity. The focus must therefore also be on deviations in this. We may then consider pneumatic or hydraulic applications. Many sensors can be used. A reference to this can be made for the modern braking systems of cars, not cables but sensors. This will become clearer during the research period. The same goes for the different materials that must be used. Are plastics strong enough, or should we proceed with the use of light metals.

example of cobot arms, still in development
Example of cobot arms, still in development

All departments will work closely together, because we want to work towards a prototype as quickly as possible. The first prototype will be a solo-operating unit, but we want future models to work together in a system context. Nevertheless, we first opt for a solo-operating unit, because this will allow us to understand more the technology that is needed for later models. In addition, it would be an ideal module if our workers could also work on production units, if only to solve any obstacles and problems. Interaction between man and machine (Collaborative Robot or COBOT).

3rd step:

The data collection must, in collaboration with the prototype production unit, lead to a software system for controlling the production units. For this, the data analysts will collaborate with software developers and programmers. This software system will also get a “Machine learning” application. So that this computer and robots can learn from the data that we collect analogously from our employees. This should include pattern recognition and problem solving.

Both in steps 1, 2 and 3 much attention will be paid to classical mechanics, for research purposes and in the development of Collaborative Robots. Classical Mechanics, Kinematics and Kinetics and all subdivisions below. Here is a small explanation where it will be mainly research and development: Classical mechanics, also called Newtonian mechanics, is the form in which mechanics has been described since Isaac Newton (Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, 1687). Classical mechanics is a part of physics. Newton postulated his three laws of mechanics, making it possible to use mathematics in physics. Later, the work of Newton was continued by, among others, Joseph-Louis Lagrange and William Rowan Hamilton.

Classical mechanics is applicable in ‘everyday’ situations. Until Albert Einstein came up with the theory of relativity, physicists assumed that the movement of objects was accurately described with classical mechanics. From the beginning of the 20th century, classical mechanics was no longer sufficient to explain all observations. Fundamental expansion proved necessary with the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. Classical mechanics only applies when there are velocities that are small compared to the speed of light, when gravity is not abnormally strong and when the behavior of matter on an atomic scale is negligible. In daily life, classical mechanics is still sufficient.

The field of Classical Mechanics deals with the study of bodies (objects) in motion, in particular the physical laws that govern bodies (objects) under the influence of forces. Many of the mechanical aspects of robotics design are strongly linked to the principles of this field. This section will describe a number of core concepts of Classical Mechanics that are important to us.

SPEED – A measure of how quickly an object moves. Describes a change of position over time (or rather, how far an object will move over a certain period of time.) This measure is given in units of distance per time (that is, (kilo) meters per hour or centimeters per second).

Sensors and cameras at work on motion capturing
Sensors and cameras at work on motion capturing

ROTATION SPEED – Speed can also be expressed in rotation. This refers to how fast something moves in a circle. It is measured in units of angular distance per time (i.e., degrees per second) or rotation cycles per time (i.e., revolutions per minute). When someone talks about “RPM”, they refer to rotational speed. When we talk about the RPM of a car engine, someone describes how many revolutions the engine makes per minute.

ACCELERATION – A speed change during a certain time period is described as acceleration; the higher the acceleration, the faster the change in speed. If a car drives from 0 kilometers per hour to 60 kilometers per hour in 2 seconds, this is a higher acceleration than when the car moves from 0 km / h to 40 km / h in 2 seconds. Acceleration is a pace of speed change. No change means no acceleration – if something moves at a constant speed, it doesn’t accelerate.

FORCE – Acceleration is caused by forces; they are influences that cause a change of movement, direction or form. When one presses on an object, it exerts a force on it. When a robot is accelerating, it does so because of the force that the wheels exert on the floor. Force is measured in units such as Pounds or Newtons.

For example, the weight of an object is the force on the object due to gravity (accelerating the object to the center of the earth).

TORQUE – Force directed in a circle (rotating an object) is known as torque. Torque is a spinning force. When the torque spins an object, the object creates a linear force at the edge. In the case of a wheel spinning on the ground, the torque applied to the wheel axle provides a linear force at the edge of the tire where it touches the ground. In this way one defines the torque, a linear force at the edge of a circle. Torque is described by the magnitude of the force multiplied by the distance from the center of rotation (force x distance = torque). The torque is measured in units with a force * distance, such as Inch-Pounds Newton-Meters.

KINEMATICS – is a branch of classical mechanics that describes the movement of points, bodies (objects) and systems of bodies (groups of objects) without taking into account the forces that caused the movement. Kinematics, as a field of study, is often referred to as the “geometry of movement” and is also seen as a branch of mathematics. A kinematic problem starts with describing the geometry of the system and explaining the initial conditions of known values of position, speed and / or acceleration of points within the system. Subsequently, the position, speed and acceleration of unknown parts of the system can be determined using arguments from the geometry. The study of how forces act on bodies falls within kinetics, not kinematics.

KINETICS – In physics and engineering, kinetics is the branch of classical mechanics that deals with the relationship between motion and its causes, in particular forces and torque. Since the mid-20th century, the term “dynamics” (or “analytical dynamics”) has largely replaced “kinetics” in physics manuals, although the term is still used in technology.

workspace cubicle
Example of a workspace cubicle

4th step:

The legal recording and protection of the systems and software that we develop. Both contractually with all parties involved, as well as the patenting of systems, software and production units. We must ensure that we can claim intellectual property in one of these areas so that we can also exploit it commercially and that another party will not exploit our development without paying for it.

For this we will put together a legal team that will focus on all issues related to this. This also applies to the employment contracts of our employees and any future partners. But also, for the legal framework when we start using the technology of others in our cobots. These are complex issues, but very important for our future and that of our shareholders and financiers. All this will relate to local law as well as international law.

5th step:

Alignment with existing production lines. The automated production units must be integrated and installed in the existing production lines. Are they going to work in combination with the production staff, or will the production units work fully autonomously, possibly with the guidance of employees? The employee as a teacher and navigator for the automated production units. In addition, the entire production line will have to be structured even more systematically to use these new automated production units. This brings an even higher degree of efficiency in the production process. The current production procedure is too dependent on the problem-solving capacity of humans. Not considering a decrease in production speed.

We at the management of the company aren’t computer and robot experts, but we do consider ourselves to be creative thinkers, taking care of the well-being of the company and that of our employees. According to the Danish philosopher Christian Madsbjerg, we  all don’t have to be computer and robot experts: “His argument is a reckoning with the belief in advanced sciences, in which computer sciences spit enormous amounts of ‘hard’ data without giving it meaning in the most intelligent way. For this, Madsbjerg believes that you really need a foundation in the ‘soft’ sciences, such as philosophy, anthropology, social psychology, and political sciences.” We aren’t happy with a high turnover rate of the staff, but we do understand it. The production process in a fashion manufacturing company can be very mind-numbing work, hours, days, weeks, months and years you have to do the same actions, this is one of the main reasons why we closely monitor that a 5-day working week (or any equivalent form) is the norm.

With the innovation that will take place, we will have to convince our employees of the usefulness of this. We will have to involve our employees and not exclude them from this innovation. Otherwise they will be the first to use any form of innovation to stimulate rumors that they are losing their jobs. The work they are doing so far will indeed change enormously. But that does not mean that jobs are disappearing, and that people are being replaced by robots. The innovation that we want to implement can only succeed if there is a clear interaction between man and machine. If we look at the production volume, the number of employees (FTEs) will indeed decrease compared to the old production numbers. But that always entails the approach to more efficiency, whether through automation and innovation, or not. It is indeed even faster with this innovation. But we note that the current business model has no long-term future.

Another setup with sensors and cameras suitable during operation of the cobots
Another setup with sensors and cameras suitable during operation of the cobots

We will have to prepare our employees well for the changes to come. That is why we will have to train them more task oriented. This immediately results in a greater degree of involvement in the process, which is a direct benefit for us. Through training, we add knowledge to our employees, allowing them to better position themselves on the changing labor market. We do not have the illusion that every employee will continue to work with us for a long time, but we think that changes in work can increase the average working period by 100% to at least 4 years, which is a huge profit for us. Every investment in the education and training of our employees will be rewarded immediately.

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Innovation in the fashion production industry English

Innovatie in de kleding productie industrie Nederlands