Automation: Stitching a bright future

Automation: Stitching a bright future

The major technological advancements associated with the First Industrial Revolution - that lasted from the mid-18th century to about 1830 - were concerned with textile manufacturing, especially spinning. John Kay’s invention of flying shuttle, which enabled wider cloth to be woven faster, in 1767 marked the beginning of modernisation (or automation) in the textile industry.

The major technological advancements associated with the First Industrial Revolution – that lasted from the mid-18th century to about 1830 – were concerned with textile manufacturing, especially spinning. John Kay’s invention of flying shuttle, which enabled wider cloth to
be woven faster, in 1767 marked the beginning of modernisation (or automation) in the textile industry. Besides increasing the production, the machine reduced the number of people required to operate the weaving loom from two to one.


Though textile industry was at the centre of First Industrial Revolution, the speed of adoption of automation
has been slower compared to other consumer focused industries like automobiles or electronics. The apparel industry remained labour intensive for long as it was believed that fabrics are difficult to work with and need nimble human hands to handle them. However, this changed when the cost of labour started going up even in developing countries like India. At the same time, advancements in technology enabled machines to handle
difficult tasks such as cotton picking and ginning, stitching pockets, manipulating flexible fabrics, attaching belt loops to pants, etc.


From fibre making to spinning, dyeing, knitting, and weaving, the adoption of automation has enabled the textile industry to increase the productivity by multiple times that too at a much lower cost. With the
Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) dawning upon us, Indian textile industry is also undergoing changes in areas such as machine development, factory shop floors, etc.


While automation has long changed manufacturing processes, digitisation is effecting changes across the factories by prompting the use
of connected equipment, software and advanced automation technologies
in various areas such as yarn production, fabric production, finishing, production management, inventory management and other areas. Today, online quality detectors are crucial for textile industry as they measure quality on a continuous basis and adjust machine settings within prescribed tolerances to maintain nominal quality parameters.


Earlier automation was used to minimise human efforts in labour-intensive processes. But today, due to the tremendous technological advancements achieved in the past few decades, it is possible to completely eliminate human intervention from many quarters of the manufacturing industry.


In our quest for automation one must not forget the fact that textile industry is the second largest employer after agriculture. There is a growing concern that automation could lead to unemployment of millions. To assuage the fear of job losses, textile industry, technology vendors and the government should come together and prepare a roadmap for making employees future ready.

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