Made Smarter, the technology adoption programme, is urging textile manufacturers to adopt digitalisation to drive sustainability and growth. 125 companies from the sector based in the North West are embracing change by tapping into impartial expert technology advice, digital transformation workshops to help them take their first steps, a leadership programme, digital technology internships, and skills development support.
Of these, 13 textile businesses supported by matched-funding, are investing in new digital technology to solve key challenges while increasing productivity, growth, and creating new high value jobs.
But with more than 1,000 fashion and textile manufacturers in the region employing around 15,000 people and with a collective turnover of £1.83 billion, Made Smarter believes the sector and region synonymous with the ‘first’ Industrial Revolution has a golden opportunity to lead the ‘fourth’.
Alain Dilworth, North West Adoption Programme Manager at Made Smarter, said: “The textile industry in the North West was at the centre of the first industrial revolution with technological advances enabling cottons, wools, silks and dyestuffs to be produced at unprecedented rates for export around the globe. It is fitting that Made Smarter is now offering its support and expertise to help the same industry embrace the opportunity to lead the fourth industrial revolution.
“Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the industry with supply chains broken, falling sales and regrettably, some businesses having to close. Rebuilding is an opportunity to create a more sustainable approach which enables better resilience by taking advantage of the new digital technologies.
“I am delighted that Made Smarter has been able to support so many of the region’s textile manufacturers to start their digitalisation journey. Our ambition now is to reach out to the hundreds of others across the region to support them to take their first steps to future-proof their business.”
Tibard, based in Dukinfield, which makes uniforms for Pizza Express, Wagamama and the NHS, benefited from Made Smarter’s digital transformation process before securing support to invest in a modern IoT-connected, industry 4.0 machine.
Ian Mitchell, Managing Director of Tibard, said: “Made Smarter has helped us develop a digital strategy and accelerated our adoption of advanced manufacturing technology. The last two years have been extremely challenging, but we had to diversify our products and customers and are now currently operating at three times our pre-Covid capacity.
“A key element of this is the automation and data and system integration work being undertaken by our digital department. We are eager to modernise our operations to help achieve our goals. Made Smarter has certainly supported our journey and without this new machinery, we would not be able to provide the best value for garments for both the hospitality and healthcare sectors.”
The fashion and textile industry is under substantial pressure to change to reduce its environmental and social impact. It is responsible for 10% of all global carbon emissions, water pollution from the use of chemicals and dyes and microplastics in the oceans, as well as staggering levels of waste. In the UK 300,000 tonnes of clothing – worth an estimated £140m – are sent to landfill or incinerated.
With the increase in consumer awareness of the devastating impact of the fast fashion phenomenon and a willingness among millennials to pay more for sustainable goods, the UK’s £32 billion fashion and textile industry has a huge opportunity to grow greener and more ethically.