June – Trade Fair Month (Part 1)
ITM – What? The “International Textile Machinery Association exhibition”, short ITMA, is the worlds largest trade fair around textile and garment industry. Due to sewts’ longterm vision to “sew suitable suits”, our visit was a must-do. So we were very honored when the VDMA proposed us as exhibitor in the startup area.
The ITMA takes place every four years and not only the frequency makes it comparable to the Olympic Games: Various players along the worldwide textile lifecycle come together to discuss future trends and challenges. This year, the ITMA with more than 100,000 visitors on an exhibition space of around 200,000 square meters took place in Milano.
Seven days full of garments, fashion and textile handling machineries – what are our key takeaways?
1) Labor shortage and costs: The largest part of the textile (explicitly the fashion) production still takes place in developing countries – but even there, labor shortage and rising costs are becoming a problem. Instead of improving working conditions, raising the prices or lowering the production output – manufacturers are still finding countries with even lower salaries. As a privileged European citizen it is embarrassing to hear things like “Well, I don’t find enough people in Pakistan anymore, so I produce now in Nigeria for 80 USD / monthly salary”. And we questioned ourselves not only once why such production plants are still possible and how we as society want to achieve our ESG goals if we further tolerate conditions like that?
2) However, we also noticed that regulatory changes are showing first effects. There was a lot of discussion on how to comply with the German / European Supply Chain Act which forces companies to report on their Human Rights strategy. Even if the example above shows that changes driven by authorities through legal consequences are still not strong enough, the pressure is there and at least the European and US companies are forced to consider ESG in their business decisions.
3) Automation would be the one-fits-all solution – but especially the textile industry takes baby steps towards an automated production. Even though we know best how complicated it is to handle deformable materials, it was surprising how many process steps are still manual. This needs to change NOW – otherwise the global ESG ambitions as well as the cost / labor shortage problem will not be solved within the given timeframe 2030.
To sum up, there is unprecedented demand for automation solutions in the textile industry. As some countries make it still possible to produce under such low costs, we need to stop making economical decisions like this acceptable. But, this is only possible if we offer economical reasonable alternatives to keep running the business attractive. Automation will help to overcome labor shortage, but even more importantly, automation will help to bring the textile industry to countries that take our climate objectives and human rights seriously.
So the ITMA slogan this year could not serve better to describe sewts’ ambition – Transforming the World of Textiles. The future starts now and with our VELUM system we are demonstrating that we have the capabilities to shape the future of textile handling.