The speed at which the new technologies and concepts are evolving, is a sure sign of impending disruption in the apparel and textile business. Supporting this change are concepts like Industry 4.0, Digital Transformation, Internet of Things (IoT), Cyber Physical Systems, Robotics and many more concepts. On the other hand, stands the reality of the apparel ecosystem where dexterity of hands available in abundance in south-Asian countries still dominate the apparel manufacturing. Hence, it is but obvious that these concepts or developments have not found a pivotal place in these hubs. Therefore, the equilibrium or the synergy is still unanswered….
A company which has the solitary motive of armouring its customers for competition, Gerber Technology offers fully integrated hardware and software solutions that cater to the future needs of apparel manufacturing and is also a name recognised in labour-intensive hubs.
In an exclusive interaction, Deepak Mohindra, Editor-in-Chief, StitchWorld discusses the future directions of Industry 4.0 and its adoption by the manufacturing hubs with Mohit Uberoi, CEO, Gerber Technology.
Appointed in May 2017, Mohit Uberoi joined with the vision to help customers ‘Embrace Their Digital Reality’ with products that accelerate speed to market. Mohit previously served as President and CEO of Goss International and B&W MEGTEC. He has a proven track record of guiding companies to achieve their strategic initiatives, driving technology solutions, building great management teams and creating value for all stakeholders.
Due to Gerber’s widespread experience and careful market scrutinization, approach towards technology intensive activities and investments has changed tremendously in India.
Deepak Mohindra: What does the concept of Industry 4.0 mean to you and what are the challenges that you foresee?
Mohit Uberoi: Industry 4.0 creates what has been called a ‘smart factory’. Within the modular-structured smart factories, cyber physical systems monitor physical processes, create a virtual copy of the physical world and make decentralized decisions. Through the Internet of Things (IoT), cyber physical systems communicate and cooperate with each other and with humans in real time.
Industry 4.0 is ambitious indeed considering the current state of apparel manufacturing where approximately 70% of the processing time for the making-up of a piece of garment relate to sewing process and to date, minimum 90% of the sewing is handled manually or semi-automatically. Not to deny the first robotic sewing systems which are already available or are better underway, requiring another estimated 5 to 10 years to make market penetration along with ROI (Return on Investment). This will enable companies in the highly industrialized world to apply that technology for (a certain portion) of joining (sewing, welding etc.) processes and hence makes Industry 4.0 become a reality.
Deepak Mohindra: How does Gerber intend to take the concept forward?
Mohit Uberoi: As a matter of fact, ‘the golden hands’ of well-skilled sewing operators will remain the key component for apparel manufacturing. While sewing processes remain as the bottleneck on the road to see Industry 4.0’s true applications in apparel manufacturing, for every other stage from product development, virtual prototyping (from planning and design) to fully integrated production, real-time machinery-to-human communication (via GERBERconnect) sales and tracking, we at Gerber Technology have technology solutions at our fingertips for our customers. Our continuous effort and R&D investment – to further enhance our portfolio of fully integrated software and hardware solutions and interaction with downstream and upstream processes along the value chain with our partners – is where our focus lies.
Deepak Mohindra: South-east Asian countries like India, Vietnam and Bangladesh are continuing to proliferate at unprecedented rates and at the same time, the penetration of the established technology manufacturing companies in these markets is bleak. Why? Is it that the focus of these companies has shifted from these countries? What is Gerber’s strategy to gain traction in these markets? How is your prioritization set in these Asian markets?
Mohit Uberoi: The number one reason for this lack of focus is the gap in the wages and labour cost all together between south-east Asia and the Western hemisphere. And as long as it appears to be just cheaper to manufacture in India or Bangladesh for markets in Europe or the US, even taking tremendous logistic cost into consideration, this trend will continue. The same discrepancy is also hindering the breakthrough in more technology applications in many areas.
However, due to our widespread experience and careful market scrutinization, approach towards technology, intensive activities and investments has changed tremendously in India. Also based on governmental support programmes, we are clearly identifying the challenges in this country, and also in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Vietnam and other south-east Asian countries.
Gerber (Garment) Technology, along with its local partners, is an integral part of this orientation towards quality assuring application of CAD and CAM in south-east Asia, serving customers in the region since decades. For instance, our trustful partnership with IIGM for India, goes back to the year 1991.
However, Deepak, we do share your concerns on the impact that the fundamental changes, so-called disruptive technologies, will have on global sourcing over the coming years and with that on the economies of the countries in the South-east Asian region. As a provider of integrated automation solutions and customer-centric service for installations, operator training and maintenance, we will – in close collaboration with the local GERBER partners – never rest to reinforce our offering of expertise and first-class support to each single Gerber customer in the region. Irrespective of whether they are global players or SMEs, we will help them to embrace their (individual) digital reality, along the recommended alignment: ‘Start now, start small and grow, or be left behind’.
Deepak Mohindra: Do you feel there is some indication of segmentation happening in case of the CAD solutions’ providers: like the premium ones (the early developers and the old ones), such as Gerber, Lectra, etc. and the economy ones? While premium ones are offering additional modules like 3D, PLM, etc., others are offering only basic modules such as pattern making + grading + marker making.
There is a general perception that the bigger players in this segment are shedding off the burden of CAM (the CNC cutters), and concentrating on CAD including 3D measurement, designs, PLM and cloud solutions only?
Mohit Uberoi: Following the natural cycle, some of the additional players and me-too type of offerings have indeed entered the market place since Gerber invented CAD/CAM for apparel almost 50 years ago and since then, it has been dominating the global market place for several reasons and by votes of the users. And as always, it will be the customers who will decide if they require premium products, fully integrated future proof solutions, designed to grow along with them – technology partners with the financial breath to continue developing according to market demands and with customer-centric on-site services as prompt as they need it.
As far as Gerber Technology is concerned, I can assure you and the readers of StitchWorld that we will continue to offer complete set of solutions to help our customers. Our ability to automate workflows and processes in both the virtual world of design and merchandising and the tangible world of production with a broad spectrum of advanced technologies and our capability to back these systems with the industry’s leading field service and post-sale parts and consumables around the globe, is what makes us the industry leader.
Deepak Mohindra: StitchWorld has recently done an article on 5 new manufacturing concepts such as Micro factory, Store factory, Speed factory, Cluster factory and On-demand manufacturing. I am sure there must be many newer concepts in the making. Most of these concepts address the need for quick design to delivery of the product. Is Gerber developing technology to satisfy the need of such concepts?
Mohit Uberoi: In fact, we did follow and read your series on innovative manufacturing concepts with the utmost of interest. The answer to your question is yes; with our modular yet integrative approach along our ‘TechFashion’ concept in particular for apparel, we are prepared to serve our customers for their individual future strategies.
Deepak Mohindra: What new directions you feel will be included as part of IoT and Industry 4.0 initiative by Gerber? CAD feature has more or less stagnated after 3D simulation (Gerber has started famous campaign of 4-hour sample approval). In what direction, will the CAD-CAM industry move now- Teleportation? Do you think CAD solution providers will venture into 3D printing domain in near future?
Mohit Uberoi (smiling): With increasingly powerful microprocessors available and strong investment into engineering, top technology providers such as Gerber in recent times have been able to execute quantum leaps in IT development – including IoT application with GERBERconnect. And at the end of the day, it is all about IT also in the segment of CAM – today’s platform for GERBERcutters like the PARAGON® series to bear witness to that fact.
The apparel industry is on the verge of a huge digital technology revolution. To define their strategy, they need to embrace step-by-step everything that technology provides them. To become true today, enormous efforts are required by the apparel industry, its leaders and its workforce, and also by the educational institutions apprenticing the next generation of decision makers. I very much look forward to then discuss with you further about the future innovations, once we together move ahead to accomplish this challenge.