Robots are making our clothes: Deploying robotics to keep up with e-commerce demand

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PHOTO: Skims website

Large-scale manufacturers have long turned to robotics to keep up with the demands of production. With machinery, garments are produced much faster than before.

Technology has led consumers to grow accustomed to instant gratification, resulting in e-commerce retailers offering next-day delivery to get customers their purchases as soon as possible.

Today, speed is the holy grail of customer service, and that has compelled brands and retailers to continuously find ways to speed up supply chain operations.

Rising microtrends, or cycles of fleeting, short-lived trends that captivate users on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, as well as peer pressure effect caused by celebrities and influencers, are also fueling the demand for fast trendy fashion which brands and retailers have to grapple with in order to stay hip and relevant to consumers.

Robotics can provide the antidote to such problems.

Unlike humans, robots can work 24/7, without having to stop for breaks. Consistent quality and precision can be guaranteed every single time, eliminating human error.

Using robotics also benefit both fast fashion customers and producers, which effectively lowers the cost of production, allowing lower prices to be passed on to consumers, with teenagers and young adults benefiting the most from affordable prices.

Skims, the shapewear and clothing label co-founded by Kim Kardashian, has started deploying autonomous mobile robots from Locus Robotics to spruce up its warehousing and fulfillment operations. Other brands and retailers placing their trust and faith in robotics to meet soaring online sales demand include Nike and Uniqlo.

The use of robotics can also means doing away with sweatshop labourers who are victims of inhumane working conditions and measly pay.

In a sense, robotics makes fast fashion more ethical and socially acceptable, and therefore, easier to stomach for Gen Z shoppers, who are more concerned with ethical issues than the generations before them.

Shein, a fast fashion brand known for its notoriously low prices, came under fire for running a sweat factory that clearly violated labour laws, causing many to boycott its products as a result.

While robotics may not be able to replace human beings completely, especially in areas such as design and artisanal craft, at least not now, they can help automate tasks and streamline manufacturing processes which advertently lead to cost reduction.

Turning to small-scale autonomous robots, instead of deploying a full-blown robotic system all at once, can be the starting point for fast fashion manufacturers if they do not know where to begin.

By automating select processes, they can stay clear of exploiting cheap labour, increase productivity, while lowering the total production cost in the long run.

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