The global textile industry is being transformed beyond recognition by not just one, but two revolutions simultaneously – digitalisation and sustainability.
If anything, both of these major issues have only been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
ITMA 2023 and the twin revolutions – Transforming the world of textiles
There were already many Industry 4.0 digital innovations for textile machines introduced at the last ITMA show in Barcelona in 2019, advancing the concept of smart factories.
A notable acceleration of such developments will be evident by the time of ITMA 2023 in Milan, and there is no substitute for seeing everything for yourself and getting the bigger picture.
Of course, certain facets of digitalisation are already well developed in textile technology, and in one way can be viewed as simply further responding to what are some of the industry’s age-old preoccupations, such as improving machine efficiency and productivity, and reducing energy and waste.
The key developments now allowing further progress, however, are centrally linked machines, instant access to all plant performance data, remote access, and preventative maintenance. New simulation tools are enabling machine operators to always get the highest possible productivity, and businesses to more closely monitor and plan all of their operations.
Services and transactions
Going beyond the machines and the fabrics they produce, consider the enormous number of other services and transactions involved along the very complex textile and apparel supply chains.
Currently, the time involved from a cotton fibre, for example, being harvested from the field, up to its appearance in a finished garment in the retail store, is an average of two years. On this long journey, it has passed through many hands which can take it around the world and has been subject to many different working processes and decisions that in the past have been made manually, on paper and via phones.
All these individual stages are being greatly simplified by digitalisation and a lot of constraints are being removed. As a result, transportation steps are shrinking and much less capital will be poured into these supply chains in the future. A situation much closer to “order on demand” is arising, which will lead to a significant reduction in second choice and unsellable products. There is a huge ecological benefit to all this progress, which brings me to that second revolution, sustainability.
Many people think sustainability is about less of everything, but what it will really mean is that we will actually do much more with much less, and that is the challenge our industry is rising to. In my experience, real change always comes from the innovation and creativity of companies, with social and economic needs as the driving forces.
Already momentum is gathering on the establishment of circular supply chains, in which finished apparel is endlessly turned back into new fibres and yarns. This idea is being enthusiastically embraced by the entire supply chain – from the fibre producers and designers to the brands and retailers.
There are also many ways that textiles can meet society’s current needs beyond just apparel. In this way, they can truly be considered the material of the future. Just look at the use of textile reinforcements in composites for the aerospace, automotive and wind turbine industries, where they are enabling lighter planes and vehicles to cut energy emissions, as well as contributing to greener energy.
A new chapter on composites is being introduced to the product index for ITMA 2023, ensuring the sourcing needs of visitors eyeing the huge opportunities in new and more advanced materials are fully met.
Some people think the world will return to what it was before Covid-19, but I believe very strongly that we are now moving into a new world where the digital will become much more commonplace.
The pandemic has taught all of us how to use new tools and technologies to do many things. At the same time, it has certainly underlined the importance of face-to-face meetings, which everyone will appreciate more than ever once it again becomes possible.
The best creative sessions take place around a table and go far beyond simple meet and greet introductions.
This is the beauty of the global platform we have been constantly developing since 1951, which is the ITMA show. At ITMA 2023, you will be able to be part of a community of textile leaders to celebrate innovation and to collaborate for a better and more sustainable future.