Digital technologies open up new prospects for textile industry in China’s eastern city

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Changshu in east China’s Jiangsu province is home to over 4,000 clothing manufacturers and 35 wholesale clothing markets, making it a major textile hub.

Facing the impacts of fast fashion and flexible production, traditional textile manufacturers in Changshu chose to upgrade themselves via intelligent transition, digitalization, e-commerce and stronger efforts in branding, so as to maintain their advantages in the market.

Today in Changshu, digital brains are often seen commanding production links in garment factories, and popular clothes are sold out on live-stream platforms. Besides, new brands are emerging every day in local clothing markets.

Recently, Jiangsu Golden Morning Knitting Co., Ltd. in Changshu received an order to produce 60,000 pieces of clothes in only 10 days. Only a week later, the clothes were all delivered to the customer.

“It was definitely impossible in the past,” said Lin Guoshi, an executive of the company. It normally took a week for the production line to get ready before manufacturing a new cloth model, Lin explained.

What enabled the company to finish the huge workload in such a short period of time was a “digital brain” named SewSmart which controls a hanging transmission system that delivers cuffs, collars, front plackets and other parts of clothes via an overhead conveyor to corresponding workstations, and records the operation of workers in real-time with tablets.

The intelligent collaboration system gives the workshop a rapid response capability. “It may need two or three hundred operations to produce a piece of clothing with a complex style. The application of AI technologies in all processes of garment manufacturing makes collaboration among different departments of the factory more effective,” said Liu Ke, one of the developers of the SewSmart, and co-founder and chief product officer of Feiliu Tech, a provider of supply chain management and optimization technologies.

Digital brain systems can also contribute to the designing of garments.

Suzhou Rabboni Garment Co., Ltd. is a major garment manufacturer in Changshu, which produces tens of millions of garments and designs more than 3,000 styles on an annual basis.

According to Chen Kai’en, chairman of the company, the traditional designing of a garment includes multiple operations such as drafting, sample production and revision, which calls for collaboration of over a dozen departments and takes half a month.

Thanks to a digital service platform called “Style3D,” garment designing is as easy as building blocks today. All a designer needs to do is to select “parts” of garments from a database in the system, match them together and make some adjustments. It costs less than half an hour to make a 3D sample of a garment.

Yu Zhe, an official with Changshu’s bureau of industry and information technology, told People’s Daily that over 700 textile enterprises in the city have gone through digital transformations over the recent three years, investing a total of over 2 billion yuan ($279.29 million). As a result, the labor productivity of these enterprises is 35 percent higher than before on average, and the manufacturing cycle has been shortened by 19 percent.

Last year, the transaction volume of Changshu Garments Town, one of the biggest clothing distribution centers in east China, hit 142.1 billion yuan. At the same time, a 100-billion-yuan online clothing market was also launched in the city.

In the Changshu Garments Town, there is a live-streaming e-commerce base that covers several busy live rooms, which was turned from a 60,000-square-meter hardware market. It now houses nearly 100 merchants, organizations and enterprises, said Wei Hui, deputy general manager of the garments center.

In a live-stream studio of the base, host Guo Yajun was advertising a yellow cotton shirt, a trending style of his studio. Over 10,000 pieces of the shirt were sold in the past month.

“To meet the individualized and targeted demands in the era of e-commerce, many factories are now able to respond quickly to small-quantity orders,” said Guo.

Guo’s live-stream studio has established cooperation with over a dozen local garment manufacturers to rapidly produce garments based on the actual needs of consumers. The studio sells hundreds of thousands of garments each year, according to Guo.

In 2022, the online transaction volume of garments hit 100 billion yuan in Changshu, where live-streaming e-commerce is comprehensively merging into marketing, branding, logistics, human resource development, supply chain and traditional e-commerce sectors of the garment industry.



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