Apparel retailers are going bankrupt in 2020, so they are restricting sourcing; this is hurting manufacturing business and pushing factories to put a hold on their investment plans to reserve their cash. When they do so, the direct impact is seen on technology companies which are looking desperately to find ways to turn the tables in their favour because of the fact that digitalisation is looked at as the next big thing in apparel supply chain sector after the COVID-19 mayhem.
There are some technology suppliers which are yet to see any positivity in the manufacturing side, some are assisting PPE manufacturing industry which is built strongly during COVID-19, while some are aggressively trying to convince the factories to go for their already committed investment, for which technology suppliers are giving financial assistance in the form of credit or deferred payment system.
Jack Stock, one of the leading Chinese sewing technology groups, has been fiercely focusing on the market post-pandemic which was quite stagnant for them in the first 5 months of 2020. “We have already started identifying the customers who follow progressive business approach in the post-COVID-19 era. Our plan includes establishing sample IoT factories in different countries and educating our dealers so that they don’t have an iota of doubt while explaining the same to the factories,” Vincent Guo, Director and Vice President of Jack Stock, China, told Apparel Resources.
To bring positivity in the manufacturing business and encourage factory owners to go for technology, Jack has started 1-month digital promotion activities on social media from 15 August to 15 September. In this entire month, Jack has plans to launch its several new models of SNLS machines, the demo of which will be running live on Jack’s Facebook page. Two of the models which were recently launched are A4E – Computerised Lockstitch Machine with Electronic Control Stitch Length System and A5E – Semi Dry Computerised Lockstitch Machine with Electronic Control Stitch Length System. Both the machines are launched for the Chinese markets, and the overseas launch will take place in subsequent months, once the COVID-19 situation improves.
Another leading denim sewing automat supplier of China, IMB too took a hit due to COVID-19, but Johan Grieten, Global Sales Director and R&D Advisor of the company, is bullish about the use of automation and its positive adoption after the pandemic. All IMB is trying to concentrate on is not losing the market share. “There is still market enough, we are working on a more important market share, especially in China and Bangladesh, in order to achieve the same turnover as it was before the pandemic,” informed Johan.
IMB has also been conducting meetings and conferences digitally and that’s something it started even before the pandemic hit the world. These meetings are being conducted especially in Bangladesh due to massive traffic conditions which is a barrier to reach customers on scheduled time. “With around 70 per cent effectiveness, these meetings have allowed us to make better target visits physically later on,” commented Johan. To cater to the market needs, IMB diversified focus to PPE gowns and coveralls with its ‘Lace Machines’ after China released the lockdown and that caused a significant increase in company’s turnover in the second quarter of 2020.
“We still produce about 300 Lace Machines on a daily basis, and as far as the ‘normal’ sewing machine business is concerned, we are putting more time now on documentation, technical files such as manuals and spare parts lists, and some pending improvements in the sewing units,” shared Johan.
The use of 3D sampling is now increasing in Indian factories which were previously quite reluctant in letting physical sampling go. The disruption that COVID-19 has brought in the manufacturing business with all restrictions on travelling and social distancing norms is pushing factories to opt for digitalisation wherever possible.
This rise in 3D and other software solutions has been confirmed by both technology providers as well as manufacturing giants. Umesh Gaur, President (Asia), Tukatech, shared with Apparel Resources that there was a massive inquiry for 3D sampling software during COVID-19. As the industry took April to June 2020 period as restructuring themselves, they dug into every sort of possible technology they could invest after lockdown by proper researching and comparing. “This study was done during the COVID-19 period by the industry, and Tukatech saw some inflow of order inquiries of 3D as well as 2D from June ’20 onwards,” told Umesh.
As cash flow crunch is there in the market, Tukatech has enabled its customers with an option of SaaS model in which one-time set up fee is charged that includes development, implementation, and training. After this set up, the companies can pay monthly instead of paying yearly. “We have around 40 per cent cost effective SaaS model as compared to others,” claimed Umesh, adding that the same is applicable to the CAD software also. The companies can move from local system to cloud system in order to have flexibility to work from anywhere.
Interestingly, Tukatech has also made its ‘Automatic Pattern Making’ (APM) software complimentary with cloud upgradation on yearly basis. “Richa Global is working from home and we have activated their cloud system for pattern-making software,” mentioned Umesh.
As far as SaaS model is concerned, Lectra India also banks on it to assist its customers with flexibility in their business model. SaaS is already a strong model for Lectra’s recurring revenues, and during COVID-19, the Indian subsidiary has aggressively promoted it in the market seeing businesses are going remote and financial instability is there.
“Apart from SaaS, Lectra India is in touch with manufacturers for our 2D and 3D offerings, enquiries for which have poured in, greatly in the last 2 months. Factories are certainly talking about implementing 3D solutions, and it seems India is now moving up to give up on physical sampling,” averred Suraj Niranjan, Marketing Head, Lectra India.
Today, many companies are following digitalisation process; IIGM and GERBER Suite can offer many solutions to enhance this process. So, things can clearly be seen as improving at a gradual pace. “The customers are now taking their time to evaluate these new offerings before making any decision and that’s why our sales cycle is taking longer than traditional business, but the good thing is that customers are embracing new collaborative solutions,” informed Sajith Kumar, Vice President, Digital & Automation Solution, IIGM. “Despite all the difficult factors faced during COVID-19, around 70 per cent of the business of Gerber (CAD/CAM) is back to normal,” commented Sajith.
Another business perspective that opened up a wider horizon for IIGM & GERBER during the pandemic is the Med-Tex industry. IIGM is leading from the front, as it has diversified into high-quality technology and consultancy solutions for PPE manufacturing. GERBER, with its expertise and in collaboration with industry experts, is offering services for helping our customers get various certifications required for exports of PPE.