Vibemac, a jeans automation pioneer, always remains in news for all good reasons. Be it technology innovations or marketing strategies, Vibemac has strong hold on everything which makes the technology supplier a global leader in jeans automation. In this part 2 of freewheeling interview, we will continue our conversation with Alberto Guerreschi, Business Developer, Vibemac where he talks about how intelligent automation is driving the company and what is its future planning to strengthen foothold.
AR: What is your take on humanless sewing line? The Classic Five Pocket Jeans is a standard product, so why there are no efforts to make it completely automated? Is it possible?
Alberto: It’s my personal feeling and I ask this question most of the time: Can we actually achieve robotic sewing especially in denim where the complexity in sewing a jeans is more? Is it actually feasible? There is no use of developing a complicated robot that has limited use in performing operations. And, what if one operation stops due to a certain reason? Can a manufacturer afford the whole line of thousands of pieces to stop? Moreover, if they install it in one unit, then is an investment of € 10 million worth for them? No…
We never believed in these kind of robots which are not easy to operate. We have automated sewing machines that serve the same purpose, have low cost; they are even more feasible and most importantly, they are safe. A machine should be simple to use, simple to maintain and should be affordable to customers, that’s my vision.
What we, as a company, are doing is that we are developing sewing stations with loaders and unloaders. In future, the production floor will need no operators. All it will need is just one helper to monitor 4 to 5 machines at the same time, and for a small production line, one helper can operate more machines and more operations. Imagine how much automation will be there in multiple lines put together with reduced human intervention. That is the future, not robotic sewing. It is exactly what we did in our pocket hemming machine V700/701. In the modified version of the pocket hemming machine, an automatic feeding station with 4 loading docks has been introduced. The automatic feeding station can transfer the pockets to the transport belt through a robotic arm. And, once the pockets are hemmed, an unloader automatically stacks the pockets in order on the storage disk at the end of the transport belt. This is ‘intelligent automation’ and when I say, we believe in ‘intelligent automation’ across the production line, I mean Vibemac is creating a fair competition in the market. Automation is going to cost everybody in the same way and the collective industry standard will be raised.
AR: Are you also promoting your products in the emerging markets of Asia, Africa, Latin America and Caribbean countries as well?
Alberto: When a market is emerging, we have to see what kind of products the manufacturers make. Let’s not forget that to make jeans and garments other than jeans, one can still stitch those using non-automated machines. But, the biggest difference is in quality and the rate of productivity. Automation comes into picture when a manufacturer is ready to grow his company with improved ROI. Another significant factor manufacturers have to understand is that they need people who can accept changes. Most of the Asian countries, African countries, Caribbean countries and even Latin American countries work on the same logic. But Ethiopia is different from others such as Myanmar and Cambodia in Asia which are certainly growing but not in the denim segment. On the other hand, in Ethiopia, a few of the big companies are targeting denim. Many of these companies are large-scale established manufacturers from Asia and they do not give a second thought when it comes to investment in automation. Ethiopia allows manufacturers to sell worldwide with zero duty. So, we have got some advantages in Ethiopia which we are surely looking to capitalise on.
I also want to add Tanzania in the list. Many people think Kenya has a huge potential but I say Tanzania has more potential due to various factors. Ports and political stability are two biggest factors and, gradually, denim manufacturers are setting up their factories in Tanzania. So, simply put, we are targeting emerging markets only if they are ready for it. Sometimes a company, despite having all the potential, does not go for automation but we are here to convince them.
AR: So, what’s next for you? Any new development in the pipeline which you want to share?
Alberto: Of course. Automation is a continuous development and that’s the only way to help the customers train their operators and increase the quality level. Today, people are working even harder than before and the level of skill and knowledge is increasing on a global scale. Everyone is working to have a better life with better paying jobs and higher standards of living. The day is not far when securing a skilled operator will be very difficult and very expensive at the same time.
Our future strategy includes stabilising automation, upgrading and improvising the machines that we have. At the same time, our core principle for development is centred around operator-friendliness. For example, we introduced adjustable stands in our machines, allowing the operator to adjust the height of the machine to avoid any fatigue they may elsewise experience operating a machine without adjustable stands. This is just one example.
We never start by asking our existing customers to buy new machines. First, we try to upgrade what we have already offered them. A machine bought from us 15 years ago has different mechanical parts and different electronic parts, we understand. But, why not add some assemblies in the existing machines that are compatible with the old parts? It’s simple for an innovative mind to understand. This way the manufacturer need not invest heavily on replacing the machines. At the same time, they can massively increase their revenue by making upgrades to their existing models like the loader for back pocket hemming machine or the inserted loop kit for the loop setting machine.
It’s very important to explain these ideas to customers and we are doing that. We are very hopeful and excited to head towards the future. Our collaboration with Jack is surely going to give us best of the results.