Digitization involves integrating digital technologies into the various aspects of an industry’s operations, including production, supply chain management, marketing, and customer engagement. This improves efficiency, optimizes processes, and enhances performance, creating a more efficient and adaptable organization. By leveraging digital technologies, companies can gain insights into customer behavior, respond to customer demands, and continuously improve product design to retain customer loyalty.
The G2G (Garment to Garment) manufacturing business strategy is popular among leading fashion brands in the international market. Countries like India can partner with them to achieve circularity in textiles, which can only be accomplished by recycling used products repeatedly. However, the major issue with G2G is the hygiene of used garments.
The process of converting used garments, trims, or fabric waste into cloth/garment involves tearing and opening the fibers followed by yarns, fabrics, and finally, garments. If the fibers recycled from used garments are converted into products where hygiene is not an issue, then such products can be accepted without any hesitation. In the case G2G hygiene is a key issue, as used garments may have been contaminated in various ways. Cleaning and decontamination of waste is a must before converting it into finished garments. Even if the industry claims decontamination in its processes, it is difficult to convince customers.
Digitization can be the solution to this issue.
- Process of post-consumer G2G:
The post-consumer garment recycling process is a rigorous exercise. The industry collects garments from consumers of various regions in bundles, without control over the source or type of garments. Upon receipt, the garments are segregated according to the recycling industry’s business model, based on color, garment type, fiber composition, and more. Non-textile materials such as buttons, trims, and metal items are removed before the material is ready for processing.
In the case of used garments, they are washed and dried as the first step, and decontaminated for hygiene purposes. Ozonation is the preferred method to ensure protection against microbes and cross-infection issues for customers of these recycled garments. The garments are then processed through cutting and tearing machines to convert them into fiber. Strong magnets in the tearing line remove any metallic material from the fibrous mass.
The recycled fibers are blended with virgin or recycled polyester fibers to produce yarn. Fabric is formed and garments are made from these recycled materials. Even garments out of 100% recycled fibers are also possible. The manufacturing processes may vary depending on the company’s business model, including the yarn or fabric production, garment design, and the type of processes used.
- Adoption of digitization in G2G process:
Digitization plays a crucial role in supporting the G2G sustainability business model, particularly in the decontamination process and monitoring. To ensure traceability, each lot of raw material is coded during processing, and the code is updated as it passes through each operation of the garment waste to fiber conversion process, yarn and fabric formation, and garmenting. The final updated code is tagged to the garment or printed on a label attached to it.
During the manufacturing process, product specifications and processes are defined that outline the desired characteristics of the product. A bill of materials (BOM) is created that lists all the raw materials and processes that will be used, and a plan is developed that outlines the steps that will be taken to manufacture the product, including quality control checks. The manufacturing process is coded using software that tracks the progress and ensures that each step is completed according to the plan.
Automated process checks are built into the software to ensure that the product passes through each defined process, and the software generates the final code in the desired format for tagging to that lot of the garment. If any lot has missed the critical process of decontamination, the finished product can be passed again through the decontamination process to ensure customer safety. The software will ensure that without the material passing through the decontamination machines the final code will not be generated. If the decontamination is not in working condition, for any reason, then also the code will not be updated, and the final code is not printed. Similarly, unless decontamination is done the verification of code by customer would fail. Thus, digitization safeguards the health and cleanliness of the customers.
The final coding is tagged or printed on labels of every garment, and customers can verify the manufacturing processes undergone by the garment by scanning a QR code or by checking the code online. By utilizing digitization, companies can ensure traceability, transparency, and safety in their manufacturing processes, ultimately supporting a sustainable and circular fashion industry. Such digitized manufacturing processes would enhance brand values of the companies that work on G2G philosophy.
Digitization can emerge as a game-changing solution in the textile industry’s shift towards sustainability, particularly in the realm of post-consumer garment waste recycling. While the industry has been recycling in-process and pre-consumer waste for a few decades, the growing concern around soil and deep-sea pollution caused by textile waste has led to the demand for recycling post-consumer garment and textile waste.
In any business the companies will take interest only if the product/process brings profit and/or value to them. For the industry to adopt waste recycling as a wealth-creating business rather than just an environmental protection measure, it must add significant value to the recycled products. The creation of fresh garments from used garments is one such avenue that offers a high-value addition compared to other products.
Author: Dr. Prabhakar Bhat, Ph.D. IIT Delhi
(Retired principal of engineering colleges)
No. 2105, Future Tower 57,
Amanora Park Town, Magarpatta Road,
Hadapsar, Pune – 411028, Maharashtra, India
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