Future Factory: The Digitally Driven Supply Chain
In “Adventures in Production Apparel and Decor” during PRINTING United, Mark Sawchak of Expand Systems/PreMex outlined his vision for a new supply chain for printed fabric.
The traditional supply chain is complex, adding time and risk for everyone involved. Lead times are long, sustainability and social factors come into play, and costs from initial production runs, coloration, and other areas eat into profits.
Sawchak believes a digitally-driven supply chain is the answer: the future factory. This restructured supply chain would offer a faster response to market demand and more customization, while helping to circumvent emerging challenges such as tariffs and changing world economies. It would do so by implementing digital workflow (some large retailers, like Ikea, already do this), near shoring, and shifting to the future factory model.
Here’s how it would work: A virtual design portal with cloud-based data storage feeds into an augmented reality customer portal, where consumers can “try on” apparel before it’s produced. Customers can pick the exact style and size they want, all digitally, and then the product is created. Once the product is confirmed, it goes to the future factory, which fulfills the order.
It sounds sci-fi, but these capabilities already exist. The challenge will be upending longstanding traditional supply chains, but the potential payoff is worth it.