On 30-31st March 2023, the PCIAW® visited Lectra HQ in Bordeaux, France, to guest speak at their important event, ‘Pushing the Boundaries of On-Demand Manufacturing’ on circularity and the upcoming EU ecodesign regulations.
Touring Lectra’s premises, the PCIAW® witnessed the remarkable innovation of Industry 4.0 technology, as the location encompassed hardware and software R&D; on-site manufacturing, and the customer success technical expertise centre, on 12 hectares of land dedicated to technology.
The Lectra team presented the system change that its Fashion On Demand solution can bring as the apparel market evolves from the old ‘push model’ to the new ‘pull model’ that on-demand manufacturing facilitates.
The CEO of PCIAW®, Yvette Ashby, and Editor of PCIAW®VOICE, Declan Osborn, sat down with Jean-Patrice Gros, Business Development Director and Emma Bonal, Product Marketing Manager at Lectra to speak about the evolution of the Lectra technology and how this can transform the professional clothing industry into a productive, resource-efficient, and sustainable operation, whilst mitigating the effects of inflation and skill shortages.
You have been with Lectra for quite a long time. From your perspective, how has the technology evolved from when you joined until now?
I started with Lectra during the last century – and that’s not a joke. When I first started, Lectra was already in the process of innovation, introducing the first cutting system that included the rotating conveyer belt. In hindsight, it had a homemade feel, but it worked well.
If I compare the Lectra technology from before with today, it has drastically improved the speed and quality of cutting and it has significantly reduced its energy consumption.
Technically, when you look at the Lectra machinery, it’s a bit like comparing the evolution of the car; it has advanced a lot, but it is also largely similar. Looking at the Lectra cutting system of the past, it was extremely noisy; luckily this has improved.
What has radically changed is the software inside – the intelligence – the concept of predictive analysis, meaning Lectra’s capability to predict problems before they occur to action maintenance and ensure the continuity of operations.
The advancement in accuracy means that manufacturers are no longer obliged to leave 6-8mm of space between pieces in a marker to cut, as today, Lectra can achieve full contact to maximise resource efficiency. Previously, the cutting system could manage 3cm of compressed fabric, whereas now, it can manage up to 9cm according to need, delivering greater quantities within the same timeframe, at the same level of exceptional quality.
Lectra’s new optimised nesting solution can decrease fabric consumption, whilst boosting the productivity and speed of the production process by streamlining how the markers are prepared with digital workflows. It is a game changer for mitigating the rising costs of fabrics and energy.
The solution does more than improve the equipment in production, it removes the non-value tasks in the full process, from planning to offloading of cut pieces, because of the automation and rules that tell the system – if it is this garment and this material, then it should be processed this way. The operator can now instead consider what the best rule is for the system and continually test new and improved ways of working.
How do you think the cloud-based, on-demand solution by Lectra can unlock collaboration within global businesses?
The Lectra on-demand platform connects different departments in product development, planning, production, and HQ workflow, contributing data and interactions between teams to create patterns, defined marker rules and carry out material analysis in real-time.
By leveraging the on-demand Lectra system in the cloud, brands can understand the production capabilities of the garments they design, as their own teams are responsible for nesting the markers on the fabrics and understand how the machines can cut the fabrics in terms of vacuum parameters and speed.
The state-of-the-art technology combines the know-how of a business into one entity, backing-up knowledge into the cloud. For example, if a brand here in France wants to collaborate with a colleague in Singapore, the Lectra system can facilitate this. Previously, files could have been transferred to individual team members, but now, thanks to the cloud, a global brand can unlock greater, scalable collaboration between teams utilising this Industry 4.0 technology.
Brands can also benefit from the standardisation delivered by Lectra’s on-demand pattern-cutting solution, as the data-driven equipment gives consistency of results, whether it is located in Malaysia, Bangladesh or Morocco, allowing businesses to diversify supply chains without comprising on consistent quality and be more resilient in times of disruption.
If the data-driven approach by the Lectra system unlocks collaboration, will it also help with achieving transparency in the supply chain?
The real-time data analysis connects to ERP systems and offers insights into all the stages up to the cutting process – from order reception to production – and gives transparency to the operation, updating as design teams optimise their efficiency.
Lectra’s cutting equipment measures the fabric consumed, along with many other metrics, however, we are now working on developing the ability to measure specific sustainability KPIs. Both Lectra and our customers want to know the environmental impact, as consumers increasingly demand transparency.
It is important that we help brands understand the reality of the environmental impact versus the theoretical calculation. As we work on measuring sustainability KPIs, the metrics will consider the fabric consumed and wasted, the energy consumption of the equipment and the impact of the cloud’s processing power to calculate reactive information to declare or send via APIs to any future Digital Product Passports.
As the apparel and textile industry struggles with skill shortages, do you think that the Lectra solution can help alleviate the challenge through optimisation?
Some people see technology as a threat to their jobs, but that is not the aim of this solution. The aim is to capitalise on the expertise of the skilled employees going into retirement into the cloud to train the next generation of talent and to optimise their processes.
In a market environment that is experiencing an increasing quantity of smaller volume orders, the Lectra system can remove pressure from workers by automating the time-consuming, non-value tasks in production. As the Lectra solution determines the garment type and material and cuts the patterns based on pre-set rules, the employees can think of and test new ways to optimise production.
At the peak of a company’s manufacturing capacity, when they receive a collection – they cannot just hire new people without training, they will either have the team work overtime or not take the contract.
Automating non-value tasks means that the workers can redirect to value-adding essential jobs, or cross-train on other skills to give the business greater internal resilience. A big advantage of the cloud is that if you have a low-volume order or a mix of low-and-large quantity contracts, the time to deliver them is the same.
Lectra’s on-demand manufacturing solution is essentially going to change how the system works in the apparel market, how do you think professional clothing will adapt?
I think uniforms are one of the best targets for the on-demand manufacturing concept. Typically, professional clothing operates on the ‘push model’, meaning a buyer orders thousands of the same garment in the same size and this is delivered and rolled out to the workforce.
Technically, uniform buyers can reverse this. Using the military as an example, they may have a short notice requirement to source additional uniforms and PPE. On the push model, they can place an order but need to wait or make a large quantity order regardless of their requirements. By leveraging the ‘pull model’ facilitated by Lectra’s on-demand system, the military could order customised uniforms and PPE on an ordering platform and the patterns would be automatically sent for cutting without the need for human interference or delay.
The military is a great example of seeing the benefits of the pull model as they understand the ramifications of not having the correct uniforms and PPE. The on-demand manufacturing solution offers the agility and flexibility to improve the operational effectiveness of the supply chain, providing the consistent quality they expect, wherever in the world.
Why should the uniform, workwear and PPE markets adopt Lectra’s on demand manufacturing solution?
Because they should invest in the best. One of the key motivations for investing in automated police and military apparel production is because of the intelligence in the data. As the customers stock surplus fabrics, they simply order small quantity orders for additional requirements and the components will be cut.
Lectra is an Industry 4.0 technology provider and we are able to bring the professional clothing markets into this new era.