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Bangladesh Textile-Apparel Industry and Industry 4.0


The latest vide in the global industrial sector is the fourth industrial revolution termed as Industry 4.0 and the transformation that the manufacturing and service industries are going through. Hence, a big question arises about the impact of the fourth industrial revolution on the Bangladesh textile and apparel industry and trade. Many analysts are enquiring whether the textile-apparel industry of Bangladesh is ready for the Industry 4.0 or not. As the previous article describes the ins and outs of Industry 4.0 and the nine pillars of it, this article talks about the implication of Industry 4.0 on the Bangladesh textile-apparel industry and trade.

How relevant is Industry 4.0 with Textile-Apparel Industry?

Textile and apparel are one of the most labor intensive industries only after agriculture. If the history and the pattern of the growth of the textile and apparel industry is analyzed, it is easily understandable that the development of this industrial sector has been governed by the availability of cheap labor in-stead of the breakthrough of technologies. In the 18th century the textile industry was the main industrial sector in Britain. Cotton was imported to Britain form India and China where yarns and fabrics were made in the English spinning and weaving mills. In the late 80s there were more than 250000 looms in Britain producing fabrics for making ready-wear garments. From the late 90s the textile industry started shifting from England to the third world countries like China, India, Vietnam and Bangladesh as it was not possible to maintain the textile industries in UK as their society was coming out of the agrarian state. Workers availability become scarce and the rising wage of the workers compel to shut sown many factories there.

Image 17th Century Women in Britain with a Spinning Wheel, Source wikimedia commons; public domain

For most of human history, clothing or apparel has been handmade. Even today, while textile production is fully automated, garments are sewn and pieced together by human hands on sewing machines. The history of the apparel industry shows that it was started in the ancient Rome way back in 1400 BC from where it shifted to the western countries. By the late 1700’s Bristol England was home to over 200 businesses that exported hates, gloves, drawers, pants, stockings, shirts, jackets, and footwear. In 1835, a New York company was seen to advertise for 800 tailors, and 1200 plain sewers. But soon, workers become scarce as industrial revolution took place and workers shifted to more mechanized factories for better pays.

The invention of steam powered machines for producing textiles and clothing drew the ire of frightened craftspeople. In England and France angry tailors and weavers who saw the machinery as a threat to their livelihood stormed factories and wrecked the machinery. Textile and garment work became fast paced and dependent on the large amounts of capital that it took to purchase machinery and physical plants. Workers lost their individuality, independence, and society’s reliance on their skills.They were no longer crafts people but employees, just cogs in the wheel. Today, the scenario in the textile and apparel industries in the third world countries are more or less similar where workers are employees with low skills cogging behind the capital machineries to produce low priced ready wear apparels for the wearers. So as technology was developing in the western countries were the first textile and apparel mills were established became the manufactures of capital machineries and other raw materials which are exported to the developing countries like China, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh where people are still available at a sub-standard rate to operate the fast paced apparel industries.

So, to expect the textile and apparel industry to become fully automatic after the fourth industrial revolution is a bit unrealistic, rather it is more conceivable theory that the textile and apparel industry would continue its journey towards more labor available and low income countries like the African countries today as the existing places become richer. However, as it is a manufacturing industry there are areas where optimization is on the card, as industry 4.0 comes with new solutions in smart manufacturing.

Transformation of Textile-Apparel Industry through the Industrial Revolutions


Industry 1.0 

(Mechanization, Steam Power, Weaving Loom)

Spinning and weaving mills become mechanized; end of hand wheeled production era


Industry 2.0 

(Mass Production, Assembly Line, Electrical Energy)

Industry become fast paced, new electricity run machines developed, textile industries start to grow at a rapid pace with increasing demand worldwide, clothing industry transformed from cottage based to industrial scale with assembly lines and shifted from western countries to Asian countries


Industry 3.0 

(Automation, Computers and Electronics)

Textile machineries become more sophisticated and automated, Evolve of China as a giant in textile and apparel, western industries became bankrupts or shifted their production to Asian countries, robust growth of apparel industries


Industry 4.0 

(Cyber Physical Systems, Internet of Things, Networks)

Industries are becoming more productive, more efficient, more secure, supply chain and trade becoming more ethical and transparent, ups killing of mass workers, incorporation of information technologies for better visibility, sustainable practices

Incorporation of Industry 4.0 in Textile-Apparel Supply Chain

Big Data Analytics With big data and business analytics solutions, data driven decision making and representation has become really easy. Specially, in the consumer behavior research, apparel retailer market decision making is now more realistic and effective.
Autonomous Robots The use of autonomous robots in textile or apparel manufacturing is still indistinguishable. However, autonomous robots may come in to play in delicate manufacturing of textile components where human interaction is difficult.
Simulation Simulation technology opens scope for virtual garments design, machine settings for new textile products development and virtual plant operations.
Horizontal and Vertical System Integration Flow of material, information and finance from fibre manufacturers to the clothing manufacturers to the retailers will be more effective through horizontal and vertical system integration.
The Industrial Internet of Things It’s a technology to develop a interacting network among the controlling points of a manufacturing system which will allow simplifying supply chain variables, merchandising activities and business decision making.
Cyber Security and Cyber Physical Systems The Cyber Security and the CPS is more concerned with the IT products, however, as communication is a big issues in textile-apparel global supply chain this technology will ensure mote security and integrity of information access between consumer and manufacturers. Technologies like RFID which is already in use will be a common practice to track down the product location, identity and important facts that the stake-holders should know about.
The Cloud The cloud technology was already there but Industry 4.0 opens new dimension in digital marketing, consumer driven garment design and the bespoke retail market.
Additive Manufacturing Additive manufacturing technology will be used in more sophisticated textile manufacturing like medical textiles, agro-textile, geo-textile etc. which will result is effective production, fault prevention and reduction of production costs.
Augmented Reality Augmented reality can be an effective tool in training of the operators and engineers working with textile and apparel manufacturing machines and systems. It will also help in decision making with a more realistic physical-environmental conditions.

Final Discussions

The pattern of Bangladesh textile-apparel industry is still manufacturing low to mid-range ready wear apparel products backed by local textile industry supplying with around 50%-60% basic textile materials including yarns, knit and woven fabrics. Bangladesh still is dependent on overseas sources for sophisticated textiles including knit, woven, synthetics and dyes, chemicals, accessories etc. Matter of fact is that the demand of these consumer apparels of low to mid-range products and high due to the fast fashion trends in the western countries and all over the world. Bangladesh is becoming an unprecedented player in this market segment due to its large capacity and relatively lower costs. In this circumstances, the dynamics of the global apparel market will push the Bangladesh apparel industry further to grow big in volume in the upcoming years. As a result, a big portion of the apparel industry will remain more labor intensive and less technology oriented to satisfy the big demand of consumer apparels. However, as unprecedented effort is also on the go to transform the apparel industry towards more sustainability addressing the compliance, working conditions, workers wage, environmental and ethical issues. Many tools of Industry 4.0 will come into play specially cases pertaining to the upskilling of the apparel industry workers to become more tech-savvy so create an environment where the more technology oriented solutions can be adopted.

The analysis in this article clearly depicts that the industry 4.0 tools are more relevant with the forward linkage industries of apparel manufacturers pertaining to the issues like simulating garment designs, digital marketing, supply chain integrations and consumer data analytics. However, the tools concerning with smart manufacturing will also come into play in the recent future as the Bangladesh slowly enters into more technology oriented solutions for value added manufacturing. It’s important to take proper steps now to train our workers and management so that Bangladesh textile-apparel industry can transform smoothly to a more value added and sophisticated manufacturing industry.



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