The Impending Revolution in Production.

Just the other day I met some very interesting folks from the National Institute of Fashion technology and was quite enlightened to know about the various departments they have; Apparently there is design, textile and Production - which on explanation makes a lot of sense. There was a lot of talk about the budget and its infavourability to the textile industry, and how clusters such as Tirupur are going to be affected by it. Personally, I am not too sure.

If you have heard the story, Tirupur, the cluster known for making garments is essentially setting up shops in Bangladesh so that they can produce the same quality at a much lower cost. So what value does the Tirupur cluster bring in? They are moving up the value chain in terms of design and innovation in new material. If you look back at some case studies, It’s kinda the same thing that happened with some clusters in Italy. They used to make a lot of stuff, and then the chinese and asian market started imitating and they were forced to move up the value chain and start designing and innovating every season so that the asian markets eventually gave up. The originals were always the “in-season” trend, and what was coming out of Asia was passe, as far as the fashion savvy were concerned.

I am expecting that the same will happen with Tirupur as well. So overall its good news for us. If there is one thing that we can totally bet on, its the fact that ecosystems, and humans will adapt. Thats what they are built and programmed for. Evolution is part of their natural lifecycle - especially with the changing market dynamics.

So what does this have to do with the title that I started off with? Well, there is.

I believe that production is going to head two ways from here on. Thanks to the freely available networks and the personality traits that people are showing, there are only two ways to go.

Distributed Production Centres:
Ever heard why the Cheetahs are such a small population? Too much inbreeding and what happens is that you build a culture, and an entire ecosystem that is endangered by a single threat. Single point of failure, as they call it in the hardware world. The entire DNA of the cluster is geared towards one purpose that a slight change in plans affects the entire colony. As much as Tirupur survived because of its resilience, and clusters such as Sivakasi will also survive because of its ability to innovate and differentiate, it is not going to be a long term prognosis for change. Whether we like it or not, we are part of the global economy and a blip in global markets do find its way home, miles away. There is also another reason why this makes sense.

Production doesnt just limit itself to goods. Production also goes for what we call as Knowledge workers, essentially everyone ranging from Programmers to BPO workers. The cost of housing all these workers under one roof is getting too high, with the margins dropping that most centres are looking at ‘work from home’ options. Azim Premji, of Wipro has been talking about this for quite sometime, as Distributed Call centres, and Technology today has the luxury and the opportunity to make this happen. Infact, it is already happening in small scales already. More than all the luxuries of saving costs and managing margins, if you do realize the fact that while our demand for more knowledge workers doesnt seem to be slowing down, our infrastructures arent keeping up.

Distributed Production Centres, are the way to go.

The Second Interesting trend that is happening is essentially Personalization. We might be one among the six billion population, but we seem to want, crave, desire, relentlessly hunt for products that are engraved and suited to our style and taste, at the cost of mass production. Seems complicated? It’s already possible.

Think of the trends that Cafepress, DilseBol, Myntra, Pringoo and all are after. It is essentially that. A friend of mine and I, sat and drafted a very elegant looking business plan and execution strategy along the same lines till we figured that three Indian companies had popped in the same space trying to cater to that need. I am still seeing them missing some crucial elements to hit it big, but they are definitely on the right track.

This is almost a very interesting problem for those who are into fashion technology, especially the production aspect. I came to know that the entire curriculum of the Production department of fashion technology deals with one aspect. How do you produce, ensure quality and keep costs low and keep the machine going. This is certainly an interesting challenge and prospect to tackle for those who are in this line of work. There are no easy answers, but some interesting cues.

For one, nobody talked about customized garments yet. We are talking about personalized products, out of mass produced items. So take the T-Shirt for example. The ordinary black wrangler T-shirt could be mass produced, but the text that goes on it is where the secret sauce comes in.

While this is happening in the textile and accessories space in on side, It is also happening with Publishing on the other hand. Xerox, I believe has launched an entire array of machinery which can print custom work - which means, I can give a print order for 500 calendars, with variable content using the same Template/layout. Think, calendars with the same template, but different images. Essentially the easiest way to explain it is “mail merging” of images and print jobs.

I wouldn’t be too surprised to hear about our friendly computer supplier, who made computers “Personal again” embarks on this route of also styling your machine for you.

The same is also happening with book publishing. Gone are the days when you had to go look for a publisher to print your newly, freshly, insightfully written book *cough cough*. While there was an interim solution to self-publish, it has evolved pretty much into “Print on demand”. There are companies that can give you one single print of your book, for the same price it would cost per unit price if it was printed on the thousands. Imagine that!

Of course, engraving personal messages on your ipod, is pretty much an extension of the same thing. And the trend is going to continue on.

According to reports that foresee trends, personalization is essentially going to be one of the biggest booming markets for this decade. I am almost quite certain about that. More than just printing your names on it, the market and demand will push it to some very interesting limits. Future itself and alone can unveil all those possibilities.

Reposted here from the Author’s Blog.

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