T-shirt sewing robot replaces 17 workers, brings back production to the US

Posted on Thursday, August 31 2017 @ 13:40 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck
Apparel makers are expected to construct new factories closer to their target markets but this will create relatively little jobs as automation is the driving force behind this move. Quartz highlights the development of a new t-shirt sewing robot from SoftWear Automation that needs just a single human handler yet it can make as many t-shirts per hour as about 17 human workers.

The site notes Chinese manufacturer Tianyuan Garments, which makes goods for companies like Armani and Adidas, is setting up a 100,000 square foot factory in Little Rock, Arkansas. This $20 million factory will be equipped with 21 robotic production lines from SoftWear Automation and will be able of pumping out 1.2 million t-shirts a year.

Tang Xinhong, chairman of Tianyuan Garments, reveals these new high-tech sewing machines put the labor cost of US-made t-shirts about on par with those made in Bangladesh:
Normally, manufacturing in the US would be much more expensive than producing in China because of the higher labor costs. But Tang Xinhong, chairman of Tianyuan Garments, told World Textile Information Network (paywall) that, in a completely automated production line, the cost of human labor works out to about $0.33 per shirt. For context, to produce something like a denim shirt in Bangladesh, you might pay about $0.22 in labor costs, according to an estimate from the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights. That same labor would be $7.47 in the US, putting the labor cost for Tianyuan Garments’ American-made shirt about on par with one of the cheapest labor markets in the world.

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Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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