Returning to the 4th Euratex conference, Gherzi Consulting’s presentation on trends and innovation within the textile supply chain. The presentation identified five key external driver areas that are all influencing demand along different areas of the chain. These were namely:
- The Textile Added Value Chain itself with the increasing importance of changing product markets and processes along with the drive for efficiencies and reduced wastage in production.
- Key success factors for production that include factor costs, access to skills, proximity to raw materials, subsides and consumption patterns. The presentation focussed on Free Trade Agreements and particularly the potential opportunities offered by the Trans-Pacific Partnership, in its ability to generate trade negotiations and benefit business and employment.
- Consumer behaviour was highlighted as awareness of sustainability and CSR was increasingly important. This has evolved from schemes that initially raised consumer understanding the principles of fair trade, onto worker conditions to where we are today with newer highlighted environmental concerns also of consideration.
Consumer behaviour was also highlighted in the rise in a number of technologies that have seen the rise of changes in commerce such as multi-channel retailing, paperless purchasing, consumer fashion requirements driven by 3D printing that enables customisation, virtual stylists & body scanning along security and sustainability measures such as garment DNA and an emphasis on recycling/sustainability.
- The continued rise of disruptive technologies such as 3D printing that are lowering the barriers to entry for new entrants and also minimising costs of productions through not being required to produce garments until a costumers order it. 3D printing has also been seen as a driver in new production and process innovation.
- The Internet of Textiles and the rise of online connectivity as people and products are more easily linked globally. This opens up possibilities for production, consumption and innovation (areas such as wearables for instance) that have never been seen before. Indeed, wearables are predicted to seamlessly blend into the eco-system as health, location and activity all are monitored using this new technology.
The challenge is therefore, how can companies and entrepreneurs both harness these innovations (many can already be seen to be making great strides) and turn many into opportunities rather than risks. Indeed, it still remains unanswered how many of these innovations will have a practical application for consumers in the longer term as technology and consumption habits continue to develop. Shorter-term as the presentation stated, the impacts on how businesses strategise, control and run their textiles chains is a fundamental requirement of the above demand drivers.