In this speculative case about the fashion industry, I will highlight some of the potential benefits of production-on-demand. In a digitalized production chain set up to support local on-demand-production can enable companies to incorporate new services to increase the value for their customers. Meanwhile, help lowering waste production since the industry only produces what is needed.

The Fashion Case: three steps

  1. A digital twin. – digitalize the data about your body (data input)
  2. The perfect fit. – Responsive designs or smart matching (added value for the user)
  3. Digitally tailored clothing. – Smart factories / Industry 4.0 (potential lowered waste production)

1. A digital twin.

“A digital twin is a digital replica of a living or non-living physical entity.

– Wikipedia”

In this case, a digital twin means a collection of digital measurements of the consumer’s body. These could be collected by 3D scanning the customer or simply by taking measurements of the body manually.

Example of current digital measurement with a smartphone.

Bonus thoughts: For the consumer, it could beneficiary that these measurements were part of an open-source standard. This way, the user could own their own data and share it with their favorite retailers instead of having to retake measurements for each retailer in order to match slightly different rules.

2. The perfect fit.

With a digital copy of the body, the retailers can use it to provide a better service for their customers. It can be something as simple as smart matching were the retailer’s website shows which size to choose, along with a description of how the fit would be. A more technical option could be: A digital twin of the clothing could be projected onto either a simple 3D figure in the customer’s browser or onto themselves with the help of AR (Augmented Reality). Until now this speculation has just tried to increase the visualization and enhance the pre-purchase experience.

By digitalizing the production of clothing and making the designs parametric the retailers can, not only, offer the perfect size for the customer. They can offer a digitally tailored version of the clothing to match their exact measurements. The systems could still allow for user input for simple things, such as a slider for tight to loose fit.

Example: Tylko makes shelves that can be adjusted to the customer’s needs and allow for easy co-design with sliders to control the parametric design options.

3. Digitally tailored clothing.

“Industry 4.0: The ‘intelligent industry’ fosters smart factories; machines are augmented with wireless connectivity and sensors, connected to a system that can visualise the entire production line and male decisions on its own.”

Design Remix Share Repeat

Imagine the customer has uploaded her/his digital twin to the retailer and chosen a piece of clothing they like. This piece is then optimized by the retailer, personalized by the customer, and virtually tried on in AR. The customer now decides to buy this piece of clothing and the manufacturing must begin. This last step requires a completely different production setup than what most companies are using today. The production needs to be more adaptive as each item is unique. To keep the cost down, the technical machinery should be converted into big IoT devices. This would transform into an Industry 4.0 Smart factory that would let machines receive online orders automatically and convert digital clothing into physical clothing. The lowering of manual labor could enable moving production closer to the consumers, who are living in areas with higher wages. If the distance between consumers and production is lowered, there is also a better chance of obtaining a circular material lifecycle, where used clothing can be reused in factories in textile production.

Additional benefits could be.

  • The customers favorite pair of jeans can always be reordered since they are never going out of stock. Simply reorder using the same configuration as last time.
  • When the customer have their favorite fit, it is easy to get it in the colors and patterns they want.
  • Some companies could specialize in cut patterns and others in textiles. Allowing the customers to mix two brands.
  • Less impulsive shopping – more intentional consumption.
  • More creative clothing. There is less risk in developing a design for on-demand-production than for industrial mass production.

Final notes.

This was a single-sided positive scenario about the speculative benefits of moving to an on-demand-production. There are many challenges involved that I won’t be getting into.

I hope you have enjoyed the read. – Asbjørn