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Will Technology Make Custom Clothing More Affordable?

Simon Davies

From tech startups to e-commerce titans, the quest is on to bring custom-made clothing to a new generation whose income would usually prevent them from being able to afford it. Bespoke clothing tends to be exclusive to high-end stores and is often seen as a rare luxury to all but the wealthiest of people.

The problem is that most of us are walking around with comparatively ill-fitting clothes; however, with the introduction of custom-sizing tech, not only could the fashion industry be transformed, your wardrobe could be too.

The problem with the size of our clothes

Despite the fact they are one of the most commonly worn items of clothing in history, we have come to begrudgingly accept that our t-shirts won’t quite fit most of the time. A so-called medium in one store may be too large and too small in the next. The problem dates back to the 1800s, when advances in technology meant that clothing could start to be mass-produced. Prior to this, as all clothing was hand-tailored, customized sizes were the norm and more affordable for the masses, who would simply own far less clothing.

Even t-shirt manufacturers have come to accept that there’s a problem, with one suggesting three primary reasons why t-shirt sizes vary so significantly. First, there is no restriction on standard clothing sizes, so although agencies such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) may have certain expectations, physically enforcing clothing sizes is technically impossible. Sizing varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, which brings us to our second reason: vanity sizing.

Vanity sizing is the process of stores labeling clothing in a smaller size than it actually is. The theory is, not unsurprisingly, that people will be happier buying clothes that they feel thinner in. If that makes you feel slightly disturbed, the third reason that the size of clothes differ significantly from store to store is because some businesses do the opposite. In trendier stores, sizes labeled large are anything but. In 2006, the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch came under fire for eliminating its plus-size clothing, saying that “we don’t market to anyone other than…cool, good-looking people.”

Of course, there’s another reason why machine technology has been inferior to the human hand when producing bespoke clothing: the simple fact that bodies come in a wide range of different sizes. There is no one small, medium, or large, and that is a problem machine production hasn’t circumvented…until now.

The rise of bespoke clothing technology

Custom clothing has been described as the future of fashion, and, through the use of automation, that future may be very likely. Amazon’s patent for an “on-demand” apparel manufacturing system can quickly fill online orders for suits and dresses. This would, in theory, be able to make mass-produced, custom-made clothing, and in turn make custom clothing more affordable.

It works like this: The customer enters their exact measurements and other information like style, color, etc. Various computer-driven systems then produce the clothing. First, the aptly named cut engine cuts out pieces of fabric. Then a robotic arm places the fabric into a conveyer belt, which delivers the pieces to a sewing station, where an automated sewing machine (basically a robot) stitches them together. The entire process is monitored via cameras to ensure quality control.

However, it isn’t just Amazon that’s looking at ways to produce machine-made, custom clothing. In a piece in Apparel News, Andrew Asch talked to the inventors and entrepreneurs behind Susarel, a California company that aims to build a fully integrated vertical factory with an automated sewing component that will eventually produce custom clothing.

The plant will be able to produce all sorts of clothing – not just high-end suits – including t-shirts, yoga pants, leggings, board shorts, and hoodies. Susarel’s project will focus on energy-efficiency and being eco-friendly. However, the important thing for many consumers is whether or not it will actually make custom clothing any cheaper.

Will this service eventually become truly affordable?

Susarel seems to think so. Because this tech will allow it to produce clothes domestically in the United States, it believes it will benefit from tariff-free trade. Tom Keefer, one of the entrepreneurs behind the business, reasons that “[although] the cost of the factory build-out will be higher in order to incorporate these technologies, the resulting efficiencies will makes us cost-competitive with offshore manufacturers who handle the lowest-cost labor pool.”

Susarel is planning a soft launch next year, while Amazon’s patent is still just that: a patent. So all this talk of cheap, robot-made, custom clothing remains hypothetical. However, one business is already using a combination of tech and the human hand to bring genuinely cheaper custom clothes.

Copenhagen-based startup Son Of A Tailor offers t-shirts created to fit the wearer perfectly by producing them via a specially developed online algorithm. It works by asking the user five questions (height, weight, age, jeans, and shoe size), then using what it calls its Ideal Size Algorithm to calculate a perfect-sized tee. The pattern is then laser-cut before humans take over, stitching the garment by hand.

Although Son Of A Tailor only offers t-shirts, this combination of machine and human may be the best way to get affordable, custom clothing today.

For more on technological change in manufacturing, learn 6 Surprising Ways 3D Printing Will Disrupt Manufacturing.

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About Simon Davies

Simon Davies is a London-based freelance writer with an interest in startup culture, issues, and solutions. He works explores new markets and disruptive technologies and communicates those recent developments to a wide, public audience. Simon is also a contributor at socialbarrel.com, socialnomics.net, and tech.co. Follow Simon @simontheodavies on Twitter.

21 Facts On Supply Networks In The Digital Economy

Peter Johnson

Part 6 of the six-part blog series “Facts on the Future of Business

Innovation in the business world is accelerating exponentially, with new disruptive technologies and trends emerging that are fundamentally changing how businesses and the global economy operate. To adapt, thrive, and innovate, we all need to be aware of these evolutionary technologies and trends and understand the opportunities or threats they might present to our organizations, our careers, and society on a whole.

With this in mind, I recently had the opportunity to compile 99 Facts on the Future of Business in the Digital Economy. This presentation includes facts, predictions, and research findings on some of the most impactful technologies and trends that are driving the future of business in the Digital Economy.

To help you more easily find facts for specific topics, I have grouped the facts into six subsets. Below is the sixth of these:

 

New value opportunities

Digital supply chains can reduce supply chain process costs by 50%, reduce procurement costs by 20%, and increase revenue by 10%.

Source: “Digital Supply Chains: A Frontside Flip,” The Center for Global Enterprise.

Companies with 50% or more of their revenues from digital ecosystems achieve 32% higher revenue growth and 27% higher profit margins.

Source: “Thriving in an Increasingly Digital Ecosystem,” MIT Sloan Management Review.

During their operation, the NASA space shuttles cost $60,000 per kilogram to get their payload into low Earth orbit.

Source: “Back to the Moon – Getting There Faster for Less,” National Space Society.

The SpaceX Falcon Heavy will cost an estimated $447 per kilogram to get its payload into low Earth orbit.

Source: “Increasing the Profit Ratio,” The Space Review.

 

Platforms

82% of executives believe platforms will be the glue that brings organizations together in the digital economy. The top 15 public platforms already have a market capitalization of $2.6 trillion.

Source: “Accenture Technology Vision 2016,” Accenture.

By 2020, over 80% of the G500 will be digital services suppliers through Industry Collaborative Cloud (ICC) platforms.

Source: “IDC FutureScape: Worldwide IT Industry 2017 Predictions,” IDC Research Inc.

The world’s biggest banks have taken the first steps to moving onto blockchains, the technology introduced to the world by the virtual currency bitcoin.

Source: “Wall Street Clearinghouse to Adopt Bitcoin Technology,” The New York Times.

By 2027, blockchains could store as much as 10% of global GDP.

Source: “Making The Next Moves With Blockchain,” D!gitalist Magazine.

Africa is leapfrogging the developed world’s traditional banking systems through fast adoption of mobile and Internet-based technology, and is poised to take advantage of the disruptive opportunity that blockchains offer.

Source: “The Blockchain Opportunity, How Crypto-currencies and Tokens Could Scale Disruptive Solutions Across Africa,” BitHub.Africa.

Car sharing could reduce the number of cars needed by 90% in 2035, resulting in only 17% as many cars as there are today.

Source: “Self-Driving Cars Are a Disaster for the Car Industry, but Great for the Rest of Us,” Seeking Alpha.

Millennials are more than twice as willing to car-share as Generation Xers, and five times more likely than baby boomers.

Source: “Cars 2025,” Goldman Sachs.

Airbnb usage is projected to grow 1,165% by 2025, reaching one billion “room nights.” Key growth factors include Airbnb’s high levels of repeat customers, and significant word of mouth, as more than 80% of customers are likely to recommend Airbnb to friends.

Source: “One Wall Street Firm Expects Airbnb to Book a Billion Nights a Year Within a Decade,” Bloomberg.

Once fully available, 5G data speeds will be 1,000-times faster than today. This revolutionary leap will enable ubiquitous connections across the Internet of Things, engagement across virtual environments with only millisecond latency, and whole new Big Data applications and services.

Source: “2017 Predictions: Behind the Scenes with 5G – 2017 Lays Groundwork for Telecom Revolution,” Canadian Wireless Trade Show.

 

Automation and circumventing technologies

Self-driving trucks are hauling iron ore in Australia, convoying across Europe, and appearing on roadways across the globe. And because they offer business savings, self-driving trucks are expected to be more rapidly adopted than self-driving cars.

Source: “Self-Driving Trucks: What’s the Future for America’s 3.5 Million Truckers?” The Guardian.

Amazon uses 30,000 Kiva robots in its global warehouses, which reduces operating expenses by approximately 20%. Bringing robots to its distribution centers that have not yet implemented them, would save Amazon a further $2.5 billion.

Source: “How Amazon Triggered a Robot Arms Race,” Bloomberg Technology.

88% of U.S. consumers say free shipping makes them more likely to shop online, and 79% would select drones as a delivery option if it meant they could receive packages within an hour.

Source: “Reinventing Retail: What Businesses Need to Know for 2016 Whitepaper,” Walker Sands Communications.

Taxi drones will start flying passengers in Dubai in July 2017. Passengers will select destinations on a touch screen and will be able to travel up to 30 minutes at a top speed of around 100 kph.

Source: “Taxi Drones Set for July Launch of Passenger Service Over Dubai,” RT News.

Only 13% of U.S. and Canadian manufacturing jobs recently lost were lost due to international trade. 85% of the job losses stemmed from productivity growth — another way of saying machines replaced human workers.

Source: “Industrial Robots Will Replace Manufacturing Jobs — and That’s a Good Thing,” TechCrunch.

The European Union is proposing new laws that require robots to be equipped with emergency “kill switches” and to be programmed in accordance to Isaac Asimov’s “laws of robotics,” stipulating that robots must never harm a human.

Source: “Europe Calls for Mandatory ‘Kill Switches’ on Robots,” CNN.

By 2030, 25% of Dubai’s buildings will be 3D-printed.

Source: “25% of Dubai’s Buildings Will Be 3D Printed by 2030: Mohammed,” Emirates24|7.

Patients dying while waiting for an organ donor could soon be a thing of the past. By 2030, organs will be biologically 3D-printed on demand.

Source: “Healthcare in 2030: Goodbye Hospital, Hello Home-Spital,” World Economic Forum.

 

To view all of the 99 Facts on the Future of Business in the Digital Economy, check out the Slideshare or other subsets below.

 

To see the rest of the series, check out our page “Facts on the Future of Business” every Thursday, where we will cover these six topics:

  • The value imperative to embrace the digital economy
  • Technologies driving the digital economy
  • Customer experience and marketing in digital economy
  • The future of work in the digital economy
  • Purpose and sustainability in the digital economy
  • Supply networks in the digital economy

 

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Peter Johnson

About Peter Johnson

Peter Johnson is a Senior Director of Marketing Strategy and Thought Leadership at SAP, responsible for developing easy to understand corporate level and cross solution messaging. Peter has proven experience leading innovative programs to accelerate and scale Go-To-Market activities, and drive operational efficiencies at industry leading solution providers and global manufactures respectively.

Fast – But Not Too Fast – Wins The Race In Supply Chain Management

Richard Howells

Bonnie D. Graham, host of The Digital Transformation of Your Supply Chain with Game-Changers podcast, opened her recent show by recounting the tale of “The Tortoise and the Hare.”

You know the story: A slow but steady turtle beats a swift yet arrogant rabbit in a footrace.

Bonnie used the Aesop fable to illustrate two points about supply chain management:

  1. If you respond too slowly to your customers’ needs, you risk being left behind.
  1. If you respond too quickly, you risk acting without the proper insight.

The truth is, you need to strike the perfect balance, responding in a timely fashion with sound information that adequately supports your response.

One of the panelists on the show, Eric Simonson, director of solution management at SAP, likened this to another well-known tale: “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”

Your supply chain organization, he suggests, needs to respond to its consumers just right.

Don’t just respond – predict

Responding to the needs of your supply chain customers is one thing. Anticipating consumers’ needs is something else altogether.

“Basically, if we look back into what we’re trying to do traditionally in supply chain management and supply chain planning, specifically,” said guest Jeroen Kusters, senior manager of supply chain management at Deloitte, “is we’re trying to predict the future.”

He admits, however, that “we’re always a little bit wrong.”

How can we change this?

The key is gaining an optimal view of the information you have at your disposal. In addition to taking a deeper dive into your own data, it’s important to have some insight into your supply chain partners’ information. This will enable your company to respond earlier – with greater accuracy – and even help you predict future demand.

Supply chain in the year 2020 and beyond

At one point during the podcast, Bonnie asked her panel of experts what they think the future holds for supply chain management.

Jeroen envisions organizations better integrating their planning, response management, and other operations across the entire supply chain. This will allow companies and their partners to more easily share – and capitalize on – customer insight and other key data.

Eric foresees a world where digital collaboration is much more prominent.

“[M]aybe it’ll start with the supplier side of things,” he says, “and then, eventually … we can get to some of the customer collaboration type, too, to get some better demand visibility.”

With a more holistic view into what’s happening across the entire supply chain, your business is primed to provide well-informed, timely responses to ever-evolving consumer demands.

Srini Bangalore, managing director at Deloitte, believes the immediate future of supply chain revolves around digitalization. But his long-term outlook is more focused on cognitive intelligence.

“I look at cognitive supply chain as a 20-year journey,” he says, “where your machines and computing systems that you use within your supply chain have machine-based intelligence. They can learn, they can problem solve, and they can make decisions on your behalf in the processes in your extended supply chain. The role of a human being is to actually augment the machines.”

A first-rate lesson in digital response and supply chain management

As discussed on the show, predicting the future isn’t easy. But if you’re going to listen to anybody about what direction supply chain is headed in, it ought to be industry thought leaders like Eric Simonson, Jeroen Kusters, and Srini Bangalore.

Check out the entire episode of The Digital Transformation of Your Supply Chain with Game-Changers to hear more expert opinions on digital response and supply chain management from Bonnie and her panel of guests.

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About Richard Howells

Richard Howells is a Vice President at SAP responsible for the positioning, messaging, AR , PR and go-to market activities for the SAP Supply Chain solutions.

Running Future Cities on Blockchain

Dan Wellers , Raimund Gross and Ulrich Scholl

Building on the Blockchain Framework

Some experts say these seemingly far-future speculations about the possibilities of combining technologies using blockchain are actually both inevitable and imminent:


Democratizing design and manufacturing by enabling individuals and small businesses to buy, sell, share, and digitally remix products affordably while protecting intellectual property rights.
Decentralizing warehousing and logistics by combining autonomous vehicles, 3D printers, and smart contracts to optimize delivery of products and materials, and even to create them on site as needed.
Distributing commerce by mixing virtual reality, 3D scanning and printing, self-driving vehicles, and artificial intelligence into immersive, personalized, on-demand shopping experiences that still protect buyers’ personal and proprietary data.

The City of the Future

Imagine that every agency, building, office, residence, and piece of infrastructure has an entry on a blockchain used as a city’s digital ledger. This “digital twin” could transform the delivery of city services.

For example:

  • Property owners could easily monetize assets by renting rooms, selling solar power back to the grid, and more.
  • Utilities could use customer data and AIs to make energy-saving recommendations, and smart contracts to automatically adjust power usage for greater efficiency.
  • Embedded sensors could sense problems (like a water main break) and alert an AI to send a technician with the right parts, tools, and training.
  • Autonomous vehicles could route themselves to open parking spaces or charging stations, and pay for services safely and automatically.
  • Cities could improve traffic monitoring and routing, saving commuters’ time and fuel while increasing productivity.

Every interaction would be transparent and verifiable, providing more data to analyze for future improvements.


Welcome to the Next Industrial Revolution

When exponential technologies intersect and combine, transformation happens on a massive scale. It’s time to start thinking through outcomes in a disciplined, proactive way to prepare for a future we’re only just beginning to imagine.

Download the executive brief Running Future Cities on Blockchain.


Read the full article Pulling Cities Into The Future With Blockchain

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About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

Raimund Gross

About Raimund Gross

Raimund Gross is a solution architect and futurist at SAP Innovation Center Network, where he evaluates emerging technologies and trends to address the challenges of businesses arising from digitization. He is currently evaluating the impact of blockchain for SAP and our enterprise customers.

Ulrich Scholl

About Ulrich Scholl

Ulrich Scholl is Vice President of Industry Cloud and Custom Development at SAP. In this role, Ulrich discovers and implements best practices to help further the understanding and adoption of the SAP portfolio of industry cloud innovations.

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4 Traits Set Digital Leaders Apart From 97% Of The Competition

Vivek Bapat

Like the classic parable of the blind man and the elephant, it seems everyone has a unique take on digital transformation. Some equate digital transformation with emerging technologies, placing their bets on as the Internet of Things, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Others see it as a way to increase efficiencies and change business processes to accelerate product to market. Some others think of it is a means of strategic differentiation, innovating new business models for serving and engaging their customers. Despite the range of viewpoints, many businesses are still challenged with pragmatically evolving digital in ways that are meaningful, industry-disruptive, and market-leading.

According to a recent study of more than 3,000 senior executives across 17 countries and regions, only a paltry three percent of businesses worldwide have successfully completed enterprise-wide digital transformation initiatives, even though 84% of C-level executives ranks such efforts as “critically important” to the fundamental sustenance of their business.

The most comprehensive global study of its kind, the SAP Center for Business Insight report “SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart,” in collaboration with Oxford Economics, identified the challenges, opportunities, value, and key technologies driving digital transformation. The findings specifically analyzed the performance of “digital leaders” – those who are connecting people, things, and businesses more intelligently, more effectively, and creating punctuated change faster than their less advanced rivals.

After analyzing the data, it was eye-opening to see that only three percent of companies (top 100) are successfully realizing their full potential through digital transformation. However, even more remarkable was that these leaders have four fundamental traits in common, regardless of their region of operation, their size, their organizational structure, or their industry.

We distilled these traits in the hope that others in the early stages of transformation or that are still struggling to find their bearings can embrace these principles in order to succeed. Ultimately I see these leaders as true ambidextrous organizations, managing evolutionary and revolutionary change simultaneously, willing to embrace innovation – not just on the edges of their business, but firmly into their core.

Here are the four traits that set these leaders apart from the rest:

Trait #1: They see digital transformation as truly transformational

An overwhelming majority (96%) of digital leaders view digital transformation as a core business goal that requires a unified digital mindset across the entire enterprise. But instead of allowing individual functions to change at their own pace, digital leaders prefer to evolve the organization to help ensure the success of their digital strategies.

The study found that 56% of these businesses regularly shift their organizational structure, which includes processes, partners, suppliers, and customers, compared to 10% of remaining companies. Plus, 70% actively bring lines of business together through cross-functional processes and technologies.

By creating a firm foundation for transformation, digital leaders are further widening the gap between themselves and their less advanced competitors as they innovate business models that can mitigate emerging risks and seize new opportunities quickly.

Trait #2: They focus on transforming customer-facing functions first

Although most companies believe technology, the pace of change, and growing global competition are the key global trends that will affect everything for years to come, digital leaders are expanding their frame of mind to consider the influence of customer empowerment. Executives who build a momentum of breakthrough innovation and industry transformation are the ones that are moving beyond the high stakes of the market to the activation of complete, end-to-end customer experiences.

In fact, 92% of digital leaders have established sophisticated digital transformation strategies and processes to drive transformational change in customer satisfaction and engagement, compared to 22% of their less mature counterparts. As a result, 70% have realized significant or transformational value from these efforts.

Trait #3: They create a virtuous cycle of digital talent

There’s little doubt that the competition for qualified talent is fierce. But for nearly three-quarters of companies that demonstrate digital-transformation leadership, it is easier to attract and retain talent because they are five times more likely to leverage digitization to change their talent management efforts.

The impact of their efforts goes beyond empowering recruiters to identify best-fit candidates, highlight risk factors and hiring errors, and predict long-term talent needs. Nearly half (48%) of digital leaders understand that they must invest heavily in the development of digital skills and technology to drive revenue, retain productive employees, and create new roles to keep up with their digital maturity over the next two years, compared to 30% of all surveyed executives.

Trait #4: They invest in next-generation technology using a bimodal architecture

A couple years ago, Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president at Gartner and global head of research, observed that “CIOs can’t transform their old IT organization into a digital startup, but they can turn it into a bi-modal IT organization. Forty-five percent of CIOs state they currently have a fast mode of operation, and we predict that 75% of IT organizations will be bimodal in some way by 2017.”

Based on the results of the SAP Center for Business Insight study, Sondergaard’s prediction was spot on. As digital leaders dive into advanced technologies, 72% are using a digital twin of the conventional IT organization to operate efficiently without disruption while refining innovative scenarios to resolve business challenges and integrate them to stay ahead of the competition. Unfortunately, only 30% of less advanced businesses embrace this view.

Working within this bimodal architecture is emboldening digital leaders to take on incredibly progressive technology. For example, the study found that 50% of these firms are using artificial intelligence and machine learning, compared to seven percent of all respondents. They are also leading the adoption curve of Big Data solutions and analytics (94% vs. 60%) and the Internet of Things (76% vs. 52%).

Digital leadership is a practice of balance, not pure digitization

Most executives understand that digital transformation is a critical driver of revenue growth, profitability, and business expansion. However, as digital leaders are proving, digital strategies must deliver a balance of organizational flexibility, forward-looking technology adoption, and bold change. And clearly, this approach is paying dividends for them. They are growing market share, increasing customer satisfaction, improving employee engagement, and, perhaps more important, achieving more profitability than ever before.

For any company looking to catch up to digital leaders, the conversation around digital transformation needs to change immediately to combat three deadly sins: Stop investing in one-off, isolated projects hidden in a single organization. Stop viewing IT as an enabler instead of a strategic partner. Stop walling off the rest of the business from siloed digital successes.

As our study shows, companies that treat their digital transformation as an all-encompassing, all-sharing, and all-knowing business imperative will be the ones that disrupt the competitive landscape and stay ahead of a constantly evolving economy.

Follow me on twitter @vivek_bapat 

For more insight on digital leaders, check out the SAP Center for Business Insight report, conducted in collaboration with Oxford Economics,SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart.”

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About Vivek Bapat

Vivek Bapat is the Senior Vice President, Global Head of Marketing Strategy and Thought Leadership, at SAP. He leads SAP's Global Marketing Strategy, Messaging, Positioning and related Thought Leadership initiatives.