High-tech Turkey embraces the digitization of Industry 4.0 in its garment and textile sector
The apparel and textile industry in Turkey has understood the importance of digitization and e-commerce, with retailers selling more online in the past year, requiring quick deliveries to market, relocation, management improved inventory and innovation.
“The pandemic has changed everything, rocking the business from top to bottom. Scanning and 3D facilities for production sampling to enable easy traceability and rapid sampling have become essential due to the pandemic, ”said Mehmet Kaya, President of Istanbul Apparel Exporters Association (İstanbul Hazır Giyim Ve Konfeksiyon İhracatçıları Birliği – İHKİB).
While Turkish investments in digitization have increased over the past year, the country’s textile and clothing industry has a long history of investing in technology to maintain its competitive edge as a producer of more expensive clothing, for example compared to Asian and African manufacturers.
German brand Hugo Boss helped demonstrate how the Turkish clothing and textile industry can adopt Industry 4.0’s most sophisticated technology, state-of-the-art Izmir factory in western Turkey, being a well-publicized example of good practice. Opened in 2015, it uses more than 1,600 tablets throughout the facility to monitor production in real time, connected via artificial intelligence (AI) with semi and fully automated machines and robots.
“The Hugo Boss factory is now the level at which Turkish manufacturers are growing, as digitization gives speed and agility to the industry,” Kaya said.
He said fabric and textile producers across Turkey are also embracing Industry 4.0 technology “for high-tech fabrics and smarter products.”
The country’s educated and skilled workforce, its close links with universities, technical colleges and research institutes further provide value-added benefits from the operation of high-tech machinery to innovative designs.
“Turkey focuses on value-added clothing and we offer most of our customers our own designs. We have invested in the last decade in design institutes, while factories have invested in research and development and hiring of designers, ”said Cem Altan, HKİB board member and founder of Aycem Tekstil, based in Istanbul.
The digital shift has required upgrading workers’ skills and hiring engineers and software specialists.
“Turkey used to buy software and technology from abroad – we still do – but the domestic software industry is taking off and more and more people are joining the industry due to the opportunities to work with new techniques and innovations. . Before we only had “blue collars” and “white collars”, now we also have “metal collars” capable of working with the latest technology, Kaya said.
Manufacturers are increasingly partnering with technology providers to customize and develop innovative solutions. Silk, linen and cotton producer Mert Ipek, based near Izmir, produces some 40,000 m of silk and 20,000 kg of linen per month. The company has recently invested in high-end, fully automated factory technology and has fully integrated robotic dispensers in its laboratory.
“We have been working on this for two years and aim to be fully integrated into Industry 4.0 by the end of the year,” said Tahir Mert, Managing Director of Mert Ipek.
But for the company to be successful in adopting new technologies for silk production in particular, technical cooperation was necessary. “Our machines are developed with the manufacturers to have the right modifications. It takes a lot of specialization and knowledge, ”said Mert.
During this time, Turkey has become a hub for brands and retailers to experiment and develop new innovative fabrics.
British textile coatings brand LiquidNano DiOX, for example, has carried out tests in Turkey on durable water repellent (DWR) coatings that use nanoscale silica dioxide technology as a finishing chemical. While efficacy testing was carried out at the University of Cambridge in the UK, testing in Turkey explored how specialized coating works with different fabrics and how it can be treated.
As Turkish companies become more and more automated, advanced technology is adopted across the country. For example, Özak Tekstil, based in Başakşehi, Istanbul, in May (2021) signed an agreement with the US IT company Gerber to source its digital cutting technology. The Turkish ready-to-wear maker cuts some six million pieces per year.
“Using digitization and technology, we don’t have as many quality issues, model issues, or second grade issues. With 3D technology, we are able to better understand the fit of a garment, and the new technology improves sustainability through less waste, ”said İsmail Kolunsağ, CEO of Cross Textiles and Board Member of HKİB.
There is a link between the adoption of new technologies and the pursuit of greater sustainability and circularity in the industry. “A significant part of the new investments are in renewable energies and energy saving technologies,” said President Kaya.
Business interactions and product presentation have also become increasingly digital, further accelerated by the pandemic. “We used to visit our customers with big suitcases to show everything physically, now it’s through a digital showroom or with a laptop. This has been a big change for the industry, ”Kaya said.
Virtual podiums are also increasingly in vogue. “Once you’ve done the design in 3D and showcase the clothes on a virtual catwalk, the customer has a better understanding of what a garment looks like, and this can easily be converted into models sent by email. Most of our work is done through automated management systems, ”said Kolunsağ.
Click here to learn more about how Turkey’s garment manufacturing industry is positioning itself to thrive thanks to the near-offshoring boom.