Disruption and Transformation in the Textile Value Chain

Future Supply Chain Expert Panel Discussion at MUNICH FABRIC START

20. May 2020

In the February edition of MUNICH FABRIC START, KEYHOUSE hosted an expert led panel discussion, merging their collective knowledge and experience under the topic, ‘Future Textile Supply Chain – Disruption and transformation through sustainability and networking in the textile value chain’. Moderated by Jana Kern & Alex Vogt of KERN.Consulting with Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart (Braungart EPEA), David Shah (View Publications), Hans H. Jung (Unity AG) and Dr. David Schmelzeisen (RWTH Aachen).

The fashion industry is currently facing unprecedented challenges as a result of COVID-19, especially critical are those concerning the global supply chain. Change is accelerated during these times and it has become crucially important to share our collective knowledge and expertise in order to develop positive, future proof solutions. On the KEYHOUSE stage, our industry experts exchanged their thoughts and expertise, offering their unique insights and key points for further action and reflection.

How attractive has the option of localisation become to companies?
While local production may look like an attractive alternative that could perhaps satisfy a growing standard of consciousness and need to keep up with demand, it is problematic because companies will always seek out the cheapest option, said David Shah as he offered a further insight:

“Turkey will become the new ‘China’ to Europe, just as Mexico will become the new ‘China’ for America.”

On the one hand, there are the typical pressures demanded from the point of view of the manufacturer which will always exists, such as; speed, price, product diversity, range and lifespan, speed of delivery as well as waste reduction. However on the other hand there is now a need to satisfy the consumer demand for those who are seeking a more meaningful experience, individuality and faster to market which is almost counterintuitive.

To what extent will consumer demand for sustainable manufacturing shape current business practices?
While fashion movements, professionals and activists advocate for greater transparency and traceability which can ideally change this damaging mind-set mentioned previously, panellist David Schmelzeisen believes it is still the case that the majority of end consumers want faster change times but at the same time lower prices. He believes that the controlling power does not yet lie with the conscious consumer, adding:

“We need to be more flexible and that is where digital technology comes in and why we will see a lot of changes in the future. For this we need smaller MOQ’s (Minimum Order Quantities) which is leading producers to look for new digital and technical solutions as well as new design solutions.”

How can digitisation provide a solution for more accurate production quantities?
Digitisation is transforming the entire supply chain, the connection between production and actual customer demand is getting closer. Hans Jung believes digital tools offer the unique opportunity to learn what the customer wants, such as with customer interface throughout all the different stages of usage, acting as a systematic feedback loop for optimisation. He states

“Production industries are now evolving and adding additional functions in a much more sustainable way than in the past.”

How crucial is the practice of circularity for the textiles industry in the future?
Circularity is crucial to the future of our industry and it should be explored as there is a lot of opportunity to build on this kind of system within the textile industry. Michael Braungart strongly believes the future lies in opening up the circular processes and materials which conventionally may be contained to only the textile industry. As these may have other relevant applications in production industries across various stages of the process and thus increasing the effectiveness of circularity. He also shared his crucial opinion that where brands use smart textiles, there must be an equally smart effort to communicate with the consumer. It is important to educate the consumer on how to use the product better for circularity to truly be in effect.

Want to know more? Watch the full discussion now available on our YouTube channel.