Textile manufacturing is one of humanity’s oldest industries, and yet it’s also frequently on the forefront of computer-aided design and manufacturing in modern times. 

Cutting-edge industrial and enterprise computers can be found on every level of the textile business, from the designer’s desktop in an air-conditioned office all the way down to the hardened panel PC controlling the machines on the factory floor. 

Even ordering and point-of-sale for textiles and garments rely on computers and apps. 

We’re going to walk you through how computer advancements have changed and improved the textile industry, and where the industry can still improve its productivity and production with the latest tech.

Computer-Aided Design Reduces the Cost of Prototyping

The first step in the manufacturing chain is design – actually deciding what you’re going to make. In textiles, design determines what the fabric will look like, how it will suit its primary function, and how to actually manufacture it at high quality and low cost. 

Computer-aided design (CAD) is used in many industries, from architecture to engineering and even in lighting design. In the textile business, CAD takes drawings and sketches for fabric patterns and garments and turns them into three-dimensional digital prototypes.

Now, instead of a flat drawing, designers can actually see their prototype in a “physical” space. They can examine and alter their fabric or garments from any angle, and make changes on the fly. 

Without CAD, textile designers have to eat the cost of printing a run of test fabric to see it in three dimensions. For garment designers, they have to put their fabric on a dress form to see how it might look on a person. Then, they make physical alterations and may have to even go back to the sketching stage and prototype again if the changes are significant. 

That physical “trial and error” form of design may be fine for individual creators and custom clothing, but it becomes a huge waste of money as you scale up to even medium-sized manufacturers. Fabric and labor are going to waste during every single design. 

CAD short-circuits that cycle, leaving most of the design, testing, and alterations in a digital space that doesn’t cost more than a software subscription and a little time. 

Industrial Computers Boost Production in Textile Manufacturing

Once a run of fabric or clothing is designed, we move to the actual manufacturing step of the process.

Computer technology is everywhere on the factory floor, and has only made manufacturing cheaper, cleaner, and safer as it’s advanced. However, not all textile production uses computers in the same way.

There is a difference between computer-aided manufacturing and computer-integrated manufacturing, though they are most often used together.   

Computer-Aided Manufacturing

Called CAM (or even CAD/CAM when used together with design), computer-aided manufacturing refers to the actual production tools that (in the textile business) create fabric or clothing. 

These tools include the factory machines, the industrial panel PCs that operate them, and the sensors that monitor the production line. 

When most people think of the “robots” on a factory floor, the classic conveyor belt, or the equipment a machinist is operating, that’s (these days) all a part of computer-aided manufacturing. The computer is the brain, the machine is the body, and they work together to create the clothing we wear and the blankets we sleep under.

Computer-Integrated Manufacturing

In computer-integrated manufacturing (or CIM), is more about the philosophy and connections between the computers, the industrial machines, and the entire network on the factory floor. 

Computer-integrated manufacturing is data-driven, grabbing insights from every machine, PoE mini PC, and smart sensor on the factory floor for analysis. This analysis is then used to find inefficiencies and errors in the production line, and is used by engineers and designers to correct and improve the process. 

Naturally, this philosophy creates a sharp eye for efficiency and boosts production overall. When CAD/CAM and CID are combined, you get “smart factories.”

Technology Streamlines Textile Marketing and Ordering

The textile journey doesn’t end when the garments are finished. Actually getting the garments to the consumers is another avenue that computers, AI, and applications improve.

Textile and fashion marketing needs social media

The marketing business is too large a topic to tackle fully here, but the fashion industry has made huge strides in online marketing and analytics. 

Picture and video-based social media like Instagram and Pinterest are perfect for marketing fashion. Images capture attention for visual products, and the ability to click right through an Instagram post to the actual shop can’t be underestimated. 

In fact, global fashion brands have a 22 times higher engagement rate on Instagram than on Facebook or Twitter. Any textile company in the B2C market must embrace social media marketing and analytics to hit its maximum potential. 

Computers speed up ordering, point of sale, and inventory

The administration side of textile manufacturing and ordering is just as important as manufacturing.

Computers used for POS purposes manage the lifeblood of a company, handling the actual flow of money in and out of the business. They’re also used heavily on a daily basis, and a failure or malfunction from repeated use can severely damage that cash flow. 

Some industrial all-in-one computers designed for POS applications often have a less than 2% fail rate, which is far better than an off-the-shelf consumer PC that’s often used for POS.

Inventory management is another complex process that computer advancements can improve. RFID and barcode systems for inventory management massively reduce errors and improve pulling and shipping speed. 

Workers in textile factories and warehouses can use simple but reliable industrial tablets with built-in RFID and barcode scanners to manage these inventory systems. All of this data then integrates with PoS systems, ensuring the business has fully accurate and up-to-date inventory counts of all of their clothing, garments, and textiles. 

The Production Chain Works Better When Every Link Has the Latest Technology

There’s no question that there’s an upfront cost to computerizing, automating, or just improving every aspect of the textile industry’s supply and production chain. However, the increased productivity, organization, collaboration, communication, and design possibilities will pay for themselves in the long term. 

You also have to consider the flexibility that programmable processes bring to the textile industry. The fashion and garment businesses in particular live on season change and agility. Fashions change on a dime, and design and production have to be able to smoothly pivot without losing productivity or quality.

This means investing in CAD/CAM, CIM, social media marketing, and the industrial and enterprise computers that make them possible. 

Contact an expert at Cybernet if you’re looking to automate or computerize any branch of your textile business, or to learn more about the industrial computers that make production possible. Consider following Cybernet on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin to keep an eye on the manufacturing and tech news you might find useful.