Predicting demand for mass production has become more difficult with microtrends that come and go and a fickle consumer.
Don Whaley discussed on-demand production with Jessica Binns of Sourcing Journal, the managing editor for technology, and Jessica Binns from Kornit Digital Americas in a one-onone conversation during Global Outlook. The discussion focused on how companies can use this to align their inventory more closely to sales. Kornit’s mass customization technologies support high-volume, short-run production, coming close to a just-in-time model. “The right product gets to the right market at the right time in the right amount,” said Whaley. “So that’s, call it perfect world, and I believe we’re on a path.”
Kornit Digital’s solutions include direct-to-fabric printing that transforms rolls of white and now black fabric into printed textiles. Direct-to-garment prints embellish finished clothing with machines that can pretreat and cure, as well as decorate. The machines have intelligent features that adjust the curing according to the type and size of garments, preserving quality. The switchover between design settings is minimal, which allows for quick transitions to different styles such as color and size variations.
The company’s latest launch is the Apollo, which can customize 400 garments per hour with just one operator. Whaley said that direct-to garment production generally leads to higher production per worker because of the automation. The result is also more consistent, since human error is eliminated.
Kornit has worked with an American retailer with 500 shops that sells streetwear and caters to young consumers to reduce inventory risk associated with the difficult to predict consumer response to designs. A digital production model in-house allows the brand to make a smaller batch of new styles at first. It can then react to store sales daily, producing only the items it knows will be sold and minimising markdowns.
Whaley mentioned that preventing inventory misalignments has not only financial implications, but it also impacts the environment. He pointed to the ballooning clothing dump in Chile’s Atacama Desert that is now visible from satellites, a physical indication of the industry’s excesses.
In addition to reducing the waste related to overproduction, Kornit’s systems themselves are sustainable, with low water use and low VOCs. “What we’re doing is really enabling…that environmentally friendly and more sustainable business model as well as the production methodology,” said Whaley.
Whaley noted that despite interest in models such as nearshoring, actually making the move away from a “robust and deeply entrenched legacy supply chain model” is challenging. He added, “Fundamentally, there’s a lot to undo.”
Kornit, a company that develops global fulfillment networks, is providing a solution for creators and brands that don’t want to build their own production facilities or infrastructure. “We can help them find a producer in that local market, which can tailor the product and obviously the quantity produced and localize that supply chain to the market, which can increase, obviously, the flexibility of SKUs and variety of products offered to that specific market, but also derisk the supply chain,” Whaley said. “So we’re working aggressively to build that out.”