Executive Conference Recap
By Devin Steele, eTextileCommunications.com
A Disruptive Look into the Future
Moderator Dr. Mike Fralix introduced Ben Cooper, founder and managing director of IOClothes, as a “disrupter,” and the speaker proceeded to passionately provide a glimpse into the future of the textile and apparel sector as it converges with electronics/technology. First, he explained the focus of IOClothes (i.e. the Internet of Clothes).
“We help bridge the gap between technology and the apparel/footwear and technology world,” he said. “That’s not just solely about wearable technology and smart textiles, though that is a major thrust of what we focus on. It is about being able to create robust strategies on how to actually integrate into what this future might look like by fusing digital pathways and connecting our digital existences that we all have to these analog products.”
Discussing the major differences between the evolution of tech and the apparel/footwear industry, Cooper said we’re on the cusp of something big as those two areas come together. “There has never been a better time to be in the industry than right now,” he said.
With the Internet of Clothes, you can use technology – but it isn’t technology, he added. “Are you talking about wearable technology? Yeah, a little bit,” he said. “But it’s much bigger than that. The Internet of Clothes is not a technology. It’s not a widget, it’s not a wire, it’s not a battery. It is a business strategy.”
He explained that this business strategy uses data to: improve business processes; better understand customer needs; better understand the environment; and optimize operations.
The Internet of Clothes is driven by the Internet of Things (IoT), he pointed out. He noted that $267 billion will be invested in B2B spend on technologies, apps and solutions by 2020, and 50 percent of IoT spending will be driven by discreet manufacturing, transportation, logistics and utilities.
“Do you know what this tells me? This foundation is being built right now,” he said. “This is what we need to happen – we need all the non-sexy things that may be kind of easier to understand to be laid down. What does this mean? Power management systems, connectivity, nodes, data management systems, data analytics, algorithms. All of this stuff needs to be put in place for us to springboard into the future, which is happening now.”
In trying to measure the size of the opportunity, he said that in the U.S. there are 198.5 smart phones, or roughly 76 percent penetration of the market, and that segment possesses about 14.2 billion articles of clothing.
“Look at that scale,” he said. “This smart phone is a big deal, but I’d say we’re a little bit bigger deal. This is just clothing! There are oceans of opportunities. We’re not fighting with each other for the business. We’re fighting to figure out quickly enough to grab your piece of the pie, because it’s out there waiting for you. Our industry has so much potential.
“But before we go down that path, we all have to do a little bit of soul searching,” he continued. “What problem does our business solve? What’s our purpose? Why are we relevant? Because we’ve been around for awhile? No. Hope is not a strategy.”
He went on to explain that disruption is change, noting that Uber, AirBNB, Kindle, Spotify, and Amazon are successful entities that did not or barely existed just 10 years ago. “It was once common to sit on the S&P 500 for about 60 years,” Cooper said. “That is not a reality anymore. Being an incumbent gives you no advantage. I would argue it gives you a disadvantage. It makes you complacent. You have to earn your keep in this new economy. Nothing is given to us. We must earn it. We must innovate. We must cannibalize our own business for the sake of survival. It’s a requirement.”
The global wearables market grew by about 17 percent this year, with 310 million devices worth $30.5 billion sold, he said. That trend opens many doors of opportunities, he added.
“There is an appetite, a demand,” he said. “People are willing to use their hard-earned money on a shot that this might satisfy some of their needs. That is worth paying attention to.”
Cooper went on to provide examples of companies that are disrupting the smart textiles sector. “How will you future-proof your business?” he concluded. “The opportunities are tremendous and the tools are out there. We just have to put the pieces together.”
Year in Review
In reviewing an eventful year for SPESA, Simpson noted that the association held three regional meetings early in the year, in New York City, Atlanta and Miami. And in May, SPESA management traveled to Frankfurt, Germany to the Texprocess (Frankfurt) exposition, once again taking part in technology sessions covering such topics as digitalization and automation.
In June, he reported, the seventh edition of SPESA’s Advancements in Manufacturing Technologies Conference took place in Chicago, where 80 leaders in industry met to learn more about how technology can enable and sustain manufacturing in the Americas.
SPESA management also toured China in September to visit leading technology providers to the sewn products industry in that country and hear their plans for the future, Simpson said. Then association members and leadership took part in the largest sewn products trade expo in the world, CISMA in Shanghai, China, sharing industry perspectives and outlooks with leading technology providers worldwide, he added.
And, most recently, SPESA took part in the International Apparel Federation’s 33rd World Fashion Convention in Brazil, representing the Americas in a week of sharing experiences and visions for the global apparel industry, he said.
“It has been a very full year, and we look toward 2018 with the same level of enthusiasm and activity in supporting our members in the pursuit of maintaining and strengthening the sewn products industry in the Americas,” Simpson said.
During the business session, the Nominating Committee elected the following to SPESA’s Board of Directors for three-year terms: Daniella Ambrogi, Lectra; Melvyn Blore, Pegasus Corp. of America; Nina McCormack, DAP America, Inc.; Mel Berzack, Sewn Products Equipment Co.; Ed Gribbin, Alvanon, Inc.; and John Stern, Methods Workshop.
Also during the event, SPESA and Messe Frankfurt, Inc. signed an agreement to extend the contract to co-produce Texprocess Americas, as previously reported. The new agreement extends the agreement through 2032. Texprocess Americas (formerly SPESA EXPO) is the largest North American trade fair for the equipment and technology for the development, sourcing and production of sewn products.
The fourth edition of Texprocess Americas will take place May 22-24, 2018 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, and once again be co-located with Techtextil North America, making it the largest technical textile, nonwoven, machinery, sewn products, technology and equipment trade show in the Americas.
Near the end of the meeting, SPESA President Benton Gardner said, “the state of SPESA is strong. “We’ve had a great year, and we’re very positive about 2018. The spirit and the enthusiasm that has been shown are absolutely remarkable. Texprocess Americas is on its way to being a sellout, and I’m proud to say that SPESA members make up 93 percent of exhibitors at the show.”
She added: “Thomas Jefferson said, ‘if we do all the things we’re capable of, we’re going to astound ourselves.’ And I think we’re going to astound ourselves.”
She also reminded members that she and her husband, Dave, will retire at the end of 2018, and new executive leadership is being considered.
Dr. Mike Fralix, president and CEO of [TC]2 and the “technology evangelist” of Software Automation, moderated proceedings, as per usual.