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OM in the News: Apparel 2.0: Here Comes On-Demand Manufacturing

May 1, 2017

Amazon continues to cast a shadow over the apparel industry. Not only does the e-commerce giant create pricing headaches for major clothing manufacturers, but the company’s supply chain efficiencies and trove of consumer data are exceedingly hard to match.

The next shot from Seattle could be even more disruptive. Amazon has a patent for a process covering the on-demand manufacturing of clothing and other products in a computerized method, writes SeekingAlpha.com (April 29, 2017). (See the graphic below). The patent says the technology can be applied to a broad range of items, “including clothing or fabric products, accessories, footwear, bedding, curtains, towels, etc., in a wide variety of materials including, but not limited to paper, plastic, leather, rubber, and other materials.”

“By aggregating orders from various geographic locations and coordinating apparel assembly processes on a large-scale, the embodiments provide new ways to increase efficiency in apparel manufacturing,” reads the patent. The implication is that excess inventory would be no longer be a problem.

Amazon, which already has it own brands of shoes, dresses and suits, is also planning to develop a line of activewear. While it’s unclear in what direction Amazon’s apparel push will go, on-demand apparel manufacturing could create a broad reset in the textile industry.

The Amazon patent shows the process starts when customers submit their online orders. Patterns are printed onto rolls of fabric.

Classroom discussion questions:

  1. Why is Amazon moving in this direction?
  2. What is “on-demand manufacturing”?
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