Li & Fung Inks New Partnership to Speed Up Supply Chain

In a rocky retail landscape, the joining of forces among companies — and feeding off one another’s expertise to produce better and more efficient products — perhaps has never been more critical.

Supply chains solutions giant Li & Fung Ltd. recently revealed that it has teamed up with Softwear Automation Inc., which develops sewing technology for manufacturing automation in the fashion and footwear industries.

Described by a Li & Fung spokesperson as a “strategic partnership,” the effort aspires to “[leverage] Li & Fung’s global supplier network and Softwear [Automation’s] autonomous sewing work lines. The aim is to create a fully digital manufacturing supply chain for apparel and textile products.”

“Consumers’ demand to get things faster, quicker and more unique than ever before is only increasing,” said Palaniswamy Rajan, chairman and CEO of Softwear Automation. “[This collaboration, along with our company’s ‘Sewbots,’ will] enable the speed needed for on-demand, made-to-measure manufacturing, at scale.”

To start with, the firms will focus on the supply chain of T-shirts, but the spokesperson said there is potential to enter into other product categories. And the opportunities inherent in this move — and its attention toward the benefits that digitalization and automation represent for industries such as footwear — are significant.

“The benefits [of this relationship] will not only reach our suppliers but all our stakeholders along the supply chain,” said Spencer Fung, group CEO of Li & Fung.

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