Nike (NYSE: NKE), Under Armour (NYSE: UAA)(NYSE: UA), and other clothing brands have been talking a lot lately about the need to overhaul their manufacturing processes as a way to reduce costs, improve quality, and have more flexibility. The textile manufacturing process has changed relatively slowly compared with other industries, but that could change soon as more and more focus is put on disrupting it.
Looking to disrupt manufacturing
Last summer, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank addressed media, government officials, and others outside a new facility near his company’s headquarters in Baltimore, pointing out that textile manufacturing is done largely the same way it was 100 years ago. The facility, called Lighthouse, is a 35,000-square-foot center where the Under Armour team is using 3-D printers and other technology so that designers and engineers can find new ways to manufacture their gear more efficiently and with better quality.
In Nike’s earnings call back in September, CEO Mark Parker talked about “ManRev,” the company’s plan for a manufacturing revolution aimed at using technology to overhaul current processes to reduce costs and increase speed to market. Nike has been relatively quiet on the specifics of its latest manufacturing capabilities, but has said that technologies such as 3-D printing and advanced automation in the build and adhesion processes are helping to drive the company toward its goal.
Encouraging new technology
Technologies such as 3-D printing and advanced automation have become the baseline for companies looking to innovate their manufacturing capabilities as those tools gain scale. And other new ideas, from using innovative materials or particles to make or enhance clothes, to body-scanning smartphone apps that help people order…