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LEAD Innovation Blog

Read our latest articles on innovation management and innovation in a wide range of industries.

Date: 29-May-2019
Posted by: Daniel ZAPFL

Why 3D measurement will change the entire textile industry


Avatars generated by 3D surveying allow consumers to level out an almost infinite choice of clothing. Expensive returns are avoided in the textile trade. These are two important advantages for the industry and its customers. Read why 3D surveying could turn the entire textile industry upside down.

According to a study by KMU-Forschung Austria, the entire distance selling sector, and thus e-commerce in particular, once again grew strongly in Austria in 2018. An increase of 4% compared to the same period of the previous year results in a volume of EUR 7.9 billion. This corresponds to around 11% of total retail-relevant consumer spending. The term distance selling also includes traditional mail order. However, this only plays a minor role, since pure online sales (including smartphones) alone amounted to 7.2 billion euros in 2017. Clothing and textiles play the main role. After all, 1.8 billion euros are spent by Mr and Mrs Austrians to buy these goods via the Internet, smartphone or mail order. This is about a quarter of the total distance trade expenditure. The established stationary trade has of course already reacted to this development long ago. The magic word is "Omnichanneling" - in other words, combining the Brick&Mortar world with the digital world to the advantage of the customer. So far, however, the big players - such as Zalando and Amazon - have benefited most from the online boom. The latter generated sales of EUR 643 million in Austria in 2017 and is by far the most successful online shop in the Alpine republic.

Trend Collection Textile


More than half of the garments ordered online are returned

At the same time, online players are facing a major problem. The return rate for clothing in Austria is 54 percent. However, the handling of returns is expensive for online retailers. In order to keep costs low, some players use dubious methods. According to media reports, Amazon simply throws away masses of undamaged and usable goods because this is obviously the cheapest method. At a time when consumers are increasingly looking for sustainability, this path must lead to a dead end. The online retailer Zalando, who also has to struggle with a return rate of more than 50 percent, shows that things can be done differently. Only about 0.05 % of all articles are destroyed there.


Avatar ensures clothes fit perfectly

The better way to deal with the problem of returns would be to avoid them as much as possible. The Upper Austrian company Twinster has developed a method that could significantly reduce returns in the textile trade. The company from Traun produces 3D body scanners. With such a device a person can "digitize" himself. All the user has to do is download the free "Show my Size" app. This shows the user where the nearest 3D body scanner is located. There the user can measure himself in a few seconds with the help of the app. The result is an avatar that opens up many possibilities for the user. One of them is to be able to order clothes online in exactly the size that really fits. Because we all know the following problem: The trousers of one brand fit perfectly in the Medium size, but for the leg dress of another brand you absolutely need Large to be able to close the zipper and button without much effort. Twinster's sizing app combines your profile with the different brands to ensure that the garment really fits. The tool therefore helps online retailers to reduce the return rate.


3D Body Scanner Strengthens Stationary Trade

At the same time, body scanners offer stationary retailers an opportunity to differentiate themselves from online pure players à la Amazon and Co. Such a device attracts customers to shops that want to be measured there. With the help of the avatar, the salesperson can offer the customer exactly those items of clothing in stock that are sure to fit. And what's more, he can also offer and - at least virtually - try on parts that he doesn't have in the shop, but can order at short notice. 3D surveying makes it possible to combine the advantages of stationary retail with those of e-commerce: The customer can be personally advised in a shop, at the same time he has an infinitely large selection of products at his disposal, from which he can choose the desired product in the correct size.


The digital self changes all links in the textile value chain

Of course, the textile trade is only one area of the entire fashion and clothing industry that 3D measurement will completely change. Avatars and co. also enrich the possibilities of fashion designers and producers. This becomes visible with the help of a tailor who makes his customers' garments to measure:

The first step is to measure the customer from head to toe and discuss the fabrics and colors for the garment. After several weeks or months, the customer comes to the shop to try on the garment, the tailor perfects the fit and then the precious unique piece is finished.


The tailor becomes a digital tailor

With the help of an avatar, the tailor becomes a digital tailor. He can dress the digital twin of his customers with digital fabrics and thus advise the real customer on color and material selection, without the two having to meet in real life. This virtual representation of garments that don't even exist yet can easily keep up with reality. This has been proven by a study conducted by the Albstadt-Sigmaringen University of Applied Sciences. With the help of software, the digital tailor can automatically generate patterns from the avatar's data. This is a work step that a tailor still has to do manually. Based on the patterns, the fabrics are then automatically cut in production using a laser. Only the sewing is done by hand, because machines or robots have not yet been able to take over this skill. However, this will probably only be a matter of time before a robot is capable of doing so. Then the digital cutter will also be able to have the last work step done by machine.


3D measurement benefits the entire textile industry

A tailor who designs, produces and sells garments covers all links in the value chain of the textile industry. Just as it can become a digital tailor thanks to 3D surveying and other digital tools, the entire fashion and apparel industry can become a digitized, fully automated and smart industry. The customers' digital twins serve as the basis for the design of prototypes, which can be generated much faster in the virtual way than in the real one. This makes the creation of collections easier, more accurate and more cost-effective. Mass production can be carried out fully automatically and even in batch size 1. Adidas shows how this can be done with its Speedfactory. This is a small, fully automated production stroke that produces shoes in a fraction of the previous production time. Another alternative to traditional textile production, most of which is currently still carried out in low-wage countries, is printing via a 3D printer. The human contribution to designing, producing and selling clothing is thus reduced only to creativity at the beginning of the process and - in the case of stationary retail - to advice from the seller.


Conclusio: Why 3D measurement will change the entire textile industry

If a digital self stands instead of the real model, this, in combination with other digital tools, triggers the disruption of the entire textile industry. At first glance this is astonishing, but on closer analysis it can be understood. In just a few years, the way fashion is created, produced and distributed can look completely different than it does today. An important basis for these changes is the 3D measurement of consumers.

Trend Collection Textile

Daniel ZAPFL

Born in Graz, Austria. After positions as project manager & head of innovation of the project management at LEAD Innovation, Daniel Zapfl has been responsible for the success of the innovation projects of our innovation partners since January 2018.

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