Kornit’s On-Demand Production Advances Apparel Toward ‘Perfect World’ – Sourcing Journal

It is becoming more difficult to predict demand for traditional mass-produced goods, with microtrends constantly changing and consumers who are increasingly fickle.

Don Whaley (Vice President, Marketing at Kornit Digital Americas) discussed with Jessica Binns, managing editor of Sourcing Journal and technology editor, during the Global Outlook conference, how companies could leverage on-demand manufacturing to better align inventory with sales. Kornit’s mass customization technologies support high-volume, short-run production, coming close to a just-in-time model. “The right product gets to the right market at the right time in the right amount,” said Whaley. “So that’s, call it perfect world, and I believe we’re on a path.”

Kornit Digital’s solutions include direct-to-fabric printing that transforms rolls of white and now black fabric into printed textiles. Direct-to-garment prints embellish finished clothing with machines that can pretreat and cure, as well as decorate. The machines have intelligent features that adjust the curing according to the type and size of garments, protecting quality. The switchover between design settings is minimal, which allows for rapid transitions between styles such as color and size variations.

The company’s latest launch is the Apollo, which can customize 400 garments per hour with just one operator. Whaley stated that, in general, direct to garment production results in more production per employee due to automation. It also produces more consistently since it eliminates errors.

Kornit partnered with a U.S. retailer of 500 stores, which caters to young consumers with streetwear. This helped reduce inventory risk associated with the difficult to predict consumer response to design. The brand can test out new styles with a small run using an in-house production model. It can then react to store sales daily, producing only the items it knows will be sold and minimising markdowns.

Whaley pointed out that preventing misalignment of inventory is not just a financial strategy, but also has environmental implications. He pointed to the ballooning clothing dump in Chile’s Atacama Desert that is now visible from satellites, a physical indication of the industry’s excesses.

In addition to reducing the waste related to overproduction, Kornit’s systems themselves are sustainable, with low water use and low VOCs. “What we’re doing is really enabling…that environmentally friendly and more sustainable business model as well as the production methodology,” said Whaley.

Whaley noted that despite interest in models such as nearshoring, actually making the move away from a “robust and deeply entrenched legacy supply chain model” is challenging. He added, “Fundamentally, there’s a lot to undo.”

Kornit, a company that develops global fulfillment networks, is working with creators and brands who don’t want to build their own factories and production infrastructure. “We can help them find a producer in that local market, which can tailor the product and obviously the quantity produced and localize that supply chain to the market, which can increase, obviously, the flexibility of SKUs and variety of products offered to that specific market, but also derisk the supply chain,” Whaley said. “So we’re working aggressively to build that out.”