World Clothing Giant Shuns Robots For Humans
Hong-Kong based Crystal Group, which is the World’s largest clothing manufacturer by volume, is planning to expand its staff by more than 10% in the coming years.
Crystal Group, which recently raised USD 490m in an initial public offering in Hong Kong, says that sewing robots cannot currently compete with human labour in Bangladesh and Vietnam, where the company plans to recruit more staff to grow the business. These countries, along with Cambodia and Sri Lanka where the company also has factories, are likely to benefit from rising labour costs in China, which currently has 30% of the market share in clothing production.
Andrew Lo, chief executive of Crystal Group said “the handling of soft materials is really hard for robots”. He added that labour costs in Southern China, where most of the manufacture of clothing takes place, are already above USD 700 per month compared with less than half that in Vietnam and USD 150-200 in Bangladesh.
Responding to these comments, Palaniswamy Rajan, chief executive of Softwear Automation, the US-based developer of Sewbots accepted that automation could not compete with low-cost labour when production involved shipping costs. However, he added that he hoped his start up would help to start a revolution when it rolls out its first automated production line for T-shirts in the US in the next 12-18 months.