Automation gains could reduce need for human workers in many fields
By James R. Hagerty
Nov. 23, 2015 10:06 a.m. ET
ATLANTA—In a former kitchen-cabinet workshop here, a dozen engineers are creating robots to sew garments and rugs—tasks usually relegated to low-wage workers in distant countries.
SoftWear Automation Inc., the startup that employs the engineers, promises to transform the apparel industry, automating production so goods can be made in factories anywhere by robots and small teams of people tending them.
So far, the robots can do only basic tasks, like sewing around button holes or the edges of fluffy bath rugs. They can’t do other things people are good at, such as holding together two floppy pieces of material while sewing them into a shirt. SoftWear’s SewBots can’t produce a finished garment, though the firm hopes to reach that stage next year.
The garment industry is interested in the technology, but “people are going to start small with us,” says K.P. Reddy, SoftWear’s CEO. “It’s going to be incremental.”