America’s manufacturing industry has suffered for decades. Many things are to blame, like multiple recessions and the availability of cheap labor and materials overseas, but one new technology is helping bring back apparel manufacturing stateside – Artificial Intelligence (AI).
AI Can Grow, Not Replace American Jobs
Many worry that AI isn’t the solution to America’s manufacturing deterioration. Indeed it’s difficult to imagine more jobs when it seems like the machines will be the ones doing those jobs. This illusion paints the false picture that AI is not a savior, but an executioner to our struggling job market.
However, the truth can be vastly different with specific applications. As manufacturing leached from the United States for decades, it left an echoing chasm of need in its wake. Simply put, the jobs that people fear AI will replace aren’t even here. Instead, what artificial intelligence can do is bring jobs, just like it has for the textile manufacturing industry.
Where AI and Machine Learning Are Contributing
Facilities across the United States are utilizing new technology to produce textile goods. Machine learning can aid in tasks such as pattern making, quality control, and dye formulation. By streamlining these duties, productivity can increase for human workers, and products can be made more affordable.
In Brooklyn, a startup called Tailored Industry is on the quest to reboot the making of knitwear in America. How are they doing it? AI. It takes an advanced human knitter an average of 40 hours to craft a handmade sweater. So Tailored Industry uses 3D knitting machines, twenty of them, to turn yarn into something wearable… in a matter of just a few hours. This creates a far more affordable garment accessible to retailers and consumers and much less taxing to the human worker.
It Helps Sustainability Too
Not only is using AI combating job loss. It’s also merging the way into a sustainable future. Fast fashion produced through cheap overseas labor is one of the leading causes of climate change and the third largest polluting industry. It’s hard to imagine that t-shirts and socks are responsible for toxic gas levels, microplastics, and dying oceans. But it’s true.
Thanks to the advancements in technology in our manufacturing industry, products can be made quickly but also sustainably. Tailored Industry, for example, uses those knitting machines to produce garments with little to no waste, and they only make enough to fuel an on-demand inventory. With how quickly a product can be made, thanks to the help of AI, it’s a realistic moonshot.
Benefits for Everyday Americans
Aside from increasing productivity, cutting back on pollution, and expanding the job market, these gains in the textile manufacturing industry also directly support the consumer. Almost 70% of consumers report that they want goods made in America and are willing to pay more for them. But with emerging AI technology, they might not have to.
The US textile and apparel manufacturing industry had over $65 billion in output last year. Over half a million Americans work in the textile supply chain. Since the year 2000, productivity has risen by 69%. With the advancement of AI bringing work back into the United States, those numbers will hopefully rise even more.