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Modernizing a Rapidly Growing Workwear and Uniform Market
Recently valued at $28 billion globally by Nester Research, the workwear and uniform market is set for substantial growth in the coming years as a result of the rising demand for better quality, quicker turnaround times and a strong emphasis on workplace safety. By 2026, the market is expected to grow by 54% to US $43 billion.
This growth could be accelerated in the wake of COVID-19. As reported by consulting firm Gallup, 46% of US workers are concerned that returning to work could expose them to the virus, which could see businesses turn to protective clothing in order to alleviate fears and facilitate a safer return to the workplace. A recent analysis by Allied Market Research has suggested that the protective clothing sector will see sharp growth, climbing by 38% in the next seven years.
Ensuring that employees can return to work safely will play a vital role in recovering from COVID-19. However, soaring demand for protective workwear could also compound pre-existing issues in the uniform manufacturing supply chain. The industry will need to make considerable changes to the way measurements are collected in order to improve fit, minimize returns, and improve efficiency as demand soars.
Digitally transforming the uniform and workwear market
With COVID-19 shining a light on the inefficiencies within the workwear and uniform market, manufacturers have had to pivot and transform in order to keep up with the growing demand. With fit, quality and price being the key differentiators, workwear and uniform manufacturers have adopted the latest technology, such as body scanning and 3D software, to streamline their workflow from digital fitting to final garment in a short amount of time and with no error.
In this blog, we’ll discuss how integrated solutions are helping the workwear and uniform industry overcome ineffective, outdated processes and creating a more inclusive market.
Ineffective fitting processes
The uniform manufacturing industry is still largely reliant on manual processes. With each employee’s measurements taking approximately 5-20 minutes, these sessions come at a significant time, productivity, and financial cost to uniform businesses. Not only does a representative need to be present for each fitting session, but considerable hours are spent organizing these sessions and ensuring that all employees are present.
Even if a fitting session runs smoothly – travel time and the sheer number of fittings that must be carried out can cause sales representatives stress and fatigue that is bound to lead to costly human errors in manually measuring the end wearers.
Not only is this manual process inefficient, but, in today’s climate, poses a serious health and safety risk to fitting service teams and end wearers. Requesting that employees measure themselves can be an alternative. Yet, if experienced fit teams make mistakes, so too will inexperienced employees.
Likewise, asking employees to choose from a size chart does not quite cut it. As reported by the Independent, we often make fashion choices based on our emotions or how we are perceived in the workplace. Past studies have also found a link between our mental state and the size and fit of the garments we choose to wear. These are factors that, of course, change.
According to a study by Coveralls, 29% of workers value adequate protection from their workwear above all else, while 26% want their uniforms to be comfortable to wear first and foremost. If left to decide on size and fit without accurate body measurement data, your employees are likely to end up with ill-fitted uniforms that compromise both their comfort and safety.
Creating a uniform market fit for everyone
There are some cases where even accurate measurements do not guarantee customer satisfaction. In many industries, there is a considerable difference between the number of males and females employed. Women account for less than 10% of the US construction workforce, for instance, according to the Bureau of Labor, and just 16% of employees in mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction. This imbalance is often reflected in the grading systems used by uniform manufacturers, resulting in a lack of appropriate choice for female workers, who are forced to use garments that have been poorly designed to fit the shape of their bodies.
Employee productivity is impacted as a result — a past study conducted by the Trades Union Congress found that 57% of women required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) say their work has been significantly hampered by the protective garments.
With fitting options limited, these long-standing issues will be compounded by the pandemic. By continuing on with current practices that fail to offer workers the safety and comfort that they demand, uniform businesses could see customer satisfaction decline considerably, and manufacturing costs increase. Additional time will be spent on further fitting sessions, and financial loss will result from returns, additional tailoring costs, and business losses.
A modern solution
As reported by Xamax, 74% of consumers believe that staff uniforms are more effective at improving brand attitude and sales than television advertising. Yet, by failing to produce uniforms that meet the size and fit expectations of employees, measurement, alteration, and mounting manufacturing costs will chip away at these potential benefits. Size and fit matter to customers, and meeting customer expectations should therefore matter to your business.
It is evident that uniform production needs modernizing. Not only to keep workforces safe and customers happy, but to create a more efficient process that limits the costs involved for manufacturers.
With advancements in artificial intelligence technologies, there is little need for manual measurement processes to remain in place. Now, solutions are available to capture precise measurements without sending out a fit team or an army of sales reps to measure end wearers at fit events. Body scanning and fit mapping technology, such as 3DLOOK’s, can output up to 70 unique points of measurements from two photos captured on a smartphone device and more importantly map body data to uniform data to put employees in the right fitting uniform.
Many body scanning technologies also integrate with other solutions throughout the supply chain to ensure proper fit from design all the way through production. For example, Gerber Technology’s end-to-end solution, which features a true-to-life 3D CAD software that links with their industry-leading pattern software, AccuMark®, seamlessly integrates with 3DLOOK’s body scanning solution. This integration allows for accurate measurements to be used within the software to produce high-quality, production-ready patterns you can see in 3D. Additionally, companies will also be able to offer an enhanced eCommerce experience by reducing the number of returns due to ill fitting clothing. The integration also helps save money on fabric and accelerates time to market.
This method can save both you and your employees time, money, and resources by reducing the travel time, minimizing the disruption of group fitting sessions, and limiting the potential for returns and redos. Likewise, with more precise data at their disposal, manufacturers can ensure that workwear is optimally manufactured to keep employees both happy and healthy.
The future of uniform manufacturing
It’s about time the industry moves away from outdated, inefficient, and in many cases unsafe measuring processes. With 51% of businesses expecting health and safety to pose additional risk in the wake of COVID-19, efforts must be made to ensure changing customer expectations are met.
Technology offers a way to overhaul uniform manufacturing for the better. Body measurements and fit data can optimize current garment patterns to fit a wider range of employees which also can reduce the number of standard sizes in fitting sets.
When it comes to manufacturing, connected digital cutting rooms empower companies to manage either on-demand or mass production. By leveraging certain digital cutters, such as the Gerber Atria Digital Cutter, manufacturers will be able to improve throughput, quality and ROI while optimizing fabric usage and providing 0 buffer cutting for maximum precision.
Furthermore, employees will benefit from a better fit, improved safety, and productivity, and manufacturers will benefit from reduced costs and creating more time for their sales teams to do what they do best, sell.