How to create a sustainable future for the textile industry?

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Charles Beauduin, President, Symatex

Measured by its sq km, Belgium is a small country, but measured by its impact on the world textile industry, it is not so small. Belgium is responding to the challenge of helping the textile value chain create a sustainable future.
Transforming into the textile factory of the future
Belgian machinery-technology providers are contributing to the transformation of textile mills into textile ‘factories of the future’. Such factories will deliver, for equivalent output levels, energy and resource consumption that is 50% less than current levels. The flexibility of their production systems, in terms of product mix and lead times, will be at least twice current levels.
But factories are more than equipment. In factories of the future, employees will be more autonomous, more creative and perform more knowledge-intensive jobs. This combined progress in the productivity of capital and human resources will result in a doubling of the added value of the products and services coming out of those factories.
How to bring the textile factory of the future closer?
The Belgian textile-machinery industry and its customers work hard to reduce raw-material waste and energy  consumption, and to increase the flexibility of textile-production systems. All three are key drivers for a more sustainable performance.
Energy efficiency
It will come as no surprise that almost two-thirds of the energy in industry is consumed by electromechanical drive trains. Therefore, it is clear that making these more efficient must be a major objective. By optimal design and dimensioning of drive rains, adopting intelligent energy management, integrating novel hybrid energy storage, and making all drive train subsystems active, we are achieving major reductions in energy consumption. With the help of an energy-management system in new-generation machines, the energy flows in the drivetrain can be optimally controlled. Such energy-management systems will reduce the average energy consumption of a drivetrain by at least 25%, while at the same time improving other aspects, such as the lifetime of its components.
Flexibility and waste reduction
Increasing the flexibility of the production system contributes greatly to the reduction of waste throughout the textile value chain. Increased flexibility allows for smaller lot sizes and shorter lead times. That results in lower work-in-progress throughout the value chain. The value chain is better equipped to produce exactly what the customer wants at the time the customer needs it, with less need for buffer stocks of (semi-)finished product that might never sell.
Belgian weaving machines are continuously being improved to allow for more versatility and shorter set-up times. Also, the number and length of test runs required before new production lots can be produced are being reduced significantly. Raw material is precious and should only be used in the final product that is needed by the end-user.
It takes a factory of the future, to create a factory of the future
For the development of all this advanced production technology, Belgian machinery producers clearly need the  appropriate tools. One example is a model-based design environment. That offers us the opportunity to analyse different
concepts, the dimensioning of its components and the evaluation of, for example, energy-storage and energy-recovery systems. It also enables us to assess the impact of various control schemes. Once the design of the future-proof machine is ready, a highly technological and extremely resource-efficient production system is set in motion to produce the textile machine.
Clearly, it takes a factory of the future to create a factory of the future.
**This post first appeared in the ITMA Sustainability Bulletin.

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