Levi’s late last year became one of the first mainstream clothing brands to offer a truly wearable garment with the launch of their $350 “smart jacket.” Not content to rest on its laurels, the denim pioneer is once again tapping technology for a strategic – and eco-friendly – advantage.
Levi’s recently announced what it is calling the “future of jeans manufacturing.” Dubbed Project F.L.X. (future-led execution), the new operating model “ushers denim finishing into the digital era” by replacing manual techniques and automating the time-consuming, labor-intensive and chemical-reliant process of hand-finishing through the use of lasers.
Specifically, Levi’s says the new technique drastically cuts finishing time – from two to three pairs per hour by hand to just 90 seconds per garment followed by a wash cycle – and shaves off valuable time in the design and development process. What used to take months can now be accomplished in just weeks or perhaps mere days, allowing Levi’s to make changes in a product’s design later into the production process.
Levi’s also anticipates a significant reduction in the total number of chemical formulations used in its finishing process, from a few thousand currently down to just a couple dozen. The company pegs this as a major step forward in its commitment to achieving “zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020.”
Some will no doubt view this as yet another example of machines / robots / technology eliminating human jobs although quite frankly, I’m surprised a global brand the size of Levi’s was still using manual labor to finish its jeans.
Levi’s is piloting Project F.L.X. with select vendors and retails partners and plans to roll the technique out across its supply chain in phases over the next two years.