Benchmarking the Feasibility of the Micro-Factory Model for the UK Fashion Industry

Assyst Bullmer remains the UK’s foremost provider of Computer Aided Design (CAD) software, and fabric and material cutting machines for application across composite industry, F1, aerospace, graphics, fashion, upholstery, gaskets and more.

The ethos of the company has always been centred around working alongside industry in order to develop and deliver new solutions for continuously evolving challenges.

Where businesses have faced changes in technology and challenges in the move to global markets and production, Assyst Bullmer have developed solutions and grown to respond to industry needs. To achieve this pedigree of success, state of the art cutting technology and CAD software solutions have been at the forefront of Assyst Bullmer’s strategy, using technology made possible by the application of precise algorithms, expertise planning and an ever-attentive relationship with the wider textile industry.

As part of a Future Fashion Factory project, Assyst Bullmer collaborated with FFF (Future Fashion Factory) Co-Investigator Susan Postlethwaite, Professor of Fashion Technologies at Manchester Fashion Institute. The project, working alongside micro fashion designer fabricator business, ROBERTS | WOOD, explored how the latest technological innovations from the automotive and aerospace sectors could be applied in UK fashion manufacturing.

The project highlighted the growing shift in SME (Small and Medium sized Enterprise) business models towards on-demand manufacturing and revealed the potential for innovation when small-scale, accessible cutting solutions are embedded within design studios.”

Professor Susan Postlethwaite

More broadly therefore the project examined the application of transferable technological advances into small scale tools, robotics and digital technologies that are agile, and that will enable UK fashion manufacturers to produce to an international standard. Moreover, the project worked with designers and manufactures to explore the feasibility of the ‘micro-factory’ model for the UK fashion industry.

“We are excited to have been part of the project to enable the transfer of some of the latest technologies, which we have been developing, for use in Micro-factories. In the last few years, we have been heavily involved in integration of Robotics and Automation with our Bullmer CNC cutting machines. This is a new field, which promises wide range of opportunities for UK based fashion companies to automate their productions.”

Martin Sofranko, Company Director at Assyst Bullmer

The outputs of the collaborative project will continue to allow designers and manufacturers to engage with and understand the potential opportunities for development within a micro-factory setting. As stated by Professor Susan Postlethwaite, “this limited study strongly suggests that the development of affordable and accessible tooling is the first step in enabling distributed on-shored micro factory networks.”

The collaboration will also allow any research insights to be used by Roberts Wood and Assyst Bullmer to inform further tools development for use within different scales of fashion manufacturing.

In addition to seeking to inform the future direction of R&D in the area of fashion manufacturing for the company, the project also aimed to the build the foundations for a consortium through which to apply for future AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) funding.