When an industry inspires another, innovation is a step away

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Mid-15th century, Gutenberg borrowed the versatility of a coin punch to create movable types and coupled it with the weight of an agricultural screw press. In doing so, he not only invented the mass-production of books but also allowed fast transmission of knowledge and ideas throughout the Western World.

Innovation often generates from the combination of two existing ideas that had so far not been exposed to each other. “Stimulate the development of (something) with an exchange of ideas or information” is the Oxford Dictionnary’s definition of cross-fertilize.

Many times, at Lectra, we have seen improvements – or sheer innovation – stem from industrial cross-fertilization. Our customers compete in the fashion, automotive or furniture markets. As dissimilar as these industries may seem, they have a lot to learn from each other.

Take lean. Developed by Japanese automakers, lean manufacturing eliminates waste of time and material. Over the past decades, lean methods have improved working conditions, product quality, delivery times and overall productivity in the automotive and other industries. Today, fashion brands too are mulling implementing lean cutting rooms and seek technology capable to help them embrace lean production.

In their turn, fashion companies have developed ways of working that other industries can adopt to fine-tune their own processes. For example, fashion product development teams are expert at grading to obtain varied sizes from a single pattern – childrenswear brands often being the most skilled at it. Applied to the upholstered industry, the same grading skills will help develop a range of cushion sizes, for example.

Similarly, furniture factories can get inspiration from apparel cutting rooms to have a more accurate control of the production of their models. For more precision in garment manufacturing, operators rely on the seam line, not on the cut line.

What about in your industry: have you had a go at cross-fertilization? Tell us about it! 

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