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(c) Checkpoint Systems
28.09.2021

Checkpoint Systems: Retail Technology Solutions – Success needs a Team

Checkpoint Systems, a division of CCL Industries, is a global leader in retail solutions. The portfolio ranges from electronic article surveillance as well as theft and loss prevention to RFID hardware and software and labeling solutions. The aim is to provide retailers with accurate, real-time inventory, speed up the replenishment cycle, prevent out-of-stocks and reduce theft to improve product availability and the customer shopping experience.

Checkpoint Systems, a division of CCL Industries, is a global leader in retail solutions. The portfolio ranges from electronic article surveillance as well as theft and loss prevention to RFID hardware and software and labeling solutions. The aim is to provide retailers with accurate, real-time inventory, speed up the replenishment cycle, prevent out-of-stocks and reduce theft to improve product availability and the customer shopping experience.

Textination spoke with Miguel Garcia Manso, Business Unit Director Germany at Checkpoint Systems, where the 44-year-old industrial engineering graduate has been working since 2018. With many years of international retail experience, he knows the needs of the retail industry very well. Before that, Miguel Garcia Manso lived in Madrid for almost 15 years, where he worked for the Spanish food retailer DIA. There he also accompanied the introduction and roll-out of article surveillance projects.

 

If you had to present Checkpoint Systems and its portfolio to someone who is not a retail professional – what would you say?

We are the retail partner and our job is to help retailers make shopping as pleasant as possible for their customers. Put simply, our solutions ensure that the right product is in the right place at the right time when the end consumer wants to buy it, instead of standing in front of an empty shelf in the worst-case scenario. Our portfolio ranges from individual anti-theft products to solutions that cover the entire supply chain and provide the greatest possible transparency of inventory.

 

It's been a long journey from the 1960s, when a small team in the U.S. developed a method to prevent the theft of books from public libraries, to becoming the international leader in 21st century article surveillance, operating in 35 countries. What legacy is still important to you today, and how would you describe the spirit at Checkpoint Systems?
 
Both questions have the same answer: On the one hand, innovative strength and, on the other, consistent exchange with the retail industry. Both have been in the focus at Checkpoint Systems from the very beginning. We develop our products and systems in close exchange with the industry, actively seek dialogue, listen to what is needed in everyday life, etc. This is very important to us and is also regularly used as a selling point for Checkpoint Systems. We definitely want to continue this.

 

You offer hardware and software technologies for retail, which is a very complex market. How do the requirements of retailers from the fashion, outdoor and textile industries differ from those of other industries?

The reasons why retail companies contact us are similar across all industries. They all want to delight their customers, retain them in the long term, and generate more sales. The ways to achieve this may differ: From omni-channel strategies for the fashion sector, to article surveillance solutions for high-priced electrical or cosmetic products, and to RFID-based fresh food solutions for food retailers to reduce food waste.
The requirements of the industries differ, especially when it comes to labels. Depending on the size and price of the product as well as the desired technology, we recommend different labels – or develop them in close coordination with the customer. For the Polish fashion company LPP, for example, we have just developed a special dual RF and RFID tag that blends harmoniously into the store design.

 

Magic word RFID – the contactless and automated reading and storing of data based on electromagnetic waves is the centerpiece of your technologies. You even encourage your customers to develop their own RFID strategy. What do you mean by this and are you sure that all retail companies will be able to do this on their own?

We develop the strategy together with our customers, usually as part of a pilot project. Until a few years ago, the introduction of RFID technology was actually more complex and usually involved a project lasting several years. Today, however, we can quickly calculate for each retailer in the context of a small pilot project, how much more profitable they can be with RFID and what their return on investment is. We usually start with a store scan, followed by pilot testing in selected stores, including individual training and on-site support. And by the time it is implemented in all stores, the customers themselves are RFID experts and have an understanding of what they can do with the real-time data. 

 

What does the keyword "customized" mean for Checkpoint Systems? To what extent can you map the individual needs of each customer? Or can you make every retail company – whether chain or boutique – "happy"?

We give high priority to personalized solutions. This concerns, on the one hand, the product itself and, on the other, the size of the company. As you already indicate, large retail chains obviously have different needs than small boutiques. For O₂, Telefónica Germany’s core brand, for example, we have just specially adapted our AutoPeg tags for theft protection. Instead of the standard yellow, the tags for O₂ are white with blue lettering to match the store design.
This also shows the development in the area of article surveillance in general: When article surveillance was still in its infancy, antennas and labels were mainly functional. Nowadays, they blend harmoniously into the overall look of the store design. Retailers no longer have to choose between design and functionality.

 

How is innovation management practiced in your company and which developments that Checkpoint has worked on recently are you particularly proud of?

In recent months, we have worked intensively – together with the German Employers' Liability Insurance Association (Berufsgenossenschaft Handel und Warenlogistik) – on the testing and certification of our article surveillance systems and now we can proudly say: We are the first manufacturer in Germany whose EAS systems have been tested by the CSA Group, an internationally recognized and accredited provider of testing and certification services. The CSA Group has confirmed that our radio frequency-based EAS systems comply with all standards and guidelines applicable in Germany with regard to exposure to electromagnetic fields. No safety distances need to be maintained.
The background is as follows: Retailers in Germany are obliged to prepare a risk assessment if they use an EAS system. The CE declaration of conformity, which they receive from the manufacturer when purchasing an EAS system, is not sufficient for this purpose. By testing our systems, we have created the best conditions for our customers to make such an assessment. We have also provided the relevant documents to the Employer's Liability Insurance Association.

We are also proud of the fact that we have managed to increase the clearance widths of our NEO antennas for article surveillance from two meters to 2.70 meters. This gives retailers significantly more freedom in store design. In general, store design is also a good keyword at this point: With our free-standing antennas, the design of the NS40 or even the possibility of incorporating antennas into checkout systems, we have contributed a great deal to making article surveillance aesthetically pleasing and harmoniously integrated into the whole.

 

The Covid-19 period was a disaster, especially for the stationary retail. In recent months, companies have increasingly moved in the direction of e-commerce – whether via individual store solutions or marketplaces – in order to compensate for at least part of the decline in sales. What is your advice to retailers: Can only omni-channel businesses be successful today and in the future?

Yes, that is definitely our advice to retailers. Omni-channel solutions are not going to disappear, but will continue to become more common and will be indispensable in the near future. Retailers are well advised to adapt to this new situation – also regardless of Corona – and to invest in the expansion of functioning omni-channel solutions. Customers expect the product they want, to be available when they enter a store. And if not, that they can easily have it delivered to the same store or shipped to their home. This only works with very high inventory transparency, for example through our RFID solutions.

 

Keyword: economic efficiency. Creating the much-vaunted personalized perfect shopping experience for the customer costs money, doesn't it? Stock availability, reducing inventories through clearance sales, shelf management, logistics and returns processing – to what extent can you support retailers in increasing their profitability?

NOT creating the perfect shopping experience costs a lot more – dissatisfied customers who haven't found what they want won't come back. To keep up with customer demand, many retailers therefore stock far too much products. In our experience, this amounts to an average of 42,000 items. That costs. These retailers pay high costs for warehouse space, need a lot of time for inventory processes, and end up having to reduce products significantly in order to reduce inventories.
The key to greater profitability lies in inventory accuracy. With the help of RFID technology, we can increase this to up to 99 percent. This allows us to avoid under- or overstocking, reduce the amount of storage space required, and optimize processes, including inventory. RFID can read hundreds of tags simultaneously and is more accurate and faster than manual counting. Experience shows that retailers can increase their sales by an average of three percent with our RFID technology.

 

Even if the situation in retail has eased to some extent as a result of the vaccinations, the shopping situation in on-site stores – viewed optimistically – also requires special precautions, at least for the next few months. With "safer shopping," you offer a package of various components for this purpose. What does it cover?
 
SmartOccupancy is our simple solution for controlling the number of people in salesrooms in real time. The system counts the number of people entering and leaving using Visiplus 3D, an overhead people counting sensor. When the maximum capacity is almost reached, SmartOccupancy sends an alert to the staff. This allows the staff to respond to current occupancy counts in real time, contributing to a safer environment for employees and customers. Those responsible can use SmartOccupancy to implement official instructions on the maximum number of people safely and reliably; manual counting is no longer necessary. A visual capacity indicator clearly shows customers at the door whether they are allowed to enter the store or not.
The second solution is primarily of interest to the textile and clothing industry as well as the footwear market: Inventory Quarantine is a software solution for secure, automated returns (SaaS-based). It allows retailers to park returned goods in an automated quarantine queue for a few hours. After the pre-defined time has passed, Inventory Quarantine notifies employees via push message that the piece of clothing or shoe can be cleared back to the floor or re-tagged as available in the online store. This means that items are only released when they are deemed safe for resale – while ensuring that items are put back on sale promptly. The solution helps retailers keep track of returned goods and minimize the time when products are not available on sale.

 

"Ethical consumption has finally become an attitude and has arrived in the middle of society," trend researcher Peter Wippermann commented on the results of the Otto Group's latest trend study "Living More Consciously". What does sustainability mean to Checkpoint Systems as a company, how do you reflect this finding in your product portfolio and how do you support your customers in achieving sustainability goals?

Sustainability is definitely an important topic for us at Checkpoint Systems. We regularly review our products and processes to see how we can work even more resource-efficiently, reduce production waste and lower our CO2 emissions. This also includes, how we can further reduce the power consumption of our antennas. We only develop and sell RF antennas. This technology is not only safer in terms of exposure to electromagnetic fields, but also more environmentally friendly: RF antennas require 40 to 70 percent less energy than other technologies.

Source:

The Interview was conducted by Ines Chucholowius, Managing Partner, Textination GmbH.

Photo: Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH / Jens Liebchen
25.02.2020

AUTOMATION PROGRESSES ALONG THE LAUNDRY SECTOR

The productivity of a laundry depends on unbroken process flows and transparent commodity streams. Thanks to increasing digitalisation and consistent integration of data, the through-put of textiles in laundries is being continually improved. The solutions required for automation in the sector are therefore a high priority at Texcare International, from 20 to 24 June in Frankfurt am Main.
 

The productivity of a laundry depends on unbroken process flows and transparent commodity streams. Thanks to increasing digitalisation and consistent integration of data, the through-put of textiles in laundries is being continually improved. The solutions required for automation in the sector are therefore a high priority at Texcare International, from 20 to 24 June in Frankfurt am Main.
 
The be-all and end-all for the laundry sector is the ability to monitor the quantity, quality and storage location of the textiles that are circulating on site, at all times. The data collected form the basis for precise price calculations, throw up any weak points in the system and serve to provide documentation for third parties. But it is only when all the machinery and plant involved in a given textile service are interlinked on a single network that the logistics of the laundry service run seamlessly, with minimal down-time of the machinery, reduced quantities in circulation and the resultant increase in productivity that is closely associated with it.

Transparent tracking for each individual laundry item
Automation in the processing of workwear is already well advanced. As the dirty laundry is sorted on arrival, each item is recorded using an identification system such as a barcode or RFID technology. From this moment on, all the stages that the textiles undergo are controlled. ‘Readers’ or ‘gates’ on the premises enable each item to be recorded as it progresses through the system, right up to the point of order picking; and they monitor whether an item is sent to a repair station or directed into storage. In addition, high-frequency transponders (UHF tags) can monitor the movements of laundry items outside of the laundry: in hospitals, for instance, identification systems have been installed, which record the despatch and return of apparel and enable an extensive process of textile management via data transfer procedures.

Robots for the soiled laundry area
This already high degree of automation in a workwear laundry facility is, however, capable of still further refinement. Artificial intelligence can simplify the ‘dirty’ work in the reception area: robots separate and sort the soiled clothing and x-ray machines, cameras and metal detectors are used to identify any foreign bodies. The advantages of such systems are particularly in evidence in hospital laundries: medical instruments, which regularly find their way into the laundry bags, are automatically separated from the clothing, thus minimising damage to the items themselves and to the machinery. The useful life of the textiles is extended and costs are reduced. Moreover, there is no danger of infection for the staff.

Real-time laundry processes
Whilst individual control and traceability are already widespread in the professional treatment of work apparel, when it comes to flat linen, often only generalisations about quantity, quality and storage location for the textiles are possible. “In order to assess a business’s efficiency, calculate prices and efficiently control processes and procedures, laundries need reliable figures […],” observes Martin Rauch, CSO of the Jensen Group, who operate on a worldwide basis.

In the pursuit of automated production, ultra-modern information and communications technologies assume a key role. They synchronise the machines involved in a given production process and facilitate communication and cooperation between plant, product and the human being. This way, you get self-organising, flexible production with unbroken processes and high levels of utilisation of equipment. With the synchronisation of commodity streams and information flow in the laundry, all items arrive at the right processing station at the appropriate time. A central database controls all the processes in the entire laundry, regulates the machinery and the linked sub-systems, chooses the correct processing programmes and optimises machine use.
 
Data accompanies the laundry throughout
“Trolleys of laundry standing around, waiting times at the machines, excessive buffering and time spent searching for items are all lost capital […],” says Matthias Schäfer, who is responsible for product management, laundry logistics / smart laundry at Kannengiesser (Vlotho).

When data and goods flows are successfully synchronised throughout a flat-linen laundry, each washing station contributes its information along with that of other stations, right from the initial sorting of the soiled linen through to the folding machines. The laundry can, therefore, be monitored throughout the entire operation, as the information from each station is sent on with the item, either automatically or – after the drier – in the form of bar-coded labels. (“Stabilisation of production through the synchronisation of material and production flows.”)

RFID identification systems do indeed enable complete transparency to be built into the passage of goods through the various stages, as each chip or tag carries the necessary information for each individual item. In view of the high cost of the transponders, ‘chipping’ of flat linen is, however, currently an option for only very few laundries. So the textile care sector is waiting on more economical, more functionally reliable solutions from the machinery and plant manufacturers.
 
Smart to the very end of the chain
Further potential for automation resides in the picking and packaging. Collecting together items for delivery manually is subject to error and that leads to customer complaints. With intelligent storage facilities and transport solutions, smart stacking management and the networking of equipment with the laundry’s information system, order picking becomes simpler, quicker and more reliable. To ensure that the integration can function, modern machines are equipped with interfaces, so that each new installation can be linked seamlessly into a laundry’s existing system. The same goes for accessory machines, which exchange all the important information relating to preparation and repair online.

User friendly apps
Digital developments are not only large scale: they are to be found on a smaller scale as well. For launderettes, too, apps provide important information on the status of the equipment, enable operators to see what is going on, even at considerable distances, as well as being able to provide digital payment models. Moreover, in heavily used laundry facilities, they can take on the entire job of time management, as Andreas Barduna, Head of Business Management, Miele Professional (Gütersloh) is very aware.

At Texcare International, from 20 to 24 June 2020, machinery and plant manufacturers from all over the world will be presenting their smart solutions for the laundries of tomorrow. The focus will be very much on artificial intelligence and smart information systems, which will help maximize the degree of automation within the sector.

GOTTFRIED SCHMIDT OHG (c) Weitblick, Gottfried Schmidt OHG
18.02.2020

WE HAVE OUR PRINCIPLES ... WEITBLICK | GOTTFRIED SCHMIDT OHG

WORKWEAR AS A SUSTAINABLE TEXTILE LOOP!

WEITBLICK | Gottfried Schmidt OHG with about 130 members of staff in Bavaria and more than 1,000 employees in European production plants is one of the leading German textile companies in the workwear and corporate fashion segments. Originally founded 1931 in Frankfurt / Main, the traditional family-owned company, now in its fourth generation, achieves a medium sized eight figure turnover.

Quick decision-making processes, a familiar atmosphere, production exclusively in Europe, customer-specific innovations and comprehensive sustainability concepts - what does the workwear professional do differently than others?

Sales Director Philipp Hartmann (Sales Support and Customer Service) and Janine Gonglach, Head of Marketing, together with Managing Director Felix Blumenauer, responsible for Marketing, Sales, Logistics and Controlling faced the questions of Textination.

WORKWEAR AS A SUSTAINABLE TEXTILE LOOP!

WEITBLICK | Gottfried Schmidt OHG with about 130 members of staff in Bavaria and more than 1,000 employees in European production plants is one of the leading German textile companies in the workwear and corporate fashion segments. Originally founded 1931 in Frankfurt / Main, the traditional family-owned company, now in its fourth generation, achieves a medium sized eight figure turnover.

Quick decision-making processes, a familiar atmosphere, production exclusively in Europe, customer-specific innovations and comprehensive sustainability concepts - what does the workwear professional do differently than others?

Sales Director Philipp Hartmann (Sales Support and Customer Service) and Janine Gonglach, Head of Marketing, together with Managing Director Felix Blumenauer, responsible for Marketing, Sales, Logistics and Controlling faced the questions of Textination.

Gottfried Schmidt OHG, a family company that will celebrate its 90th birthday next year, is considered as a professional when it comes to premium workwear. If you had to introduce yourself in 100 words to someone who doesn't know the company: What makes you unique?
Felix Blumenauer – Managing Director
We are a long-established family company that has reinvented itself again and again over the course of history. In the field of workwear, we stand for the highest quality across a wide range of industry segments and attach great importance to sustainability - this is also shown by our long-standing partners who produce our clothing in Europe. With our state-of-the-art logistics center, we prove that digitization and Industry 4.0 are not just buzzwords for us.   

In which markets and by which partners do you feel particularly challenged? And with which product innovations in the workwear sector do you think you can move the most?
Philipp Hartmann – Sales Director
Markets are changing faster and faster and that is a challenge per se. We want to continue to be reliable today and, in the future, that also means continuity for our partners. But how do we deal with ever new requirements from ever faster moving markets?
Focusing on the customer, we cannot remain in rigid structures. We at WEITBLICK achieve this through our corporate culture and our guidelines: courage, strength and confidence.
This culture holds our team together and this enables us to adapt structures more quickly. Due to our personal contact to our partners and our experience as a fourth-generation family business, we enjoy great trust in all markets and this assists us to make quick adjustments and changes without questioning our DNA.
The basis of our products is the quality of the materials used, the processing by a very well-trained staff in our own European production sites and, first and foremost, a team of experts who controls everything in-house from the fiber and the design idea to production and logistics and bring it all together under one roof. So, if you ask me whether all products will be flashing in the near future, the answer is: no. Our strength is the implementation of our customers' wishes and above all we put the brand, the CI of our customers, in the foreground on the product. Because a satisfied employee in the right workwear is the best business card for a company. So, if it should flash in the clothing in the near future, this is not a problem, but we realize ourselves much more concerned with our customer requirements around the products. Based on quality and sustainability we have been driving very well for a long time.

However, services, speed in logistics, controlling, order configurators and budget management as well as interface management are the actual innovations with which we convince our customers and partners today. For some time now, we have been relying on a team of employees who implements precisely these customer requirements across departments. For example, in addition to our own CI Workwear collection, a customer can also receive a protected customer shop from us, where employees can configure the coordinated collection and order according to a defined budget. The customer's purchasing and controlling departments have live insight into costs and inventories. The dispatch including personalization is RFID-controlled in Germany, picked on the carrier and sent all over the world. Does that sound innovative?

Tailor-made or solution for the major customer? The topic of individualization down to batch size 1 is gaining in importance today. How do you manage the balancing act between major customers and individual production - what does this mean for the processes of Gottfried Schmidt OHG? 
Philipp Hartmann – Sales Director
Why not the tailor-made solution for major and small customers? Until a few years ago, and even today in some cases, a customer’s logo in the colors red, green, blue and white was of course displayed by fabrics of the same color combined in a four-colored scheme. This is more or less a thing of the past. Nowadays, requests for different colors are additionally solved by the possibility of combining many articles. In doing so, we fall back on thousands of active articles of our own developments and a large selection of ingredients, fabrics and finishing options. CI collections can be produced very quickly in small quantities in our state-of-the-art production facilities. In one of our six European production plants, for example, we only manufacture made-to-measure orders from piece 1. This happens within very lean processes and just takes a few weeks.

At the same time, we have large capacities for the storage of our raw materials and a warehouse for prefabricated parts, which enables us to place them into stock for the customer. Companies are aware of the great importance of workwear and the partly missing transparency in processes or costs. Therefore, it is desirable to be able to order small quantities. We have access to dozens of wearer profiles and millions of wearers from almost all sectors and are able to combine this experience with today's requirements. I don't prefer the word "standard", but the fact is that we already offer our customers a wide range of articles and colors to choose from, as we are constantly releasing new collections for various industries. The processes, scrutinized with the possibilities of new tools and systems, are consistently adapted - the other way around. This enables us to work very automatically from small to large orders and thus process orders via our customer online shops or via interfaces with our customers' order portals. Order picking and logistics from piece 1 with the shipping method of your choice are no problem for us, because we have been operating the most modern logistics center in the industry since 2018.

With WEITBLICK you have chosen the look-and-feel of a German-language brand. What prompted you to take this step and what are the consequences for your international sales?
Janine Gonglach – Head of Marketing
The decision was made for WEITBLICK (Engl.: vision, foresightedness) because we always possessed it as a company. Not only the founder Gottfried Schmidt himself had shown vision or foresightedness. Each generation that followed also had and still has visions, that developed the company to what it is today. A company with thought leaders, doers, inventors, critics and perfectionists.
Also, in the future, we will meet the challenge of developing our products and our actions with foresightedness - for the continued existence of the company and for the benefit of our customers.

Philipp Hartmann – Sales Director
We serve a wide range of customers, from craft businesses to large global corporations. So, we have already been internationally active in previous generations. And the name has never been a limitation. Our employees in sales and customer service are trained accordingly, our documents and systems are multilingually available and maintained.

In which socially relevant subject areas do you see a particularly great need for innovation and action during the next 5 years? What is your assessment that your company will be able to offer solutions for this with its products?
Felix Blumenauer – Managing Director

We see a further growing importance of the topic of “sharing”. With our strong partners in professional service, we have been living this idea for many decades and see increasing importance in society. Clothing remains available in a cycle of the highest quality for many years - for us this is the sustainable counter trend to "fast fashion". In this context we offer digital solutions that satisfy our customers and our wearers and convince them, that WEITBLICK is the right choice.

We will act on these fields and consciously set the right accents – that’s how we understand corporate responsibility towards our employees and our customers.

For decades, the textile and clothing industry has been growing steadily worldwide. In terms of sustainability, to put it mildly, there is a rather mixed feedback for our industry. What is the Gottfried Schmidt OHG focusing on in order to meet its social responsibility?
Felix Blumenauer – Managing Director
We have long anchored sustainability in our company as one of the most important priorities in our strategy. This becomes apparent e.g. by the use of Fair-Trade cotton, which we bring to the market in large quantities together with other companies and suppliers in the industry. We think sustainability comprehensively. Each area of our company contributes to the fulfillment of corporate responsibility - towards our customers and our own employees.

There are various definitions for sustainability. Customers expect everything under this term - from climate protection to ecology, from local on-site production to the exclusion of child labor etc. What do you do to bring this term to life for your company and what seals or certifications do you rely on?
Felix Blumenauer – Managing Director
We have the highest standards in the entire supply chain, which we implement together with our partners and monitor closely. This includes fair production conditions in Europe with comparatively short distances, which are guaranteed by the internationally recognized SA 8000 seal. The avoidance of unnecessary packaging material, climate-neutral shipping and the reduction of plastic are also a matter of course for us. For example, we are currently working on using recycled polyester in the future. We are looking forward to the Green Button and want to qualify for this state seal of quality.

At WEITBLICK, you have chosen a consciously young form of communication. Whether Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest or relevant business platforms - social media clearly take a central position in your media mix. This is not necessarily standard in the textile rental service. Why did you choose this form of addressing?
Janine Gonglach – Head of Marketing
For us, WEITBLICK - far-sightedness - also means “venturing something new”!
From my point of view, in the digital age, the question for companies is no longer whether social networks should be used or not, but only how and to what extent. With more than 3 billion people who are now represented in social media networks worldwide, we no longer speak of zeitgeist, but of a must-have in the marketing mix. Our communication follows the guiding principle: "We do not conduct a monologue, but an open dialogue at eye level." Social media achieve exactly that! 

Breaking new ground means willingness to make decisions, overcoming fears - and thus courage to fail. Not every project can succeed. In retrospect, which entrepreneurial decision are you particularly happy to have made?
Felix Blumenauer – Managing Director
The transformation of our company. With courage, strength and confidence, we managed to reposition our company almost completely within a very short period of time. This includes the modern umbrella brand WEITBLICK, which for us is also an obligation to our actions. But also, the growth that we have achieved in the past four years with around 40 new employees. We have built a new logistics center - with highly modern processes that are largely automated, e.g. with intelligent RFID technology. In doing so, we are trying to take all employees with us on this journey, which is not always easy but the right track. The positive thing about it is that our long-standing as well as our new employees work for us on their own responsibility and with enthusiasm.

The interview was conducted by Ines Chucholowius, CEO Textination GmbH

Wireless Power Transmission for Technical Textiles Bild von Gerd Altmann auf Pixabay
27.08.2019

WIRELESS POWER TRANSMISSION FOR TECHNICAL TEXTILES

The trend towards the "Internet of Everything" is ongoing. Whether in industrial, medical or everyday applications, more and more electrical devices are connected to each other, record sensing values, exchange data and react to them. Due to smaller structures, new processing possibilities and new flexible materials, such systems are also being used more and more frequently in the textile sector. For example, medical measurements can be recorded directly on a garment, actuators such as EMS electrodes can be integrated directly into the textile or functions such as MP3 players, GPS receivers, fall detectors, heating structures and much more can be embedded simply and intuitively in textiles. Communication and data exchange usually take place wirelessly via WLAN, Bluetooth, RFID or, in the future, via the 5G network.

The trend towards the "Internet of Everything" is ongoing. Whether in industrial, medical or everyday applications, more and more electrical devices are connected to each other, record sensing values, exchange data and react to them. Due to smaller structures, new processing possibilities and new flexible materials, such systems are also being used more and more frequently in the textile sector. For example, medical measurements can be recorded directly on a garment, actuators such as EMS electrodes can be integrated directly into the textile or functions such as MP3 players, GPS receivers, fall detectors, heating structures and much more can be embedded simply and intuitively in textiles. Communication and data exchange usually take place wirelessly via WLAN, Bluetooth, RFID or, in the future, via the 5G network.

Electrical energy is required for such applications and functions. Despite the efforts to further minimize the energy demand of electronic circuits, it is not always possible to operate these systems completely energy autonomously. Therefore, energy storage devices such as batteries or rechargeable accumulators are necessary for operation. The big advantage of recharging is that smaller, more compact energy storage devices can be used to achieve the same or an increased service life running time. There are two basic concepts for recharging a battery with electrical energy. On the one hand wired and with connections like a micro-USB cable. On the other hand wireless via wireless power transmission. With wired solutions, contacts can wear out or be added by fuzz, especially in the textile sector. In addition, the connecting process is less flexible and uncomfortable.

Wireless concepts offer several advantages and are therefore better suited. For example, the electronics including energy storage can be completely encapsulated, since no galvanic contacts are required. Among other things, this makes the textile directly machine-washable, because the electronics are protected from water, detergents and sweat. This means that no components need to be removed from the textile when washing. A further purely practical advantage is the simplicity of charging. With the suitable concept, the textile can be hung on hangers, placed in laundry baskets or, ideally, simply placed in the washing machine and charged without any further action of the user. The result is an uncomplicated, charming way of operating smart textiles.

There are several concepts and possibilities for wirelessly supplying a textile with energy. The most popular and at the same time most efficient method is the inductive power transmission [1]. Two coils are inductively coupled to each other and thus transmit energy wirelessly (Figure 2). Air, wood, plastic, but also liquids such as water or human tissue can be penetrated a few centimeters almost loss-free.  There are also various concepts for integrating electronics into textiles. From the production of the entire circuit on thin printed circuit boards to complete textile integration, a wide variety of mixtures are possible. The easiest concepts to develop are those in which all circuit parts are manufactured on printed circuit boards. Thin printed circuit boards can have substrate thicknesses of a few tenths of a millimeter (Figure 1). But flexible possibilities such as manufacturing on silicones are also conceivable. Among other things, the sensors and microcontrollers as well as the coil for inductive energy transfer to the substrate are manufactured. This complete printed circuit board then only has to be connected to the textile, whether by gluing, sewing or insertion.

Concepts in which the receiver coil is integrated into the textile go one step further. For example, ultra-fine wires or strands are woven or embroidered and the textile material thus becomes the substrate itself as a functionalized textile. The rest of the circuit, which is still integrated on a conventional substrate, is then connected to the coil and the textile. Since some of the spools can have diameters of a few centimeters, one can gain in flexibility because the textile spool can move almost freely. With a complete textile integration, the components are finally attached to the textile and the conductor paths are embroidered or woven in.

Consistently implemented and used, wireless power transmission as a simple and convenient charging method of textiles can thus contribute to sustainably strengthen the market for smart textiles improving handling and user experience.

Source:

Fraunhofer Institute for Electronic Nano Systems ENAS
Authors: Dominik Schröder, Dr. Christian Hedayat

12.12.2017

ETHIOPIA FOCUSES ON CLOTHING AND TEXTILE EXPORTS

  • Industrial parks should enable a quantum leap
  • Progress in infrastructure, Deficits in foreign exchange provision

The Ethiopian textile, clothing and leather industry scores not only with comparatively low wages and high-performing personnel, but also with modern industrial parks. In the meantime the technology has to be fully imported and the supply of materials needs to be greatly expanded. There is a great progress in logistics, but unfortunately not in foreign exchange procurement. German suppliers of relevant equipment should definitely consider Ethiopia in their acquisition.

  • Industrial parks should enable a quantum leap
  • Progress in infrastructure, Deficits in foreign exchange provision

The Ethiopian textile, clothing and leather industry scores not only with comparatively low wages and high-performing personnel, but also with modern industrial parks. In the meantime the technology has to be fully imported and the supply of materials needs to be greatly expanded. There is a great progress in logistics, but unfortunately not in foreign exchange procurement. German suppliers of relevant equipment should definitely consider Ethiopia in their acquisition.

So far, only Mauritius has made a name for itself as a producer of high-quality clothing south of the Sahara. Attempts to locate textile and clothing companies in Namibia and Lesotho in a larger style have not been very successful. Meanwhile Kenya and Ghana have far too expensive production conditions. "Clothing companies are nomadic,” says a consultant, who is specializing in the trade, "they go where it's cheapest for them."

Meanwhile, Ethiopia offers several advantages: Wages and additional costs are far below the Chinese ones. A worker in the Ethiopian factories earns an average of USD 909 a year, according to a survey by the US Center for Global Development, compared to USD 835 in Bangladesh, USD 1,776 in Tanzania, and USD 2,118 in Kenya. Another advantage is appreciated by employees: Ethiopia has a long tradition of textile and clothing production as well as in leather processing and thus at least an expandable base of skilled workers.

The supply of native cotton and leather meanwhile is considered strongly expandable. In times of drought, such as in 2016 and partly in 2017, the supply of cotton is insufficient. However, the government is cooperative and increasingly open to the needs of producers. Thus, the infrastructure has been currently sustainably improved, in particular the transport routes to the seaport Djibouti, from where Europe is much faster to reach than from the Far East. In addition, the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa has a capable aviation hub with a dozen direct flights to the EU, including Frankfurt and Vienna. There is also a modern air freight center.

Modern industrial parks as a game changer

Just as important as the delivery routes are the "modern" production conditions in the emerging industrial centers all over the country, Made by China: pothole-free roads, guaranteed electricity and water supply, proper waste and wastewater disposal, workers' settlements in the vicinity. From the Ethiopian point of view, a great many jobs are created, families are fed and foreign exchange is earned.

According to its government, Ethiopia is in a transformation process away from an agrarian economy and towards an industrialized state. By 2025, the country should reach a "middle-income status" and become the largest industrial production hub in Africa. To achieve this, Ethiopia is investing heavily in roads, railways and power generation, in health and education, in urban and rural development, and in the creation of industrial clusters.

Ambitious export specifications

In July 2016 the Hawassa Industrial Park was officially opened, dedicated to the export of textiles and clothing, and is the largest industrial park in sub-Saharan Africa. As early as 2018, the park is expected to employ 60,000 workers and generate USD 1 billion in exports of clothing and textiles - a steep target given in a view of the current export figures. As early as 2030, Ethiopia wants to reach a total of USD 30 billion by exporting textiles and clothing - but it's still a long way off. At present, 15 in-ternational companies are already investing in Hawassa, including the US PVH Corporation (formerly Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation, prominent brands: Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfinger) and Epic Group (Hong Kong), a supplier of, among others, Walmart , JC Penny, Levi Strauss, VF Corporation, Tesco, Sansbury's, Marks & Spencer and C & A. Epic wanted to go to Kenya first, but then decided for Ethiopia at the last minute, which, according to Epic boss Ranjan Mahtani, is "still unpolished," but has the most potential.

The challenges are considered to be high: "Our seam-stresses have never got a job before and have never seen a sewing machine," Mahtani says training therefore is a top priority. At the same time, however, his company also relies on state-of-the-art automatic machines, for example for attaching bags. The production halls are also all around computerized with RFID technology. The current efficiency Mahtani estimates at 25 to 30 percent. After experience with other production sites, results of 75 to 80 percent are possible after about ten years.

Wide range of new industrial parks under construction

In July 2017, another industrial park was opened in Kombolcha City. A whole range of other parks are in various stages of realization and all are focused on the apparel, textile, pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing sectors. According to the Ethiopian Government, there is no shortage of interested investors from the PR of China, India, Turkey, the US, Hong Kong and South Korea. Ethiopia benefits from the African Growth and Opportunity Act of the United States, which, for example, reduces its import duties by 16.8 per cent on cotton pants and 30 per cent on synthetic shirts. In addition, Ethiopia has a duty-free access to the EU market under the Everything-but-Arms initiative.

Ethiopian exports of textiles, clothing and leather goods (including shoes), in USD mio
SITC- product group 2014 2015 2016
61 Leather and leather goods  97.51 98.20 78.63
65 Yarn, fabrics finished textiles and re-lated products 39.34 39.12 29.61
84 Clothing and clothing accessories 55.53 77.94 68.25
85 Shoes   33.88 37.69 43.80
Total      226.26 252.95 220.29

Source: Comtrade, as of 18 October 2017

Ethiopian imports of machinery and equipment for the textile and leather industry and parts thereof (SITC 724, in USD mio, change in%)
Supplying country 2014 2015 2016
Total      131.30

170.51

111.10
PR China 43.87 42.40 62.07
Italy 6.38 11.75 11.72
Japan 4.40 10.11 6.89
Turkey 4.86 19.14 4.92
other Asian countries, not specified 1.85 1.87 4.11
India 6.07 6.49 3.06
Germany 9.22 9.08 2.44

Note: The import figures mentioned above are based on Ethiopian data, which for various reasons are not considered particularly reliable. Equally not reliable are often the relevant export data of the partner countries, because all sea transports go via Djibouti and deliveries statistically are recorded often as exports to Djibouti.
Source: UN Comtrade, as of 18 October 2017

German exports expandable

German exporters of technology for the textile, clothing and leather industries are not yet well positioned in Ethiopia. According to the preliminary figures of the Federal Statistical Office (SITCM 724), in 2016 only EUR 1.06 mio of relevant technology went to Ethiopia, compared to EUR 1.05 mio in the previous year and EUR 5.02 mio in 2015.

More information:
Ethiopia Export Textilindustrie
Source:

Martin Böll, Nairobi (GTAI)

SARD Durable Labeling with lanthanide-based Security Substance ©wederundgut AG
05.04.2016

DURABLE LABELING WITH LANTHANIDE-BASED SECURITY SUBSTANCE

  • Forgery-safe Branded Fashion via washable Authentification Certificate

In 2014 German customs seized about 1.3 million counterfeit garments and accessories worth EUR 10.94 million. Particularly renowned brands suffer from piracy and try using different measures, such as hologram labels or special sewing yarns to protect their fashion - so far with little success, because professional counterfeiters can copy these marks most convincing.

  • Forgery-safe Branded Fashion via washable Authentification Certificate

In 2014 German customs seized about 1.3 million counterfeit garments and accessories worth EUR 10.94 million. Particularly renowned brands suffer from piracy and try using different measures, such as hologram labels or special sewing yarns to protect their fashion - so far with little success, because professional counterfeiters can copy these marks most convincing.

But that could change now: As the first brand apparel manufacturer the Swiss wederundgut ag recently added on their UNiSONO -Shirts a labeling with a lanthanide-based SARD - safety substance which is completely tamper-proof due to high-covalent and doped crystal lattice. It has a unique, tailored composition with individual emission spectra and can be detected and deciphered only with an especially for this application developed laser measuring instrument. The incorporation in a multi-layer, firmly with the shirt fabric glued label, the marking cannot be destroyed neither by the wash liquor nor by mechanical influences during the washing process.

"Brand counterfeiting is becoming more and more a problem for the fashion industry.  Especially well-known brands are suffering from the proliferation of plagiarism" Ueli Fish, CEO of wederundgut ag, explains. "It is therefore in our own interest as textile manufacturers, to find ways to make our products clearly marked as identifiable originals."

Within the sector many protective measures have already been tried, but without achieving a long term desired effect: One company for example works with holograms on the label. For professional plagiarists a hologram provides no bigger hurdle in these days, stated Dieter Ebert, CTO at the product protection specialist swiss authentication research and development AG (SARD) explains. As another possibility sewing threads will be soaked with safety fluids. "The disadvantage is that all known substances will sooner or later be completely washed out of the fabric in the washing process," the expert said. Several manufacturers of high-quality functional wear labeled their products temporarily with RFID chips. However, they also were destroyed in the washing process sooner or later - partly through the water, partially mechanically, so that this solution has been abandoned. Others prefer to educate their customers trying to explain differences between original and copied patches.

Individual, clearly identifiable marking

For the marking with the by SARD developed safety substance wederundgut ag decided due to the utter counterfeit security and adaptability for different applications. "The substance contains a custom mixture of lanthanides, which form a very complex, high-covalent and doped crystal lattice," the CTO explains. "In the production of a patented process at a defined point some foreign substances in the smallest amounts will be added that changes the emission spectrum significantly." By excitation in the UV or IR range the substance sends the customized optical spectra. These are stored in an associated detector, which has been developed by SARD for this application, and can only be recognized by the latter. All mixtures of the substance are stable at temperatures far above 1,700°C, resistant to acids, bases and radiation, highly resistant to chemicals and toxicologically safe. The particles, which generally have a size of about 1 to 10 microns, also allow no interactions with any other substances.

A decisive advantage of the substance is that the production process is not possible to replicate due to the artificial emission spectra: "Through the endowment spectra will be generated, of which it cannot be determined which elements are involved. Therefor a replica of the substance through reverse engineering is not possible, Ebert says.

Also the laser measuring device cannot be manipulated, since it has its own software and a virus free operating system and uses for algorithm and cryptography the FPGA technology. When evaluating the marking SARD also focuses on the key-lock principle: "The two independent emission spectra of custom substances serve as the key. They are stimulated and measured by the two independent laser systems of the detector”, so the CTO. “Decoding is performed with in the device stored, cryptographically encrypted information. They therefore act as a lock." Only when the correct substance is detected, a protected algorithm shows the customer-specific information on the display of the detector. This feature ensures a highly secure authentication.

Not leachable substance

In addition to the protection against forgery wederundgut is demanding further properties on the marking. "The label should not get an optically negative change, should be completely hypoallergenic and should remain from the cost point on an acceptable level," Fish says. The most important point for the textile manufacturer however was, that even after repeated washing the substance remains detectable: "That was at first a great challenge for us," Ebert says. "If we would have brought he SARD-substance in a conventional manner into the material, for example just with a color - as with solutions of other manufacturers - then there would have been the risk that the substance would be washed out by the surfactants of the detergent. Therefore we had to find at first a suitable carrier material. Together with the Munich label specialists RATHGEBER GmbH & Co. KG SARD finally developed a solution in which the substance will be incorporated into an iron-on label made of plastic composite material from which it cannot be removed. "This label is produced in several layers," Ebert says. "In one of them the SARD-substance will be incorporated and permanently sealed with another layer."

The label corresponds optically with the known company label of UNiSONO, the safety substance is difficult to detect with the bare eye. The final label is, among other things, resistant to alkalis, chemical cleaning agents, UV radiation, mechanical stress, acids, weather influences and keeps temperatures from -30 to 120°C. It will be ironed onto the shirt using a special hot-melt adhesive. This agent is very resistant and does not dissolve from the fabric, even at very frequent washing as is common for example in sports clothing. "At this project together with SARD we achieved great results very fast. With the current result, a very uncomplicated solution for us, we are very satisfied,” Fish explains, who puts the security label directly in the clothing factory on the shirts. “In the future we'd like to get a label that is even more soft and thinner than the current one. We intend to work on it together with SARD," the CEO said.