Manufacturing denim is a complex process, and constructing jeans is a highly skilled task. But what happens when workers begin demanding higher wages for their labor? Technology advancements have begun to shift the labor force in the denim industry into the hands of robots and machines. The demand for jeans is as high as ever, and the price of cotton is on the rise due to natural disasters in high cotton producing areas. Chinese and other foreign manufacturing companies simply cannot afford to pay the exorbitant price of cotton as well as meet the increasing demands of its workforce.
Machines do most of the work in the manufacturing of denim. The first two steps, called carding and spinning, are both executed using advanced machines. The carding process cleans and straightens the cotton and gathers it into one strand. The spinning process turns the cotton strands into yarn, which are then washed and dyed.
For dyeing and sizing, various machines are used depending on the type of denim being manufactured. Once dyed and sized, the denim must be weaved. There are two machine-based methods for weaving: convention shuttle weaving by an automatic loom, and a weaving system using Airjet or rapier looms. The shuttle-less weaving process is much quicker and is being adapted more rapidly in the industry.
Jean construction is where the skilled laborer would traditionally take over from the machines, but as technology advances, non-humans are carrying out even this step in the process. The jean design pattern must first be cut out of cardboard then placed on large sheets of denim so as to maximize the material. While a worker can perform this step, a computer is able to calculate the best method immediately. The denim is cut, bundled by size and sent for sewing.
Laborers still mostly sew the jeans, but technology advancements are continuing to push workers out of that step, too.