Garment bots will replace 60 million apparel workers

By Mike “Mish” Shedlock

The end of the line is coming for 60 million global apparel workers, mostly in Sootheast Asia.

A Wall Street Journal video explains How Sewing Robots May Put Human Hands Out of Work.

Jobs like these will vanish.​

Let’s backtrack with a bit of history on the Elias Howe Sewing Machine.​

In 1846 the American inventor, Elias Howe (1819-1867) invented, built and patented the world’s first practical and successful sewing machine. Elias Howe patented the first ever lockstitch sewing machine in the world. The invention of the Elias Howe Sewing Machine changed the world by completely transforming and revolutionizing the shoe and clothing industry and the lives of ordinary people by providing the means to buy cheap, fashionable clothes.

Other inventors had made sewing machines using the chainstitch but Elias Howe invented his sewing machine to create the lockstitch. There as a problem with the chainstitch – The Chainstitch used a single thread that was looped on itself on the underside, when a break in the thread was followed by a slight pull, the chainstitch unraveled.

Unraveling did not occur with the lockstitch. The lockstitch was made by using two threads. The two threads interlaced so as to form a neat stitch on both sides of the material. The needle pierced the fabric and a loop was formed in the thread, and at very same time, a shuttle carrying a second thread passed through the loop, making the lock stitch. The Elias Howe Sewing Machine use of the eye-pointed needle in combination with a shuttle to form the lockstitch.

When the Elias Howe sewing machine was invented it took 14 hrs. 26 minutes to make a Gentleman’s shirt by hand. Using the sewing machine the time was reduced to just 1 hr. 16 minutes. A dress made of calico took 6 hrs. 37 minutes to make by hand and this was reduced to just 57 minutes using the Elias Howe sewing machine.

Elias Howe Sewing Machine

Modern Sewing Machine

The sewing machine revolutionized the garment industry in 1846, well before the auto industry. Sewing machines still look quite similar to machines use 150 years ago.

We are on the verge of fully autonomous cars, a task just recently started. The effort to perfect autonomous sewing machines a started many decades go.

Why did one industry revolutionize quickly and another, seemingly more obvious didn’t?

Human hands. Robotic arms do not have the dexterity or feel of human hands working with soft items.

That is finally on the verge of changing.

Garment Bot

Machines such as the one above will soon displace 60 million workers.

Minimum Wages

The Wall Street Journal traveled to Bangladesh, a country that employs several million humans for various sewing tasks. They get paid minimum wage, which for them is the equivalent of $64 a month.

The people interviewed are very fearful of losing their jobs as they see some of these new machines come into use.

That it pays to eliminate people making $64 dollars a month is telling.

Rude Awakening

These are immensely deflationary trends that the Fed is foolishly fighting. Thanks to the Fed’s inflation push, the squeeze on employees is incredible.

In Canada, Ontario’s minimum wage rose by 20% starting January. The next job’s report showed a loss of 137,000 part-time jobs in January, a record monthly decline.

Some blame the wage hike for the debacle, but all provinces got hit, not just Ontario. Regardless, there will be an even bigger push for automated checkout services.

Workers in the US demanding $15 and hour for doing essentially nothing are going to have rude awakening in the not too distant future.


Mike “Mish” Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management. Article published at his blog.



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