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Author's profile photo Liane Geber

Paper airplane and Industry 4.0 in Textile industries



Recently I read an article by KPMG about innovation. It described the necessity to break down ways of thinking of employees.

The story was about an exercise in a workshop called  “Build a paper airplane which touches the wall in front”. Nearly all group members built those nice paper planes, like I did at school, too.

Crazy objects, much fun, I assume, but none of those paper airplanes reached the goal –  except one. This participant crumbled a paper sheet and throw it on the wall. Well done, but was that the exercise?

Yes, I think so. Paper flied, wall touched, goal reached.

This story came into my mind when participating at a conference to share the results of  the study “Textil digital” performed by the  DITF German institute for textile and fiber research in Germany.

The goal of that study was to analyze the starting situation of companies focusing on knitting – including knitting machine manufacturers and knitting companies-  in southern part of Germany  in regard to industry 4.0 and digitalization.

As a result they defined 10 areas of activities targeted for the knitting cluster ( midsize, market leader). My top 3 are the following:


  • Horizontal integration to network along the supply chain to allow real time tracking of products beyond the boundaries of the company. How should tracking processes should look like in interconnected production chains where products usually can only be purchased in Asia.
  • Intralogistics – between real-time product tracking and traditional logistic concepts. The ongoing individualization and reduction of lot sizes require concepts to automate logistical steps within the knitting company.
  • Vertical integration and networked production systems. Build flexible and variable production systems based on common standards.


Many companies present their activities, thoughts or solutions. It was impressive to see how much energy and diversity there was. If there was any doubt before, this was clear proof that Industry 4.0 is an important topic in the textile industry.

I think industry 4.0 and the ongoing business transformation is more than focusing on the optimization of resources in manufacturing and supply chain.  Coming back to the paper airplane story, to success, industry 4.0 concepts must also focus on employees to encourage and support them to think differently in finding new solutions. Re-thinking, thinking in new ways is also necessary when it comes to industry 4.0 / IOT.  There are might some challenges which seems  not feasible, if you look at it as you are used to do.

A flexible and innovative software platform can be a strong backbone for those companies supporting business transformation and creativity.  E.g. A manufacturer of carpets wants to reduce warranty claim cases by finding contributors to quality issue root causes (besides those which are obvious for the specialists).  To correlate warranty claims to the specific production parameter it needs to slice and dice data of high volume in fast speed. The opportunity to analyze often, ad-hoc, iteratively, any combination, any existing or computed fields requires an database and platform which support this  and allow implementing own processes.

If you are interested in the details of the Strick 4.0 – Textil digital” case study, feel free to get in contact with the textile research center DITF:


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      Author's profile photo Stefan Weisenberger
      Stefan Weisenberger

      I love the horizontal intrgration piece. I would say this goes even beyond tracking. I assume knitting is, as an additive manufacturing technology, comparable to 3D-printing. As such, I would expect collaboration between companies such as described in the distributed manufacturing scenario.

      I am curious whether this model of engineering, procurement and manufacturing in different places works here as well. On a much simpler way, I can order my T-Shirt on an online portal where 1000s of designers have uploaded their design ideas. When I place an order a third party actually manufactures my shirt. I wonder what you could even do with a digital knitting machine.

      Thanks for the inspiring blog. I just checked the DITF study but they have not yet uploaded the results. I am equally curious on this one.