Serial entrepreneur and sewing-automation leader K.P. Reddy is IndustryWeek magazine’s Manufacturing Leader of the Week for June 6-12.
Reddy, who earned his Georgia Tech civil engineering degree in 1994, is CEO of SoftWear Automation, a startup that is reinventing the sewing automation process using robots and machine vision.
“If you look at [computer-controlled manufacturing] machines and other devices, they’re cutting or at least working with some rigid material,” Reddy told the magazine. “The challenge with clothing is that it moves. It flexes, it stretches, it’s hard to rigidize.”
More from the IndustryWeek interview:
IW: What sort of fleet are you working with now?
KPR: We delivered our first product in October (2015), and we’re currently around 20 robots. They’re going out there. One of our customers tried it out for a couple months, then expanded their order.
IW: Is there any ceiling right now on how big you think it can get?
KPR: Being CEO and investor, I have feelings about it, right? But it’s a $100 billion a year marketplace, there’s very little competition in our space — partly because of the technical problems we’re solving — and we do think it’s a big market. As bigger brands have to keep more SKUs, we’re seeing more demand. The robots are also allowing designers to design things that previously would have been too complicated, too specialized. We like making things that only a robot can make in mass quantities.
IW: What are some of those items?
KPR: Anything custom-fit falls in that category, anything with lots of curves or complex patterns. It’s difficult for companies to contract that out. We have one company we’re working with right now that’s actually assembling 30 different pieces and parts to make the product — I can’t say what it is — that would have been a lot of manual labor.