Levi Strauss & Co. is piloting a new operating model that replaces labor-intensive manual finishing techniques with an automated digital laser-based system. Called Project Future-Led Execution or Project FLX, Levi’s model shortens the time to market, and cuts chemicals from the finishing process.
Project FLX was developed in house by designers, developers, chemists, and engineers at Levi Strauss & Co.’s Eureka Innovation Lab. They also collaborated with longtime partner Jeanologia on using laser technology for sustainable apparel manufacturing. Previously, finishing jeans by hand to replicate the look of vintage denim required 18 to 20 steps per finish. Using laser technology for finishing the jeans
reduces the number of steps to three, according to the company’s video about the model.
“By using lasers in new ways, finishing time is cut dramatically— from two to three pairs per hour to 90 seconds per garment — followed by a final wash cycle.” Levi Strauss & Co. says new operating model enables them to:
- Replace manual techniques and automate the time-consuming, labor-intensive, and chemical-reliant process of hand-finishing.
- Use advanced imaging that cuts finishing design and development time in half, from months to weeks and sometimes days, and is so accurate that the digital files can be sent directly to the vendor and quickly scaled to mass manufacturing.
- Stage garments that await their on-demand finish order closer to the market, reducing lead times from more than six months to as fast as weeks or days.
- Eliminate thousands of chemical formulations from its supply chain.
LS&Co. plans to cut the total number of chemical formulations used in the finishing process from thousands to a few dozen. The company has committed to achieving zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020.