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Cutting room automation makes sense for many

September 27th, 2017 / By: / Expo News

If automating your cutting room seems either too expensive or too difficult, you may want to think again. Panelists of the IFAI EXPO session on “Optimizing Your Cutting Room” gave a long list of potential benefits for why you might want to consider using an automated cutter. “Everyone’s ROI is slightly different,” says Thomas Carlson, manager of Carlson Design. “I had one new client say to me recently ‘The ROI was my kneecaps this year.’”

An automated cutter, according to James Herstein, sales manager for Matic, S. A. and moderator Chandler Clark, owner of Signature Canvas Makers, is faster, raises productivity, increases accuracy and consistency, and reduces the need to hire additional labor. “In addition to that,” says Jonathan Palmer, owner of Autometrix, Inc., “all of your patterns are in the computer. You’re building an inventory and a customer base. You no longer need a skilled cutter. You just need someone to load the file and push go—the machine does the rest of the work.”

Addressing the lack of a qualified workforce was something all the panelists listed as a primary benefit of automation. “If you train someone in skills it took you 30 years to learn, they can take those skills with them and open a shop down the street,” says Carlson. “But automating these processes keeps the skills in-house because workers know how long it will take them to build a business like yours. Automation is a barrier to entry for your competition.”

The panelists did agree, however, that you can’t run before you walk. They acknowledge that 2-D digitizing through scanning, modeling, plotting and other methods is a required entry point to the 3-D world. They also agree there’s a significant learning curve to working with automated cutting machines. “You need to mess around with 3-D digitizing and really understand how it works with your fabric,” says Carlson. “Try making something over and over again. By the fifth try, you’ll start to understand it.”