For the first time, Smartex officially exhibited at ITMA & had a huge impact, leading the front of innovation in the knitting industry & showcasing unique solutions that are shaping the future of textiles. Many people have asked us how we become such a fast-growing company with so much impact on our clients & the world. Indeed, it has been a fantastic journey where ITMA is just a reflection of it.
From idea to fruition
I started working in the textile & knitting industry in 2010 with summer & part-time jobs in knitting factories. As most of my family works in textile factories, it was an obvious career path for me. In a few years, I started having more responsibility in the factory & eventually got to the inspection tables, working as an inspection worker to check the quality of the production.
Only after working at the inspection tables did I realize the size of the problem. Or at least the first problem we decided to tackle: quality control in textiles. Let me break it down a bit:
No matter if inspection is done perfectly or not, rolls may still get rejected because the inspection takes place too late (after production, sometimes hours after production when many rolls are already damaged).
For every roll rejected, the factory needs to produce 10-20-30 rolls (depending on the gross margin, which is usually tiny) to recover the raw materials cost lost in that rejected roll.
Many textile rolls only become damaged after the dyeing & finishing stages (the processes after knitting), but the problems already existed in knitting — just weren't visible to the human eye. This issue in particular was mind-blowing when I saw entire orders containing tons of fabrics being rejected by buyers, big disputes between garment factories / dyeing-finishing factories and knitting factories & yarn spinning factories.
For any dispute there were few or no ways to track the rolls — or to even know that Roll 123 was actually roll 123 and came from factory A, machine B, on day XYZ.
Many quality rejections after dyeing or after cutting could have been avoided in the knitting stage — it’s just that most small defects are not long enough to justify to cut & sew back the roll — so these faults were treated as 0% rejected, although they generate tons of waste in later stages…
Years later, we decided to dedicate our lives, energy & time to solve this problem — to help factories & consumers to have a beautiful, efficient, clean & transparent textile industry.
1st prototype & ITMA 2019
In 2019, my co-founders & I were living between China & the US enrolling in our first investors & incubating programs. After visiting hundreds of factories worldwide, there were still no solutions to make machines intelligent, have connected factories or reduce waste in this heavily human dependent industry. We had very little money, we weren’t taking any salaries at this time, & were thus sleeping in the same bed in the cheapest places in China/Hong Kong/San Francisco.
By June 2019, I flew alone to Barcelona (because we didn’t have the money to fly the 3 of us out & the other 2 founders needed to keep working) to attend my long awaited first ITMA.
There were great discussions, I met distributors from all over the world who showed interest in our technology (“when it’s ready”) — I mass emailed listed of factories contacts to meet them at the trade show — I visited all the big players booths trying to speak with their leaders & heads of innovation (of course with very little success). Once more, after ~10 years watching this industry, I saw very little signals of new technologies to help the industry to become more efficient & traceable.
From first prototypes to scale
ITMA 2019 was a great event, but nothing really disruptive for the knitting industry — so the opportunity to create something special in the space was there — in our 1st prototype that was only capable of detecting a few defects with AI — So we kept working, sprinting & running towards it. We raised tens of millions of dollars from the best investors & fashion brands in the world, hired 100+ engineers, worked 100+ hrs a week, spent days & weeks inside textile factories worldwide. We started working with the best factories in Portugal, Italy, Turkey, & later expanded to Asia. Today, Smartex has over 100 clients & 1,000 devices sold. These numbers keep increasing due to the great success of our clients, by using our technologies to produce better, faster & more transparently.
From first product to multi-products & solutions
Our clients success is our success — every time our clients give us suggestions for new features & products we take it seriously & invest in making their requests come true. When we started installing cameras in factories clients started asking for screens & tablets in the factory to interact with our systems & integrate with their existing systems — so we did it. Then, clients needed a way to store the images & data & prove the quality of their products — so we developed our Digital Factory products with an online platform.
Next, clients asked us to track their rolls, to make sure no one swaps them, or comes with complains & conflicts without having proof of that roll being theirs. In parallel we had fashion brands asking us to develop traceability solutions so they can provide data to back-up their sustainability claims (especially on tier 2) — so we created Smartex LOOP.
ITMA 2023: The factory of the future is not ahead of us anymore. It’s present, it's modern & it’s here
We decided to show up in ITMA with a big presence in 5 different booths with multiple machinery manufacturers using our technology. We were present at our own main booth as well as at Terrot, Unitex, Vahdet, & Norsel.
In our main booth — we displayed essential tools for the Modern Textile Factory where visitors could see the full experience of having our multiple products working together.
Our booth was unstoppable — we closed many deals at the exhibition — had the interest & invitations from the directors & executives of almost all the largest textile groups along with huge press coverage & distribution contacts for our worldwide expansion & much more.
“Smartex is a bit of fresh air in this industry,” stated Billy Hunter from the Knitting Industry.
Main takeaways from ITMA
The industry is definitely heading in the direction of technology. It was no surprise to see many competitor products coming after Smartex — many new solutions claiming features & benefits we’ve been claiming for years. We think that’s great! No one will change the world alone — It’s essential to have collaboration with other established companies in the market. That has been Smartex's strategy for a while now, & our products include easy integrations in many OEM machinery makers, ERP softwares, MES systems, & much more.
We are super focused on our execution — & will continue to create great products that solve great problems in this massive industry. We are in love with what we do … no one feels we’re working … because we love it, and we have fun & joy doing it. And that’s the best part of this. It’s about creating great products with great people around us. Together, we’ll change the world step by step… starting in the Textile & Fashion industry :)
Contact us to gain essential tools for your Modern Textile Factory.