China / Across America

Textile companies go high tech in Arkansas

By May Zhou and Zhang Yuan in Little Rock, Arkansas (China Daily USA) Updated: 2017-07-25 10:16

Tianyuan Garments Company of Suzhou signed an agreement with SoftWear Automation of Atlanta to develop a fully automated T-shirt production line at Tianyuan's newly acquired plant in Little Rock, Arkansas, on July 19.

The technology was developed by and is patented by Georgia Tech's Advanced Technology Development Center. Using cameras to map the fabric and robots to steer it through the sewing needles, the system will handle soft fabrics and make T-shirts for Adidas.

The system is scheduled to be fully operational by the end of next year.

"From fabric cutting and sewing to finished product, it takes roughly four minutes," said Tang Xinhong, chairman of Tianyuan Garments. "We will install 21 production lines. When fully operational, the system will make one T-shirt every 22 seconds. We will produce 800,000 T-shirts a day for Adidas."

Tang said that with complete automation, the personnel cost for each T-shirt is roughly 33 cents. "Around the world, even the cheapest labor market can't compete with us. I am really excited about this," he said.

Tianyuan announced last October it would invest $20 million in the 100,000-square-foot defunct Little Rock plant it had acquired. In time, it will bring 400 new jobs to Arkansas.

The signing ceremony was witnessed by a Chinese textile delegation led by Xu Yingxin, vice-president of the China National Textile and Apparel Council.

Xu said that establishing a clothing factory in Arkansas enables Tianyuan to satisfy instant order demands from its clients. He praised Tianyuan's working with American partners in automation as a smart move at a crucial junction in the technology revolution.

"The idea of Industry 4.0 and Intelligent Manufacturing is gradually becoming the reality," Xu said. "It is revolutionizing labor-intensive clothing manufacturing."

The delegation, made up of industry leaders and entrepreneurs, also visited existing plants of Tianyuan and Shandong Ruyi Technology, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) and Wal-Mart's global headquarters.

They were also received by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who has been actively promoting Arkansas to Chinese investors. He personally went to China and signed the deal for Tianyuan to set up shop in Little Rock last year.

Overall, Hutchinson's efforts have produced results. Following Tianyuan, Shandong Ruyi announced in May a $410 million investment to set up a yarn factory utilizing local cotton, in Forrest City, a town about an hour from Little Rock. The company is in the process of renovating a former Sanyo building and will bring about 800 jobs to the area.

"China attracted a lot of technology and equipment from the US. Many brands have entered China. Now, China is beginning to manufacture in the US," Xu said.

Chinese textile companies began investing in North Carolina and South Carolina. With Shandong Ruyi and Tianyuan's investment here, Arkansas is becoming another center for China's textile industry, said Xu.

In welcoming the delegation, Hutchinson said, "We are very committed to making sure that the two garment companies already here - Ruyi and Tianyuan - are successful. AEDC Director Michael Preston is working hard to support them. If they have an issue, or there is something they don't understand, they get help."

Contact the writers at

Textile companies go high tech in Arkansas

Hot Topics