Textile and clothing technologies cover various production and development processes on textile fibres, yarns, fabrics, as well as advanced manufacturing and design techniques on garments. They are key enabling technologies to help manufacturers upgrade and improve their capability, produce innovative products, and enhance production processes and support services.
The textiles industry – comprising spinning, weaving, knitting and finishing of fabrics – had a total of 544 manufacturing establishments as of December 2015, employing 3,386 workers, or 3.4% of the local manufacturing workforce. Hong Kong’s textiles industry is a major supplier to the local clothing industry which is the third largest manufacturing employer in Hong Kong, with 796 establishments hiring 5,773 workers as of December 2015.
The local textile and clothing industry has over the years developed various enabling technologies in the product design, development and production processes. After the implementation of CEPA, a wide range of textile and garment products can be exported to the Mainland free of tariff. On the other hand, the complete removal of the quota system in 2005 under the WTO Agreement will bring enormous changes to the industry. To meet the challenges ahead, the local industry needs to build on its existing strengths and develop innovative, high value-added products.
Hong Kong has a strong R&D base in textile and clothing technologies. Local universities and technology support organizations have successfully completed many R&D projects that have brought enormous benefits to the local industry. New technologies will benefit various sectors of the textile and clothing industry. For example, advanced garment technologies could enable the development of intelligent systems to enhance production efficiency and product quality. With regard to textile materials (e.g. fibers/yarns), nano-materials and related processing technologies can be applied in the processing of smart and intelligent materials and the production of novel yarn.
Moreover, advanced 3D fabric design and simulation system can be used to analyze fabric construction and function. The analysis results would be useful for the production of sophisticated design and functional fabrics for high-end markets. The development of dyeing and finishing technologies would also help manufacturers add innovative coloration and finishing effects to common fabrics.
Strengths and Opportunities
Over the years, the ITF has supported many projects in textile and clothing technologies. Local universities and the HKPC have developed R&D strengths in different areas including -
- materials technologies such as nano-materials and related processing technologies, and smart and intelligent textile materials and garments;
- dyeing and finishing technologies such as new coloration and finishing technologies, electrolytic indigo dye reduction system and plasma surface treatment system; and
- garment technologies including the worlds first sweating fabric mannequin "Walter" for evaluating the functional performance of garments. Other projects include 3D laser scanner, computer-aided garment pattern design system, e-manufacturing system, and flexible manufacturing system that aims to help manufacturers upgrade their production quality and capability.
The global market for high quality garment products is expected to grow. Therefore, there will likely be an increasing demand of functional garments, and innovative and smart textile materials such as nano-fabrics/garments.
Risks and Weaknesses
The quota system has been abolished in 2005. Local textile and clothing manufacturers need to re-position themselves and explore new niche markets. With regard to technical competence, Hong Kong is not strong in fabric technologies and lags behind the US and Europe in 3D fabric design/simulation and innovative fabric evaluation.
To meet the challenges in the globalized economy and the removal of WTO quota system, Hong Kong's textile and clothing industry should adopt new and innovative technologies to excel in high value-added manufacturing. Hong Kong has a strong R&D base in textile and clothing technologies and there is overwhelming industry support for establishing an R&D Centre in this area. Most organizations and companies in the textile and clothing industry have pledged support for the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) to host the Centre, with some industry players committing substantial financial support for R&D projects by the Centre. With funding support from the ITF, the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textile and Apparel (HKRITA) was subsequently established by the PolyU as Hong Kong's R&D Centre for textile and clothing in April 2006. Details of HKRITA can be found here.