In 1962 Masahire Seima built the prototype of a fully automatic seamless glove knitting machine but it was considered to be difficult to put into practical use and incurred large debt.
Thirty years later, in 1995, his company Shima Seiki presented the commercial version of a textile machine that could produce an entire garment without seams, using only the amount of yarn required to knit that item, thus reducing labor and material loss associated with cutting and sewing processes, saving substantially on waste.
They called it WholeGarment.
It was unveiled at the unveiled at the International Textile Machinery (ITMA) exhibition, the machine was described by SWG (Sächsische Walzengravur) as “The Magic of the Orient”, able to knit a single sweater from yarn in only 30 minutes.
During the next twenty years, at the Innovation Factory, which was set up in 2016 as a means of establishing a new production system for the Japan-based fashion retailer to utilize Shima’s latest knit production technologies, the machine was improved to give greater productivity and efficiency, flexibility, reliability, and expanded patterning capability as well as product range.
One innovation was the Slide Needle, (whereby a slider mechanism replaces the conventional latch, expanding possibilities in knit and transfer, with increased number of knitting techniques.
In 2002, a no-plate ink jet printing machine “SIP-100F” was developed, and a “Total Fashion System” based on “SDS-ONE” strengthened the cooperation between “SIP” and “P-CAM,” contributing to a revitalization of the industry, helping to optimise inventory levels and reduce consumption. In 2017 Uniqlo teamed up with WholeGarment to launch a collection which featured items to redefine quality knitwear at affordable prices.
As part of factory greening, Shima Seiki has a large-scale solar power generation system at each factory and are promoting the reduction of energy consumption. They have also planted approximately 12,000 trees, outside their factories making approximately 30% of the site “green space,” and contributing to CO₂ reduction.
Some major customers are Max Mara (a fashion designer brand) and Paola Martignoni (an Italian knitwear manufacturer).
In the financial year to March 31 2019, Shima Seiki Ltd sold 1,521 machines worldwide. Liu Jingyuan, an analyst at Goldman Sachs who follows sales of WholeGarment in Asia, forecasts that annual sales will be roughly double that in the financial year ending March 2021. The main bottleneck, argues Mr Liu, will be parts shortages rather than final demand.
In September 2019, Shima Seiki was selected by the Cabinet Office public relations office of the government of Japan as one of several innovative companies effectively undertaking Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined by the United Nations as a global agenda.
What you can do: Buy and wear a WholeGarment.
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