We’ve seen Levi’s step up to the plate technologically speaking before. In recent memory they’ve partnered with Googles Project Jacquard to come up with a smart fabric which turned into a jeans jacket of debatable functionality. It turns out the company has no problem turning to technology in order to assist in the day-to-day jeans making operations of the company as well. Levi’s has started using lasers to achieve the worn finishes on their jeans in a move with quite a few positives, even with the reduction of human labor involved.
The laser system for distressing jeans isn’t anything new. A Spanish company called Jeanologia was founded back in 1994 and they created the tools that do the heavy lifting. Levi’s isn’t their only client, with other jeans makers including Polo, Hilfiger, and others.
One of the main benefits for this system is, of course, speed. The lasers can distress a pair of jeans in around 90 seconds, as compared to a worker who would take upwards of 20 minutes. The lasers are also cleaner and more environmentally sound. Jeanologia touts a huge reduction in the amount of water needed for a similar number of distressed jeans, and Levi’s claims that the new system will significantly reduce the number of chemicals needed for their jeans making processes.
While it’s obviously sad that those doing the manual distressing will be out of work under this new system, this isn’t exactly the best sort of job to have in the first place. Sitting on a stool in front of a mannequin, using sandpaper and chemicals, giving themselves repetitive stress injuries from doing the same thing over and over for hours at a time, doesn’t sound great to me. Hopefully Levi’s will figure out something else for these workers to do though, it still stings seeing workers replaced by robots even if the work being replaced doesn’t seem like the best.