Who’s going to lead the way to a more circular economy?
GUESTS FOR CHANGE WITH PETER KRAEUTLER
“For me, today, I am still learning. It is a fantastic journey to be faced with the many challenges of the industry, reinventing yourself again and again. I have enjoyed it so much which is why I have built a brand new factory at the age of 60 - I always like to go to the next level. But I need the younger generation because they will drive it in the near future.”
“Young people grew up in a different environment,” Peter Kraeutler, CEO of Transfertech, shares. “They have the tablet, the telephone and instant data availability. For my generation, in the 60’s, you did everything by hand and through a manual process. The younger generation is very good with these new tools.” Having been involved in the textile and apparel industry for the last 40 years, he has proven that he has the agility to move with the times. Now, he is taking confident strides, integrating the innovation that Industry 4.0 offers into his business. Transfertech uses sublimation printing, which you can read more about here, to produce apparel on a made-to-order basis. However, it extends beyond this, as his business and communication systems have become connected in a digital highway to simplify the processes as much as possible. He notes that there is a huge, untapped potential for the younger generation to showcase their technical skills within this sphere, coming to the forefront of the revolution to take the lead.
“I just put out a brand new factory,” he continues. “It is quite big and very advanced. We want to transform from the old garment industry into the future with advanced technology. Here is where the younger generation plays a very key role. I work very closely with them, to develop an ownership mentality. With this mindset and visualisation of how we are going to integrate this new and advanced technology into the business across all aspects, the customer side to the manufacturing side, we are going to sustain this business for another 30 years. If you do not invest in new technology, your business will not survive.”
Going forwards, it is crucial to invest in both new technologies and the youth. Fostering an ownership mentality by way of his mentorship, the younger generation will be equipped to develop a certain approach, instilling the confidence and ability to deal with responsibilities, behaviours and so forth. While the younger generation may have the technical know-how, they lack the hands-on approach that Peter's generation has managed to cultivate in the absence of advanced technology. Peter shares, “Students that come from good universities can sometimes underperform because they rely too heavily on the computer. They fail in dealing with people. They ignore the human factor in the supply chain and lack communication skills - not interacting with them and shying away from a hands-on approach. Within this, they lose competence. But we need both parties to be very open-minded. The older ones need to open up and onboard the younger ones.” Indeed, while the youth may lack experience, they can offer the technical know-how to the elder generations, while the elder generations may guide and give experience-based input from a more hard-skills perspective. This is something that excites Peter, and that he enjoys working with.
“I love to work with the younger generation! They are dynamic and they are motivated because they see a future for themselves - and this is rewarding for me. You see, in the beginning, a lot of hard work is required to succeed. AI will play more of a role, data will get better and intelligence systems will start synching more to replace previous jobs. So it’s essential for the younger generation to not shy away from a hands-on approach in the industry - just as the older generation needs to open the door for the younger generation to bring their ideas on board, identify opportunities for the future and how can we achieve this. Young people will need to drive this. It’s between a business concept and a technological impact where the younger people will play a key role. When these two things come together you will create a dynamic company that will exist in years to come.”
It is so important that as we embark on a journey to becoming better - with strong leaders who hold a deep sense of ownership to not only tackle the existing problems that exist but pull other stakeholders and individuals towards solutions. Again, Peter comes back to this notion of ownership over the outcome, through leadership.
“It’s all about leadership. Someone has to take the lead with circular implementation. With my team, we emphasize the customer side and the supply chain of our raw material to be fully integrated into this system. We challenge them! We say, ‘Look how far we have advanced with our technology!’ We pull them in, almost like a vacuum, to get sucked into the supply chain. For example, for us, it is a fabric supply chain. So everything is going to the common ground of data efficiency, communication and collaboration. Collaboration is key in basically producing premium products and being a top performer. So we have a very close relationship from raw materials up to our customer base. It’s almost like a triangle - we have tight connections to optimise what is possible, including initiatives of sustainability, helping the environment and energy saving.”
There has never been a better time to collaborate and communicate as we try to solve the climate crisis. Collaboration, leadership and holding people to a higher standard form the crux of Peter’s approach to implementing more circular systems. It is this perspective - from supply chains to inter-generational communication - that has made him a pioneering force in the industry. And it is not just about the fashion and textile industry in isolation, in his view, “All industries should be on the table and make a really big map. What is the main source of damage in the world and really pinpoint it all out?”
Peter points out that although the fashion and textile industries have been labelled as one of the main culprits when it comes to climate change, there are many other players involved. From brands to consumers. Asking us: “Should we eat so many hamburgers? Should we drink so much milk? Methane is 120% more toxic than carbon dioxide? Really all industries should be on the table - to really pinpoint those areas that have greater impacts? From this, we can see where the heavyweights are.”
“Should we eat so many hamburgers? Should we drink so much milk? Methane is 120% more toxic than carbon dioxide? Really all industries should be on the table - to really pinpoint those areas that have greater impacts? From this, we can see where the heavyweights are.”
The influx of data is overwhelming as we look towards the future, however, if we harness this data coupled with collaboration, leadership and an ownership mentality - the possibility to embark on a more circular future seems more possible. The question is - who is going to lead the way?