On February 27, clothing manufacturer Levi Strauss & Co. announced Project F.L.X., a modernized denim finishing process.

According to the company, Project F.L.X. will result in a drastically reduced time-to-market and a safer, more sustainable automated process. The project will implement the following modernized techniques:

  • An automated laser finishing system to replace labor- and chemical-intensive processes. Conventional hand-finishing processes are inefficient and potentially dangerous due to the use of hazardous chemicals. By laser-finishing jeans, the company can cut finishing time from two to three pairs per hour to 90 seconds per pair.
  • Digital finish designs using a new imaging tool, which reduces design and development time.
  • Changing the production process to move decisions on final products later down the line, to take advantage of on-demand and local production.
  • Eliminate the total number of chemical formulations in Levi’s jeans, from thousands to a few dozen. This is in line with the company’s goal of achieving zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020.

Source: Levi Strauss & Co.Source: Levi Strauss & Co.“With this new model, we can deliver the authentic and iconic products we’re known for in an incredibly responsive and responsible way,” said Liz O’Neill, senior vice president and chief supply chain officer for Levi Strauss & Co. “The advanced imaging capability is a game-changer for us, and something that has eluded our industry for years.”

Levi’s developed Project F.L.X. at their Eureka Innovation Lab, and is working with long-standing partner Jeanologia for laser technologies.

While increased automation and greater efficiency during the production process may cost some workers their jobs, this may not be an entirely negative development. Recent reports have highlighted the dangers of hand-finishing jeans, including exposure to hazardous chemicals and occupational lung diseases like silicosis resulting from sandblasting jeans.

Project F.L.X. aims to achieve the same faded finish obtained by hand finishing, in a significantly shorter time period and with safer methods.