Made In The USA (By Robots): China Opens 'Sewbot' Factory In Arkansas, Producing Shirts For 33c

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Mike Shedlock via,

A Chinese T-shirt company is setting up shop in Arkansas, lured by U.S. sewbots and lower production costs. It will cost about 33 cents to produce a shirt.

Please consider China Snaps Up America’s Cheap Robot Labor.

“Made in America” will soon grace the labels of T-shirts produced by a Chinese company in Little Rock.


By early 2018, Tianyuan Garments Co., based in the Suzhou Industrial Park in eastern China, will unveil a $20 million factory staffed by about 330 robots from Atlanta-based Softwear Automation Inc. The botmaker and garment company estimate the factory will stitch about 23 million T-shirts a year. The cost per shirt, according to Pete Santora, Softwear’s chief commercial officer: 33¢.


“Around the world, even the cheapest labor market can’t compete with us,” Tang Xinhong, the chairman of Tianyuan, told the China Daily about the factory in July. The company, one of the biggest apparel makers in China, supplies Adidas, Armani, Reebok, and other major brands.


The garment industry has been slower to automate than others, such as automobiles and electronics. Developing a robot that can match the dexterity of a human hand to manipulate and stitch fabric is an expensive proposition, Santora says. Stitching a dress shirt with a breast pocket requires about 78 separate steps. Tricky, but such a bot is coming, says the chief executive officer of Softwear Automation, Palaniswamy Rajan: “We will roll that out within the next five years.”


Still, many garment makers are reluctant to move away from China. Over the past two decades, the industry has built up an extensive supply network for yarns, dyes, fasteners, zippers, and trimmings. China is still the world’s largest exporter of garments, with an annual value of $170 billion, says Xu of the apparel council.


One T-shirt factory isn’t going to change that. But after tariffs, duties, and shipping costs are factored in, the case for shifting production to the U.S. from emerging markets is a compelling one, Santora says. Meanwhile, as robots become smarter and market access becomes more important, poorer nations that counted on manufacturing to climb out of poverty—as Japan, Korea, and China did in the decades after World War II—will have to offer more than cheap labor.

The goal is to produce 23 million t-shirts at 33 cents each, about one shirt every 26 seconds.

It’s rather difficult to compete against 33 cents when shipping and transportation costs are rolled in.

The factory will create 400 human jobs.

Deflationary productivity increases are just around the corner in manufacturing and driverless transportation. The Fed will not like them when they happen.

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ET's picture

Now that's progress.

More time for leisure pursuits while robots do the work.

The smart money knows that robots need minerals and energy. So that is where the investment money is headed.

BullyDog's picture

MAGA - Making automation great again.

Erek's picture

33 cent shirts? With the right logo those shirts will go for upwards of at least $70.

bfellow's picture

There is about 31.5 million seconds in a year, so at 23 million shirts a year, it's a bit quicker than 1 shirt every 26 seconds. Who fucks up on basic math this bad? I guess the author ran out of fingers and toes.

gmrpeabody's picture

Soon, these bots will have voting rights...

Oh regional Indian's picture

The machines are coming and the human is dying. Handmade, natural fabric is a whole other feeling. HEre, th efabric is also optimized for machining.

We are losing while being made to think we are winning....

ParkAveFlasher's picture

Once these futuristic machines are put in place, why, we may just have an easy-going lifestyle that would surely rival the late 1800's. 

We might even have live music to enjoy, and one parent could stay home to give the children a loving environment.

In fact maybe we would afford children again.

My goodness!  Maybe we'd have all necessities within walking distance.

We could even afford leisure pursuits and travel. 

Spare wealth may just be accumulated in precious goods.

I can even have furniture not made by Ikea.

Sounds like a Great Leap Forward!!!!

Belrev's picture

3D printers will put these robots out of business in no time. Everyone should buy one of these printers for their home use.

sushi's picture

I bought a 3D printer and used it to print a T-Shirt for my GF.

She said it tickled a bit when printing around her nipples but the final effect is stunning. She gets looks and compliments where ever she goes.


Funn3r's picture

Hi I'm a 3D rocket engineer, for my research paper can you upload some photos of how you overcame the er nipple problems? 

two hoots's picture

The social upheaval in poor nations will likely create civil wars as the have's and have not's is far easier to discern.  It will happen much quicker there than anything disruptive in the US which is mostly a small percentage of the population that can and will be quickly put in place as and when  necessary.   Social upheaval mixed with a nuclear capability is dangerous business for all.   Life will be most interesting in the next 20-25 years as things can errupt quickly.  The US has problems but nothing compared to what these poorer nations and their easily excited populace.  

To sit back and complain about an obvious future is a voluntarily step to the poor house.  One must either get in the game, get their kids in the game or face the consequences of government support.....for as long as it and the patience of taxpayers last....which is a changing and less sensitive/caring idea.

God Emperor's picture

No problem.

There will always be a robot to snuff the have nots. Droning them poor suckers snd nobody will give a hoot while you control the media.

SilverRhino's picture

Walking drones with a VR overlay so encompassing teenage kids and stalk and kill targets in the 3rd world country thinking they are aliens / bad guys in a rubbled urban environment.   


Mineshaft Gap's picture

Voted you up for fine socio-economic IQ with this quibble.

Following closely in the wake of your upheavals, AI and robot tech will be cheaply available, widely distributed, easily hacked and drastically repurposed.

Tomorrow's "easily excited populace" will have unusually rich options for redress.

Which means, of course, so will malcontents in more "stable" societies.

Divided States of America's picture

This is great news. Hopefully lots of women wears these cheap boT-shirts and with the fucked up weather and more storms will mean wet t-shirts all day everyday.

yomutti2's picture

THis is good news. THey forgot time to market as another compelling factor. Shipping a boatload fo shirts from China to the US doesn't cost much, but it takes a long time. 8 weeks isn't uncommon in my experience.

The Ram's picture

So, help me here.  If tons of people are losing their jobs, who is going to be eventually puchasing and wearing the shirts?  Are we going to outfit the robots?  At least Henry Ford knew that the workers he employed would be purchasing his product.

ET's picture

There will be EBT cards for t-shirts.

RAT005's picture

That's the deflationary angle, T-shirt prices will drop down to <$3.

ParkAveFlasher's picture

FRN are actually arcade tokens. 

You have an EBT card already, although it might say "Visa".

"Dollar" is simply a license to buy goods up until a limit, based on your estimated / calculated ability to pay.

It is not money.


Anonymous_Beneficiary's picture

Very true.

The FRN is actually emergency currency. It's original purpose was to be elastic currency that could be first created and then redeemed or extinguished when the emergency had passed.

The ongoing national emergency has never stopped, however...even despite congressional efforts to do so.

Herp and Derp's picture

Everyone will work at Walmart so they can get the employee discount obviously.

RichardParker's picture

Ford paying high wages so workers could buy his product was a progressive myth.

He was forced to pay workers well to stem astronomical employee turnover. The work was very hard and the conditions were lousy.

Jay's picture

The money that's saved by consumers can now  be spent on other things. Employment will increase wherever that saved money goes. As an example, the internal combustion engine and other technical advancements allowed farmers to grow many multiples more food per farm worker. This caused food prices to plummet and droves of farm workers lost their jobs, but the money saved on food caused booms in thousands of other areas. That's where the farm workers went.

Theeconomist's picture

You can already buy T-shirts for $1.59 retail.  Those shirts were made in guatamala and shipped in.  No American jobs will be lost.

Cephisus's picture

A European Parliament committee has voted in favor of a draft report that proposes granting legal status to robots, categorizing them as “electronic persons”.

The draft report, approved by 17 votes to two and two abstentions by the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs, proposes that “The most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons with specific rights and obligations, including that of making good any damage they may cause.”

shovelhead's picture

Persons of Silicone, please...

Not robots. We find that word disparaging and insensitive.

Decay is Constant's picture

That's racist!  You are ignoring those persons of rubber, latex and plastic let alone those of metal.

Wait til the robots start fighting among themselves because one is different from another.

tmosley's picture

Presumably the author was assuming an 8 hour workday, rather than an around the clock schedule.'s picture

"Presumably the author was assuming an 8 hour workday, rather than an around the clock schedule."


The robots must be serviced and reloaded with raw materials on a regular basis.  Service and reload.  Hmmmmmm...

tmosley's picture

I would presume that the resupply would be fully automated, as that is the trivial part of the operation.

Highly doubt they need 16 hours worth of service every day. They can just shut one machine down for service as it needs it.

Mr 9x19's picture

31 557 600 seconds per year.

for a single production unit it equals 1 t-shirt every 1372ms


considering 26 seconds /u imply full lines of units and a consequent maintenance time.


Ajas's picture

Just google: 23000000/330/365/24 => 7.956 shirts per hour, per machine.  Seems reasonable.

U4 eee aaa's picture

That fast and the robot will need a smoke break

Cephisus's picture

There are not 31.5 million seconds the a work year.  Subtract Holidays, Sundays, maintenance shutdowns, etc...

Got The Wrong No's picture

Do Robots celebrate Holidays and take Sundays off to worship? 

K_BX's picture

maybe they increase capacity/productivity during the year

mrtoad's picture

Maybe they factored in down time like changing needles, thread colours, machinery maintenance etc...

SD Bob Plissken's picture

The Bloomberg article kind of implies that one robot will produce a t-shirt every 26 seconds, so multiple robots will do it.  If they do not do something like that, they won't beat China costs.

alt-center's picture

I assume they have multiple robots...

spastic_colon's picture

they will have the amazon logo..........

Looney's picture


Next thing you know, Johnny-Fives start unionizing and demanding union-pay and benefits.   ;-)


Blue Steel 309's picture

The meme that assembly line workers are the most economically important part of production is completely absurd.

The residuals, wealth creation, and infrastructure are why you want the factory in your country, regardless of how many low skilled people it employs.

You need maintenance, support, logistics, and infrastructure to run even a robot factory. And don't forget construction.

Xena fobe's picture

All labor will be provided by Chinese with infrastructure paid for by tax payers.

BullyDog's picture

enough of the pop ups, double posting like made here.  meh

tmosley's picture



Hahaha, you guys are doomed. Energy is going to be BTFO by thorium fission and fusion in the next few years. As a result, mining will become nearly free.

But keep stackin! Not just silver, but accumulate lots of oil longs too!

ET's picture

Silver is used in photovoltaic cells for solar energy and in many electronics.

tmosley's picture

So is sand. Go long sand!

ET's picture

I bought shares of SAND (Sandstorm Gold) for around $3 per share.

It is $4.66 per share now. I own more than 9000 shares.