Commitment to going digital, echoing the values of Petit Bateau

Against the backdrop of a rapidly changing textiles market and facing multiple economic, societal and environmental challenges, Petit Bateau has taken a major strategic turn: in July 2021, Petit Bateau opted for an Epson Monna Lisa digital production unit.

While the most famous children’s knitwear brand has a special place in the heart of the French people, this image is reinforced by the values that drive it and guide its direction. This is the narrative of a company that has rocked our childhood for more than a century and is resolutely focused on digital technologies, by Jean-Marc Guillemet, Director of Operations.

True to its values since 1893

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most powerful: by deciding to cut the legs off long johns in 1918, Petit Bateau invented the cotton underwear that is still worn today by our children...

While it’s a fun anecdote, it is a feature of Petit Bateau’s approach: engaging with its customers to offer them products that are long-lasting, eco-friendly, good quality and timeless. These were also the terms of the demanding specifications to which Epson responded with its Monna Lisa industrial printer with pigment ink.

Bringing production in-house for full control of its value chain

Petit Bateau prints 2.5 million linear meters per year using various textile printers. Printing is actually the only production step that is outsourced, while dyeing, knitting, cutting and finishing are handled in-house.

Why bridge this gap in 2021? “  After navigating the Covid crisis that changed the sea state, we decided to refocus on our DNA that reflects sustainability, respect for the planet, and our mission: connecting children to nature”explains Jean-Marc Guillemet.  “Multiple questions were then asked: how do you manufacture as leanly as possible? How do you react quickly to changing demand? How do you combine CSR commitments and profitability? One answer to all of these issues is to go digital!



Epson Monna Lisa—without compromising on Petit Bateau values

To address this new strategic focus on digital technology, Petit Bateau has established three key objectives: print pattern quality, enhanced CSR, improved responsiveness.

In response to these imperatives and our need for support in moving to a digital process, Epson has ticked all the boxes—better than other brands on the market. Another important element: it seems to us that Petit Bateau and Epson share the same values. This is significant because the evolution of our production tool is much more than an investment; it involves a profound shift in production model that requires long-term support, which Epson is able to provide.

This support is all the more part of Epson’s approach, as the group controls all the parameters related to printing. Indeed, from the design of the Monna Lisa, its print heads, inks and ancillary products for pre- and post-processing right through to maintenance, Epson maintains complete control of its industrial solutions.

Digital printing on textiles, numerous advantages geared towards profitability

In our thought process for going digital, our primary imperative was to deliver at least the same quality and ink handling as silkscreen printing” expands Jean-Marc Guillemet.  “But, with the Monna Lisa and its 8 colours ( CMYK , grey, orange, green, red), the level of quality meets our requirements and we can even take patterns to the next level, with very good results even after 25 washes!

Another advantage provided by the digital production process is the ability to increase responsiveness according to market demand.

Using our traditional  value chain, it took ten weeks to reproduce during the season. Today, with Epson’s Monna Lisa, this time is reduced to ten days! Five days to print, five days to cut and craft.  So we're able to respond very quickly to market trends and adopt an on-demand printing model, limiting unsold items and losses and reducing risk to zero.

As a result, on-demand printing has a mission that is three-fold: to produce only what is sold, to improve the profitability of the business, while reducing the environmental footprint. Therefore, it is easy to understand how on-demand production can become a real growth enabler.

Epson Monna Lisa, a CSR commitment

Beyond the super-responsiveness made possible by producing textiles printed on Monna Lisa, integrating a digital printing solution brings other qualities that reinforce Petit Bateau’s CSR approach.

“Thus, this Epson production tool  is built into the manufacture of collections that has been the subject of a more considered approach. It also enables our teams to rally around a strategic project that is pioneering in the market and reinforces our values. The Monna Lisa therefore enables tasks to be transformed, which is motivating for Petit Bateau teams.And, if we are analysing the purely environmental aspects, let’s also remember that digital printing on textiles has a very interesting impact on energy and water consumption: 50% less electricity consumption and 30% less water consumption compared to a traditional printing process.

Monna Lisa, a project that opens up new possibilities

The integration of Monna Lisa represents a form of revolution within Petit Bateau and more broadly in the market.

Whether this concerns economic, environmental and more broadly CSR criteria, these are all arguments that support a new, more virtuous production model.

The transformation of the Troyes site into one platform for on-demand manufacturing aims to allow the Petit Bateau brand to improve its profitability and its environmental footprint, while controlling the entire value chain. It is a production tool that allows us to adapt with a great deal of flexibility. This ambitious project was made possible thanks to the “France Relance” recovery plan and has positioned us in a new global dynamic to rethink our business, putting digital technology at the heart of our solutions.

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Key facts

  • Digital textile printing has a very interesting impact on energy and water consumption:
    50% less electricity consumption and 30% less water consumption compared to a traditional printing process.

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