Bru Textiles Future-proofs Fabrics Business with AWS
Investing in digital assets now will open new doors for us in the future. As visual technologies become more widely used throughout our industry we’ll be poised and ready for the next stage of its evolution.”
Innovation Consultant, Bru Textiles
Bru Textiles has been a part of the fabric of industrial life in Belgium for 26 years, since its founding by two brothers with a family background in textiles. Each year it distributes millions of meters of interior and exterior furnishing fabrics globally that are made into curtains/drapery, upholstery, and soft furnishings. Until a few years ago, Belgium’s Bru carried out the sourcing and delivery of fabrics the same way it has for generations.
Bru founders Gary and Jason Neiman realized that to continue with the old ways of doing business was unsustainable-both economically and environmentally. The business needed to find better ways to grow and offer new services. Long lead times of up to 12 months for marketing and selling new fabrics constrained agility and the fabric samples sent to customers are ecologically unsustainable. The brothers recognized that agile disruptors took the lead from established companies who clung to traditions in the face of new technology and were convinced Bru had to embrace new technologies and build a digital backbone.
But how could they go digital in a tactile textile business, where many fabric sellers believe that if customers can’t touch fabrics, they won’t buy it? How could Bru create a digital alternative that provides buyers with the sensory satisfaction they were used to? After years of research, the answer came from high-quality, hyper-realistic 3D scans of Bru fabrics. These digital twins look every bit like the real thing. "As a team we’re extremely proud of the hyper-realism that we’ve been able to achieve with our digital twins," said Ben Brabant, innovation consultant at Bru. “Through the methods developed by our research and development team in Kiev it’s been impressive to see how they’ve captured the essence and texture of our physical fabrics. With our more complicated fabrics, such as velvets, we’re able to give our customers a sense of the fabric’s pile construction and multi-tone colours."
Twinbru Relies on AWS to Speed Up 3D Rendering
In June 2020, this breakthrough culminated in the launch of a new business unit called Twinbru, which has currently digitized 10,000 different Bru fabrics. Twinbru also designed and modeled 3D furniture, curtains, and cushions, as well as curated room scenes, which allow customers to fully visualize the final product in the fabric of their choosing. But the size and complexity of the 3D images, created from merging a high-quality scan with dozens of photographs of the fabric at different angles, posed challenges. Rendering the models required significant computing resources and the Twinbru team had to schedule batches to ensure they had enough compute power across five on-premises machines. The time required to render each fabric accumulated quickly and became problematic as Twinbru had thousands of fabrics to render.
Bru needed speed and scalability, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) was the answer. By accessing the on-demand computing power of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and using Amazon EC2 Spot Instances, Twinbru now renders models 400 times faster than before, reducing the total time to create hundreds of thousands of digital twins from months to weeks. Using AWS makes rendering more flexible, too, because Twinbru can fire up a new machine, or render node, on the fly, if it has a large batch of models to process. With Spot Instances, Twinbru has run up to 2,000 render nodes simultaneously, compared to a maximum of 15 simultaneous render nodes on their on-premise resources. Since migrating to AWS, Twinbru has run a total of 700,000 renders.
“AWS provides us with a highly scalable and extremely flexible infrastructure that has significantly increased the pace at which we can deliver renders,” said Brabant. “As we continue our research and development and prototype new ideas we plan to utilise AWS~ even more." To orchestrate the rendering process, Bru also uses AWS Lambda and AWS Step Functions, as well as Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for fast storage and retrieval of the large 3D images.
Digital Twins Boost Agility and Sustainability
The digital twins are visible on Bru marketing materials and the company website. Bru can now inform customers of new or upcoming fabrics without sample books and before stock arrives in the warehouse. Customers can then immediately order fabric online based on the digital twins.
Because Bru creates digital samples before the product is on its shelves, digital twins jumpstart the sales process. When Bru launches a new fabric, its customers are able to market that fabric to their own clients quicker. The length of the marketing and sales cycle has been reduced substantially. The process could usually take up to six months. Digital samples are more environmentally sustainable, too. In the next three to four years, Bru expects to reduce the CO2 produced in creating fabric samples-about 47,060 metric tons-by up to 80 percent, thanks to going digital.
Closing the Imagination Gap Increases Customer Sales
The 3D models and scenes are popular with architect and interior design customers, who use Bru fabrics for decorating hotels, care homes, and cruise ships. The digital fabrics, models, and room scenes allow them to easily showcase a variety of Bru fabrics to customers in a realistic, curated setting-and thus increase the chance of a sale. The ability to present fabrics and furniture in a digital environment also reduces costs by eliminating the need for expensive in-person photoshoots. Because of quick rendering on Spot Instances, Twinbru can provide custom models for customers as well. If a furniture manufacturer supplies a sketch of a new chair, for instance, Twinbru can build a bespoke 3D model and dress it in any Bru fabric.
Digital twins have enabled Bru and its customers to adapt to changing ways of working because of COVID-19. Fabric orders and sales have continued online, even while in-person sales calls were restricted and physical sample books delayed. Bru’s customers have been able to showcase ideas online and continue with projects, even during lockdowns.
Cost Savings and Innovation for the Future
Twinbru has reduced compute costs by 60 percent per month, thanks to using Spot Instances instead of running renders on local machines. Using AWS also improves the image quality by enabling the renders to handle dozens of frames. And because the team can fire up a Spot Instance with minimal cost, the Twinbru team can easily try out new ideas or approaches.
Twinbru is now exploring a self-service interface, hoping to allow all employeesand perhaps even customers one day-the ability to create renders in batches at any scale. “Through AWS we’ve been able to rapidly prototype and build our self-service MVP,” said Brabant.
Since the launch, Twinbru customers have been enthusiastic about the possibilities of digital twins and 3D models. For a business once held back by generations of tradition, the future now looks bright. “Launching Twinbru and working closely with AWS is about future-proofing our business,” said Brabant. “Investing in digital assets now will open new doors for us in the future. As visual technologies become more widely used throughout our industry we’ll be poised and ready for the next stage of its evolution.”
About Bru Textiles
Based in Belgium, Bru Textiles was founded in 1995 and supplies fabrics to wholesalers, architects and designers, and retailers around the world. Its premium interior and exterior fabrics are used to create curtains, upholstery, and bedding.
Benefits of AWS
- Optimized costs and savings
- Business agility
- Improved sustainability
- Faster performance
Amazon EC2 Spot Instances
Amazon EC2 Spot Instances let you take advantage of unused EC2 capacity in the AWS cloud. Spot Instances are available at up to a 90% discount compared to On-Demand prices.
AWS Lambda is a serverless compute service that lets you run code without provisioning or managing servers, creating workload-aware cluster scaling logic, maintaining event integrations, or managing runtimes.
AWS Step Functions
AWS Step Functions is a serverless function orchestrator that makes it easy to sequence AWS Lambda functions and multiple AWS services into business-critical applications.
Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance.
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