Coats wants to support BGMEA to meet industry aspirational goals through progressive investment in production capacity, innovation & sustainability

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Bill Watson is the Chief Operating Officer (COO), Asia of Coats Group Plc. since January 2022. He is shouldering an exciting and challenging role of ensuring quality, compliance, customer service, sustainability programs, EBIT, and cash delivery in all the countries in the Asia region. He is also a member of the Group Executive Team (GET), the leadership team monitoring various functions globally of Coats Group, and directly reports to the Group Chief Executive.

He leads by example on efficiency, use of multi-skill, productivity, high business performance and ethical practices, and people-oriented leadership by focusing on their development. He sincerely believes that people resource development will ensure the success of the business. He is liked by many of his colleagues and workers for his ideology and being visionary. He has achieved a lot and we wish; he will achieve more in the coming days of his glorious career and takes Coats to newer heights.

Recently Bill Watson Visited Bangladesh and Team Textile Focus had a courtesy conversation with him. He shared his journey with Coats, the current business scenario, and the future plan of the company. For our readers, the conversation is drafted below

Photo: Bill Watson, Chief Operating Officer (COO), Asia of Coats Group Plc

Textile Focus: How do you see Bangladesh market?

Bill Watson: This is my second visit to Bangladesh (the first time being in 2018). I discussed with the Coats Bangladesh team here and told them that the Western world does not know about Bangladesh as they should. People who have not visited the country will hold a completely different impression. The development pathway of the country is on the right track such as the investment in infrastructure development and government support for the businesses. You’ve got good labor at the best competitive rates compared to other Asian countries, also adequate production capacity. I believe that when the ability to do business becomes a little bit easier year by year, then you’re going to see more foreign direct investment. And this place is going to boom in all segments. So, I would expect, that it could outrun Vietnam if everything went right. Therefore, I think this has got a bright future.

Textile Focus: How are you supporting your customers to meet the industry aspirational goals set by BGMEA?

Bill Watson: We are “all-in” to support this initiative of growth and the way we can contribute is by investing properly.  We want to spend the money to further modernize and automate our factories so that when brands come here, they can find reliable global suppliers that will support them to manufacture their products that can be shipped from Bangladeshi factories to anywhere in the world. We already invested in our factories in Bangladesh to enhance capacity significantly in line with the growing demand.

Textile Focus: To you what are the current challenges in the industry and what is your suggestion?

Bill Watson: The two years of lockdown and working remotely posed challenges both on the personal and the business front. I have been traveling throughout the world over the past two months, and the world is opening again. The restrictions and regulations are coming off. One of the things that I have seen is that we have to adapt to new ways of working: such as moving to the hybrid model of working, especially for our office-based employees. This gives flexibility so that employees can work at home and they can work in the office too. Whereas we feel that working in the office every day is too restrictive, we also feel like working remotely every day means we cannot connect with our colleagues and we cannot form solid teams. Moreover, the youth wants flexibility. We just opened our office one month ago. So, everybody, after two years of being just alone, is excited to be back in the office. Post-COVID, once countries opened up to gradual normalcy, there was a sudden surge in demand and manufacturers faced the challenge of quick pivoting of ramping up their outputs. But that demand actually resulted in hyper-growth. Now with the recent challenge of inflation across the EU & USA, manufacturers facing the challenge of high inventory piling up. Manufacturers need to prepare their playbook in such cases proactively and act promptly ahead of the situation.

Textile Focus: How is the overall business scenario of Coats at present?

Bill Watson: Presently, we have manufacturing facilities in China, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and India. Our supply chain is completely vertical, all the way from fibers to finished goods. So, we think that we have the right footprint. Every year, we add to the capacities that are needed in the growing countries. So, we continue to put assets in place in all of our networks. We call it the Coats Network.  Our intention is to make the Coats network more flexible and agile for customers. Such as if a customer wants to move production from Cambodia to Vietnam, or they want to move production from Vietnam to Bangladesh, we can quickly, within a matter of hours, change and modify so that we can deliver.

For example, the Bangladesh dye house can see what the Vietnam dye houses or the Indonesian dye houses, or even the European dye houses made only 4 hours or 6 hours ago. So, we have technology that allows us such visibility and use that knowledge to make the perfect match here in Bangladesh, for our customers. So that is a technology proprietary for Coats.

We’ve also made a promise that
by 2030 our new product launches,
that come from petroleum-based raw
materials will fully move to recycled
sources. Our new product portfolios
will be centered around this promise.

Textile Focus: How Coats is providing solutions in terms of sustainability and innovative products?

Bill Watson: An excellent question! People overuse the word sustainability. They say the word, but they don’t back it up with action. I’m proud to say that at Coats, we, back it up with action. We have been striving to make each and every factory of ours sustainable for over 15 years. Such as we have set up biomass boilers in several countries; we also installed rooftop solar in several countries long before. Since the beginning of 2019, we formalized this into an initiative “pioneering a sustainable future”. We are continuous, looking at reducing energy and water consumption and reducing waste disposal. We are also very focused on employee engagement, and how to contribute to our community. We have signed up for the Science-Based Target initiative, made commitments in our factories and undertaken real reduction (across the value chain) that can be quantified. Right now, we are in the middle of trying to reduce our usage and one large component of this is water. So, we’re putting in efforts to recycle and we’re trying to reduce between 50 to 80, and even 100%. Coats Bangladesh is putting in real effort for this and we’re targeting to recycle 80% of the water. These measures in place cover a manufacturing part of sustainability. Moving on to the product part of sustainability, we have made a promise that 100% of our premium polyester products are going to be made from recycled materials by 2024.  

We’ve also made a promise that by 2030 our new product launches, that come from petroleum-based raw materials will fully move to recycled sources. Keeping up with this promise we’re building our product portfolios. Now, we have a brand of threads called EcoRegen. This is made from 100% lyocell, a biodegradable fiber derived from wood pulp that is sourced from sustainably managed forests. We are also going to launch EcoCycle, a range of water-dissolvable threads to facilitate the disassembling of garments. Coats EcoCycle is a groundbreaking water dissolvable thread concept that helps facilitate end-of-life recycling when washed at 95°C. This product has the potential to be truly transformative in driving a circular textile economy. We have recycled polyester products called Eco Verde. We are promoting and actively selling these to any customer that wants them. We are encouraging customers to consume more of these products. We have invested in building the capability to manufacture recycled products, and so we want the customers to speed up.

Photo: Coats Gazipur Factory  &  Coats Chattogram Plant

Textile Focus: You have large production plants in Bangladesh, do you have any plan for further expansion?

Bill Watson: In Bangladesh, our most recent expansion was in 2018 – 2020. We have updated our Gazipur factory into a state-of-the-art production facility. Currently, we have the space and we’re expanding it every year. We are confident that our footprint in Bangladesh is good. We have two very large factories, one in Chittagong, and one in Gazipur that are almost similar in size, and we can move production back and forth between them according to the demand. So, what we need to do is to make sure that we expand in each of these factories and then we implement all of the sustainability initiatives there so that it can be a factory of the future.