Salim Akhter Khan, Director, Textile Division, Echotex Ltd.
Sustainability continues to be a key concern, and companies are rising to the challenge of reducing the impact on the environment of their manufacturing processes. The performance apparel sector seems to be particularly innovative and conscientious regarding all three key aspects of sustainability People, Planet & Economical Perspective. When technology is changing very fast and giving us almost no response time, it is a time to be strategic and being proactive.
In global market or RMG export Bangladesh holds the 2nd position by exporting 33 Billion USD. But we hardly speak about how much we are making profit this days. Plenty of industries already became sick and many are about to shut down. Only the best will survive. Following are the few areas that the industry has to explore to attain sustainability in the near future.
One major area is the Industry 4.0 which is the use of modern control systems, have embedded software systems and dispose of an Internet address to connect and be addressed via the Internet of Things. This way, products and means of production get networked and can ‘communicate’ via the Internet of Things and related technologies, enabling new ways of production, value creation, and real-time optimization. Cyber-physical systems create the capabilities needed for smart factories in Textile & garments Sector. Industry 4.0 is the information-intensive transformation of manufacturing (and related industries) in a connected environment of data, people, processes, services, systems and IoT-enabled industrial assets with the generation, leverage and utilization of actionable data and information as a way and means to become smart industry and ecosystems of industrial innovation and collaboration.
Our major export figure is driven by fast fashion and they cover more than 60% of the entire business. Their business model is designed in a way so they only care about their profit. Every year they are coming with a reduces price for Garments industry where as our expenses of running a factory is increasing, mainly salary worker, cost of energy, and corruption cost is on the rise. One side our profit is dwindling and another side cost is increasing and it is going to be worse in upcoming days and these brands are looking for alternative markets in Africa, in Myanmar and other countries. Retailers, Brands must be taken responsibilities for the social & environmental cost of cloths, shifting business practices in this way cannot Only way to excel in these scenario is to work for high value product or add value in the existing products, This is the time to innovation in management as well as entrepreneur must understand about fashion trends. I have been working in this industry for last 20 years including the very best of the industries, I have applied technique like Six Sigma, 5S, lean management in the factories and achieved results.
Another upcoming challenge is the adoption of new technology, only automation of sewing line in garment process can change the entire game in the RMG industry in Bangladesh. In last six years the amount of research and advancement is made in data science and machine learning is in extra ordinary level, we are already in the process of fourth industrial revolution, Where machine will be given intellect and will help human to make faster correct decision, Newer technology will yield more production. It is the time we need to make sure all our resources (machine, method, people, management system) need to be utilizes in its full potential, this is the only way we can reduce cost, produce better product and excel in RMG sector.
Innovation & value addition will be our future business trends if we really come out gradually from basic items , diversification of products & innovation of fabrics have to be major areas for Bangladesh to keep investing & building expertise as well , functional fabrics ,smart textiles, sportswear, active-wear, work-wear will be more demand to sources from other than china so we may take this challenges to develop our human resources , technology adaption & management thoughts to produce locally & reduce lead time ,another issues most of the factory are running with low capacity utilization due to factory owner has been increased their capacity unplanned way end of the day merchandiser is taking order to run the factory with minimum price whereas most of the big-discounter & retailers are taking this advantages, even we don’t have any strong design team who will represent or meet world class fashion trends, now most of the retailers are willing to have factory based design rather depends on their own created design only for cost curtail, last couple of years few factory have taken this initiative to introduce design team which is not up-to the international level , we have lack of negotiation skill to negotiate with buyers, from the inception period of my job I have been working on resources optimization, economies of scale, scope of economies, product diversifications, efficient & effective way of material handling & productivity with minimum footprint (less cost, less chemistry, less water, less GHG emission, less steam & less energy etc.) , if we control water consumption (say average water consumption is 70 liter if we reduce by 45 liter) & having with good quality of yarn we will have multiple types benefits even 1 batch per/day/machine we can increase productivity that’s meaning in place of average 2.25 lot/machine/day straight way we can enhance production to 3.25-3.5 LpMpD. Yarn is another important part of product quality most of the low quality cotton Yarn is coming from India with low price optically but process loss is gone up than local yarn ultimately fabrics quality is deteriorating & price is going up. We never know our actual capacity, to what extend we can go, this is our continuous thoughts process, polyester is the most popular fabrics used for fashion, but when polyester garments are washed in domestic washing machines, they shed microfibers that added to the increasing levels of plastic in our ocean, these microfibers are minute & can easily pass through sewage and waste water treatment plants into waterways, but because they don’t biodegrade, they presents a serious threat to aquatic life. Small creatures such as plankton eat microfibers, which then make their way up the food chain to fish and shellfish eaten by humans.
Another thing is almost all factory does not have proper & functional planning departments to drive the business efficiently. Our factory owners need to be more focused strategic planning must be establish good governance & corporate practice to make business more sustainable, BGMEA, BKMEA, ITET, with other professional body along with government must be taken initiative to establish policy about fair price or minimum FOB/CNF garments price to be sealed based on international garments price to stop unhealthy competitive to bite the same piece of cake, off course we must be more competitive, we are also not in a position to negotiate with buyers to bargain that’s meaning incapability in our marketing, I would like to draw our Newly Appointed Respected VC of BUTEX to address how we can prepare our education system more fruitful which will be aligned with our practical business demands & trends instead of just theory based syllabus. More than 5 lakhs so called expert from different country specially India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan are working in textile & Apparel sector taking approx. $5 billion as salary from our country as remittance every year which is also a big threat to our Economy.
What I believe, opportunity comes with problem. If you have proper knowledge and apply them appropriately still it is possible to sustainably make business in this strict conditions. Our industry is badly in need of these transformation leaders who will take the lead roles to bring the required changes and manage business in bad times.