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Young leaders for sustainable and efficient innovation in apparel industries

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The apparel industry has seen great many changes since it’s initiation in Bangladesh and more so during the Covid-19 pandemic which has greatly transformed consumer behaviour. With the industry changing fast and efficiency being more necessary than ever, manufacturers are leaning towards innovations that are sustainable, eco-friendly as well as efficient. In a webinar titled "Bangladesh Apparel Youth Leaders Bold Take on Innovation" organised by Merchant Bay in Digital Trade Week 2020 young leaders talked about how innovation is key to the industry evolving.

Mahmud Group Director Rafee Mahmood talked about how adaptability to innovation is just as important as introducing it. Citing their own factories as examples, he showed how they created a versatile product chain that is able to cater to flexible orders and produce quality products with efficiency while being eco-friendly. He suggests utilizing the human capital and the resource available to the maximum and constantly developing and reorganising the process. According to him, the scope of technological innovation in the apparel industry is unprecedented and what’s important is using the ones that are environment friendly as well as having facilities that are compliant with software and hardware with the right people to manage them. He showed how their factories are using green technology to save water, electricity and chemicals and reduce production of carbon waste. He said that since the buyer behaviour has altered due to the pandemic, there will be changes in the purchase where buyers will give data driven orders rather than in bulk and he suggested adapting to 3D technology to speed up sample making.

Meanwhile, Aquib Jafri Sharif who is the project coordinator of Northern Toshrifa Group focused on integrating the innovation with the existing project and incentivising workers to increase efficiency. He talked about how their factory introduced Logic E.R.P Systems, Rescue and Power B.I systems, payroll software and their own human resource software to increase productivity and efficiency. He talked about how they have adapted to the rescue system, a cloud-based software for quality management that has reduced defect rate from 8-9 percent to 5 percent in two years. He said that the system helps improve production quality, remove wastage as well as save money. He also pointed out their green initiative, the NDGHRIS software which allows the employees to apply for leave through the cloud, thus reducing paper waste. Aquib Jafri Sharif emphasised on the importance of collecting real time data to be used in the future in order to increase efficiency.

The word innovation perhaps sounds expensive to the manufacturers’ ears but Broadway Group Deputy Managing Director Sakib Ahmed disagreed. He said that while big manufacturers are adapting to innovation, medium and small-scale manufacturers are unable to make investments in tech-savvy machines. According to him that shouldn’t be an obstacle because innovation is in the mentality and they can still adapt. He suggested innovating production floors like Northern Toshrifa Group did, by introducing a production dashboard that churns out hourly data on efficiency. He added that introducing technologies like that as well as environment friendly ones do not require big investments but go a long way in increasing efficiency. He also emphasised that it is about time manufacturers come out of the mindset that innovation can only be brought from abroad. He suggests looking into the Bangladeshi software companies which are more cost efficient. The panellists all focused on the bold technologies that they adapted to in order to make the apparel industry more innovative. According to them sustainability, efficiency, reducing manpower, having the right set of skilled workers and incentivising them is the best way for apparel manufacturers to adapt to innovation. 

Merchant Bay

This article is prepared based on a webinar session titled ‘Bangladesh Apparel Youth Leaders Bold Take on Innovation’ held on October 19, 2020 in Digital Trade Week 2020, organized by Merchant Bay. Panel: Rafee Mahmood, Director, Mahmud Group. Al-Shahriar Ahmed, Managing Director, Adzi Trims Ltd. Sakib Ahmed, Deputy Managing Director, Broadway Group. Aquib Jafri Sharif, Project Coordinator, Northern Toshrifa Group. Zarin Rashid, Head of R&D and Director, TRZ Garments Industry Ltd. Moderator: Abrar Hossain Sayem, Managing Director Merchant Bay

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