Safety, Health & Environment the Perfect Trio for a Succesful Garment Factory


♦Safety, Health & Environment the Perfect Trio for a Succesful Garment Factory

(Suresh C. Babu, Senior General Manager (CMD & Projects) Gokaldas Exports)

Suresh C. Babu, Senior General Manager (CMD & Projects) Gokaldas Exports, who has worked with companies like Shahi Exports before taking up his post with Gokaldas Exports, throws light on how can effective changes could be brought into a garment factory. While it is important for a company to follow practices for high quality, workers’ safety, compliance and sustainability cannot be ignored. In a chat with Team Perfect Sourcing, Suresh highlights the areas where manufacturers need to focus on, for instance, workers safety through the use of uniforms, face masks and high quality tools. Besides proper utilisation of resources like water and electricity, he also suggests that exporters be vigilant of existing policies of the Government and derive benefit from them to expand and grow.

Excerpts from the interview…

PS:  You have been part of apparel industry for many years, how has the industry changed and evolved in terms of technical compliance and updating?

Suresh:  The garment industry in India has evolved from a zero-compliant industry to a fairly compliant industry. There is greater focus on matters such as social issues, factory working environment, labour relations, compliance and codes of conduct. For example, safety has become a primary concern. In the initial days, workers didn’t wear PPE’s such as finger guards/eye guards/gloves/masks/ear muffs. Today, all of our workers do. Poor use of tools and tackles due to lack of education and training of maintenance personnel used to be an issue of concern, which we addressed successfully. In the earlier days, only power and boilers fell under statutory board, but nowadays, even lifts and DG’s need statutory clearances. Today, concern for the environment and depleting resources like water has increased.

PS:  Which are the most neglected areas in a garment factory and why?

Suresh:  SHE- Safety, Health & Environment is one of the most neglected areas in our industry:
▶Not using appropriate PPE‘s such as facemasks, earmuffs and hand gloves are a major health hazard.

▶Poor housekeeping, sanitation facilities, storage system, closed environments, insufficient ventilation and light and clean drinking water are some areas that must be looked into.

Waste Management is another area which is ignored:
▶Best practices are not followed when disposing off waste such as process, structural, electrical & electronics waste, ETP/STP sludge, etc.

The non-compliance of the above are because of insufficient corpus and awareness on the two issues and also due to poor deployment of trained and certified personnel.

PS:  Today India is competing with a lot of countries. Govt has reduced subsidies on exports and cost of labour is definitely a big area of concern; in such a scenario how can a garment manufacturer run a garment factory profitably? Is it a very big challenge and if yes, how can it be resolved?

Suresh:  India’s apparel sector plays a vital role in the economy in terms of exports earning, employment generation, poverty alleviation and empowerment of women. Manufacturers must focus on the quality of their products, increasing efficiency and productivity, reducing rejection percentage, 100 percent shipment by sea, multitasking of operators and process automation by using advanced technology. Optimal usage of resources/ materials without wastage should also be achieved. Manufacturers must be aware of areas where government policies are in favour of the industry and stay alert for upcoming opportunities.

PS:  What, according to you, are the five most important areas that need upgrading or improvement in a factory?

Suresh:  1. SHE, Safety, Health & Environment - Strict enforcement of guidelines provided by the Factories Act with respect to fire fighting, safe work place, lighting, provision of proper PPE’s, etc.

2. Technology & Innovation – Manufacturer must strive to become more automated and reduce dependency on labour.

3. Environmental Sustainability – Creating awareness of the effects on the environment and formulating a plan to minimise the same.

4. Worker Training – Identification of skill of maintenance personnel through a skill matrix and providing training.

5. Workplace Discipline – Introduction of workplace organisational techniques such as 5S can increase efficiency and productivity as well as improve discipline and the work space.

PS:  Where do you see India’s apparel sector in the next five years and why?

Suresh:  India’s apparel sector is gaining momentum due to growing demand and fashion consciousness of people. With the Chinese shifting their focus more and more towards technology and the Indian government working to improve exports by introducing favourable measures and schemes, the industry is set for a big boost in the coming years.

PS:  If Gokaldas Exports planning some expansions, or new factories in the coming year

Suresh:  Yes, the company is planning to expand in Andhra Pradesh.

PS:  If you have to identify six areas where a garment exporter can get good returns and profits if he invests therein, what would they be and why?

Suresh:  1. Investing in best CAD/CAM machines in cutting section can reduce manpower, fabric consumption, rejection and also help stay competitive in the market.

2. Identify regions with government subsidies on land, water, power and reduced minimum wages

3. Investing in Eco-Boilers can save huge money as existing boilers use HSD, furnace oil, briquette and fire wood, all of which are quite expensive.

4. Investing in LED lights or sky lighting can reduce power consumption.

5. Using Variable Frequency Drives in compressors, boilers, ID/FD fans, washing machines and other high rated motors will save energy.

6. Investing in real time tracking systems of production – RFID/ Barcoding technology

PS:  What type of products is Gokaldas Exports working on?

Suresh:  Gokaldas Exports is popular for its jackets. Currently we produce all kinds of jackets, work wear, tops/ bottoms/ outerwear/active wear for men, women and kids as well as denims.

PS:  Could you please share some tips to achieve manufacturing excellence?

Suresh:  Focussed improvement activities like 5S, lean manufacturing system, Total Quality Management (TQM) and Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) will bring about new perspectives on how to run a garment factory.