Bangladesh readymade garment (RMG) industry’s one of the bottle neck is lack of productivity. Which always hinders the industry in the long run. To train factory workers and mid-level managers to help the garment industry raise productivity in Bangladesh, The University of Southern Denmark and Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology (AUST) and recently initiated a project called “Network to Integrate Productivity and Occupational Safety and Health Improvement (NIPOSH)”.
The Denmark govt. will invest the project, which will be implemented in collaboration with the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
Rubana Huq, President, BGMEA said during the virtual inauguration of the project. “The launch of this very initiative is the first stepping stone to our pledges to the industry to move it from a basic producer to a mature manufacturer and a strategic partner of global apparel brands.”
“The improvement in productivity is important to be more competitive in the global apparel business,” Rubana Huq said.
Participating factories will be charged $200 a year for implementing the project through training up workers, mid-level and top managers, said Mohammad Monowar Hossain, Senior Deputy Secretary of the BGMEA.
RMG factories need to apply to participate, and the BGMEA will select 30 factories. Once the project comes to an end, the association will run it with the same module, Monowar Hossain said. The project will begin from January 1.
Sarwar Morshed, a professor on industrial and production engineering at the AUST and the project leader, said the outcome of the piloting in more than 50 factories was very strong.
“Primarily, 15% improvement in productivity is possible easily, and it can be raised up to 30% by the adoption of lean manufacturing and OSH program,” he said.
Peter Hasle, a professor on global sustainable production at the University of Southern Denmark, said in the garment industry, there are some challenges that impacted the value chain.
“The launch of this very initiative is the first stepping stone to our pledges to the industry to move it from a basic producer to a mature manufacturer and a strategic partner of global apparel brands.”
“The Covid-19 has also created challenges,” Hasle added.
“Increasing productivity by 25% by the next five years in the factories with almost no investment is possible,” Hasle said.
The adoption of the NIPOSH will aid the decrease of production cost per piece significantly, and this would make the factories competitive, he said.
Prof Hasle blamed poor housekeeping and inappropriately designed layout and workplaces for lower productivity and quality problems.
“It will not require heavy investment. It will require motivating the workers and engagement of the workers and top management.”
Winnie Estrup Petersen, Ambassador of Denmark in Bangladesh, said the global pandemic had created additional pressure on the garment sector.
The Sustainable Development Goal-8 calls for ensuring decent work for all.
“This project will help in creating decent work. Although this is a small project, it will benefit many people,” Petersen said.
Sales of apparels dropped around 60% because of the fall in demand for garment items fueled by income loss caused by the fallouts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Against the background and for remaining competitive in the global apparel business, the enhancement of productivity has become even more critical by maintaining occupational health and safety (OHS), industry people opined.
Bangladesh’s garment industry has made significant improvement in the area of workplace safety in the last five years by implementing the recommendations of the Accord and the Alliance and spending a few billions of US dollars, Huq said.
“We have done excellent in terms of environmental sustainability and labour standards as well. Unfortunately, Bangladesh has always been lagging in the area of productivity and innovation.”
Huq also said every year, the cost of production is increasing. The minimum wage has been revised several times, she said.
But factories have somehow not been able to enhance productivity. “This is one of the major impediments for the sustenance of the industry.”
And, especially in the event of the Covid-19 when sales of apparel been reduced by around 60 per cent globally, it has become harder for industries to survive, Huq said.
“Apart from productivity improvement, the industry also requires to focus on building the capacity of product development as historically, we are just copying the designs provided by brands. As a consequence, we always have the lower hand while negotiating prices,” she said.
She said although the local industry has become big enough to claim the second place in the world, it has not matured enough to move up the supply chain.
“Besides, we are to face the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution. The industry needs to adopt digital sampling method, 3D prototyping, circular economy, and sustainability,” the BGMEA president said.
The BGMEA is going to initiate a “Centre on Efficiency innovation and OHS” in its Uttara premises and will be working on productivity improvements, industrial engineering, product development, industry 4.0, sustainability, lean manufacturing and the OSH.