Monday, 9 August 2010

DAY FIVE (5th August)

The day of the boardroom...

After luxurious showers in our bathrooms open to palm trees and lizards, we had a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast at MAS Thurulie of string hoppers and dhal (and a little scrambled egg.) In the same boardroom where we ate breakfast we were introduced to the vision behind MAS and specifically the MAS Green Plant – the first purpose built sustainable garment factory of its kind.
The presentation was given by the very informed and informative manager of sustainability and communications – Vidhura Ralapanawe. He outlined the main arguments concerning climate change; the information ranged from statistics surrounding Greenland’s melt area to a cows carbon foot print to the potential displacement of over 160 million people in Bangladesh due to sea level rising. He also discussed the affect that climate change is having on Sri Lanka, resulting in changing weather patterns creating irregular rainfall and extreme weather conditions – this destroys delicate eco-systems, directly effecting crop yields.
He handed over to Hira, his deputy who explained the sustainability aspects of the green plant. She covered the materials that were used in construction, the water curtain cooling system, the structure and positioning of buildings, the use of rainwater harvesting for sewage and many, many, many more factors that help to bring the factory toward carbon neutrality through energy efficiency.
We were then given a tour of the factory, which was surreal to say the least. It soothed our factory jaded eyes seeing the idyllic surrounds. Everywhere we went the temperature remained constant, even on the factory floor where there were numerous people and machines working away due to their innovative water cooling system. All the machines are energy efficient helping to reduce the entire plants energy consumption by 40% to a factory of a similar size. The working atmosphere was very calm and pleasant because it is so in tune with nature. Lean manufacturing has increased their productivity by 30%; this helps them to recuperate some of the extra costs they incur from their sustainability practices.
So, as you may be able to tell we were very impressed. However, there is still a way to go with their raw material sourcing, waste fabric disposal and product use phase. These issues are on their agenda, so lets see what the future holds…
The next stop was Dogiefa, a part Spanish owned warp knitting factory – which makes nylon and spandex fabric for lingerie and swimwear. Their fabric ends up in a range of swimwear, from Speedo to Florence and Fred. We were shown the warp knitting machines, which was really quite amazing. Each width of fabric (or, for those in the know - beam) contained 1340 gossamer thin yarns. Before dying, the fabric is put through the holven scourer, which removes any oil from the fabric, this residue (which looks like a sludge) is then sold to a cement factory. We were then taken to their colour lab, which matches colour samples and creates dye recipes for production. The fabric is wrapped around a pipe which is then immersed in the dye, after dying the fabric is heated to set the dye and stabilize the fabric.
TexPrint was our next stop, they are an MAS company, part owned by a Spanish company (TexPrint Spain) who have been specializing in digital printing and screen printing onto stretch fabrics since 2008- they print the warp knit fabrics which are most commonly used in swimwear. Their main customers include Speedo and F&F for Tescos.
They have four different printing methods – flatbed, rotary, dry-on and digital printing.
It was really interesting to see how the designs and inspirations of the designer get turned into reality through Photoshop and clever editing to enhance the pattern so it does not distort during printing onto stretch fabric –it is then transferred into CAD/CAM software to perfect it.
TexPrint have 4 digital printers altogether and on the upper level concentrated on screen printing from big screens (up to 15 colours) because of the length of the machine beds they are put through. Before printing the fabric has to be treated with fixing paste, is printed, and then goes through a series of dryers to make the stretch fabric completely colour fast.
To round off a tremendously busy day, the last presentation was held back at MAS Holdings office, which was about the general sustainability of the whole park. We were told about the biodiversity projects which included increasing the green cover of the park from 14% to 20% by 2012, and educational projects to school children based around each of their other 32 factories, that promoted sustainable thinking.
After our interesting day of frantic information delivery, we went for a lovely dinner at the on-site restaurant. We happened to meet a selection of Nike managers from across the globe who were having training at MAS holdings park, they were celebrating an efficiency award so were in high spirits and as luck would have it they had a huge selection of karaoke tunes, beer and spirits and a very “interesting” live performer, so we fell into bed a little more chilled out and merry.

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