Today was the first factory tour day, so after leaving Columbo after a quick breakfast at 8am we set off to collect Dr Nirmali and Prabani also from UoM. We made our way to Ocean Lanka at Zone B - a governmental owned industrial park. Ocean Lanka specializes in circular machine knitting, producing cotton mix with elastane for the apparel industry.
The highlighting facts we found from a really interesting presentation and thorough tour around the factory are as follows -
Like most Sri Lankan apparel manufacturers they have a comprehensive Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy, this includes paying above minimum wage, free meals, free transportation to and from the factory and medical insurance. Ocean Lanka follow the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) base code which means they can produce Fair Trade certified fabric, they are also Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified and Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) compliant.
Whilst walking around the factory we saw every single process they conducted, from yarn storage, knitting, dyeing, finishing and effluent filtration to finalizing a commercially viable end product.
To conclude we were inundated with Sri Lankan hospitality and their amazing interpretations of Western snacks, whilst being able to ask the board members any questions we wanted!
We were very impressed with this factory, until we went to the next one, MAS Linea Intimo, which was equally impressive. We were given a short presentation, from Ivan Brown CEO of Intimo a fellow English man from Liesecter, to introduce us to the MAS way of life. MAS Linea Intimo specialise in seamless knit technology for the lingerie and active sports wear sector.
The highlighting facts are -
MAS holdings as an umbrella company who pride themselves on offering their employees many additional benefits to government set laws, including a 25% above minimum wage, free transportation to and from the factory, free meals and medical care.
Again the tour around the factory was fascinating. The factory machines reminded us of Willy Wonkers surreality of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with many different machines sucking and dropping out highly technical pieces of sports wear all around us. The intricate detailing and amazing performance enhancing sports apparel was fascinating to see first hand. We were again given an interesting interpretation of western cuisine - lasagne - which was delicious, and spicy potato croquettes. For pudding we had the most amazing buffalo curd and coconut treacle - which didn't taste of coconut but caramelised sugar - we are definitely going to have to buy some when we get to another Food City.
We were given a copy of a book that covers an MAS initiative called "Women Go Beyond" - which helps to build a community spirit focussing on training and empowering initiatives for women in the workplace - and with a working ratio of 95% women to 5% men it sounded like a great investment to us!
Ran Malu Fashions was our next stop, which specialises in hand machine knit and Shima Seika seamless knit construction who supply to companies such as Littlewoods and Zara.
Their set up was very different from the previously visited factories, with a much smaller output and market share. It was however very interesting to see 'chunky' knitwear being produced for the knitwear market, mainly using acrylic yarns and fashion yarns sourced either by the buyers or on request from them.
Their factory also employed 90% women to 10% men, and the factory operated 24 hours a day relying on shifts of 9 hours with the possibility of 3 hours overtime.
Ran Malu operate by both SA800 and the ETI base code, and although have not produced with organic cottons yet they have tried to source but have been met with demand challenges.
After a lovely cup of tea we headed to T & S Buttons, who produce polyester buttons in the Sri Lankan factory (their parent company in Hong Kong is the biggest worldwide supplier of buttons who also make Ceroso and Urea buttons - but sadly not in Sri Lanka). T&S Buttons Sri Lanka comply with OEKATEX standards and are part of the Brandix company. Although the company had a rather chemical aroma it was apparently safe and we tiredly enjoyed the tour around the production line showing exactly how they made buttons (in two different ways - if you're interested its either by a rod or a sheet process), the cutting process was very intricate and could be specified to each customers needs and engraved if necessary.
We had a delicious toffee cake and tea, before heading to Thuruli for dinner and a bed for the night, which we found to be pretty much like five star accommodation. A small bungalow chalet, with polished concrete throughout, flat screen TV and cabal, 4 bedrooms all en-suite with open aired palm tree view shower rooms, unbelievable! We felt completely spoilt and overwhelmed. But happy and content. We slept well that night!