The Sunday Leader

Three-day International Conference on Apparel Industry begins

The three-day International Conference on Apparel Industry focusing on Productivity Improvement, Disruptive Innovation and Leadership began today, February 7 at the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel in Colombo.

The event was presented by the Monash Business School, Monash University, Australia; Joint Apparel Association Forum (Sri Lanka); WMG, University of Warwick (UK); University of Moratuwa (Sri Lanka); Postgraduate Institute of Management (PIM), University of Sri Jayewardenepura (Sri Lanka); University of Dhaka (Bangladesh); Institute for Manufacturing, Centre for Industrial Sustainability, University of Cambridge (UK); and the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

Globally, 60 million people are employed in the apparel or garment industry, with around 15 million employed (largely women) in factories located in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Asian manufacturers supply a very large proportion of the garments imported by retailers in developed countries.

Competitive advantage for the Asian apparel industry has been primarily based on cheaper inputs, low cost production due to cheap labour and strong traditional skill base. However, this is beginning to shift to now developing a competitive advantage based on rapid responsiveness to meeting specific customer needs, high levels of productivity and innovation capability.

Productivity improvements, disruptive innovation, effective leadership, sustainability and ethical production have become key concerns not only for manufacturers and their major global customers but also for other stakeholders involved with the apparel industry including governments, NGOs, investors, logistics and supply chain solution providers and other members of the global apparel supply chain.

Transformation of the Asian apparel industry is crucial for it to move up the value chain by incorporating more value-added activities in terms of front-end design, research and development, etc. The application of advanced manufacturing, communication and supply chain technologies is essential for the future. The apparel industry needs to recognise the challenges and opportunities with respect to ‘Industry 4.0’ and what the industry will look like in 10 years’ time.

This conference is designed to bring together researchers, practitioners (retail executives, manufacturing executives and first/second tier suppliers) and policy-makers from around the world to focus on the following topics (among many other topics):
Day one of the conference was held today at the Cinnamon Lakeside Colombo, with the following four main sessions:

Session 1 was the keynote presentations on the topic: ‘Current status of the global apparel value chains and productivity improvement’.

This session addressed the question: ‘How do we maintain productivity and agility (customer responsiveness and business model agility) in a digitized world?’

Presenters were: Prof. Jan Godsell, WMG (Warwick Manufacturing Group), UK; Faruqur Hassan, Senior VP, Bangladesh Apparel Manufacturers and Exporters Association; and Shakthi Ranatunga, Director – Group Human Resources, MAS Holdings, Sri Lanka.

Session 2 was a panel discussion session on the topic: ‘Disruptive Innovation: Industry 4.0 and the Apparel Industry’.

This session addressed the question: ‘How do we capitalize on the opportunities the new digital economy (Industry 4.0) offers us to improve competitiveness for manufacturers in the apparel industry whilst ensuring the transition towards a rewired economy?’

It was a panel discussion session including: Dai Forterre, Australia Post and Politecnico di Milano; Samath Fernando, Chief Information Officer, Hirdaramani Group; Prof. Shibli R Islam, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh; and Prof. Edward Buckingham, Monash Business School, Monash University.

Session 3 was a case study presentations: ‘Case examples of excellence in the apparel industry’.

Presenters were Ms. Vidiya Amrit Khan, Director – Desh Group of Companies, Bangladesh; Felix A. Fernando, Chief Executive Officer / Director of Alpha Apparels Ltd. and Sirio Ltd. and Director – Omega Line Group; Ms. Mariella Noto, Linking Threads, The Netherlands; Ms. Sharika Senanayake, Director of Sustainability, MAS Holdings; Suneth De Silva, Central Sustainability Team, MAS Holdings; and Rajesh Paramjeet Jain, Principle Associate, TATSAT VENTURES, Advisor, National Handloom Development Corporation, Ex-CEO, Biba Apparels Pvt Ltd., India.

Session 4 was another panel discussion session on the topic: ‘Developing leadership capability for the future’.

This session addressed the question: ‘What capabilities are needed to lead the transition to value-adding manufacturing in the apparel industry whilst ensuring sustainability?’

Panelists were Dr. Mark Johnson, Warwick Business School, UK; Ms. Sadaf Saaz Siddiqi, Director, Eske Clothing Limited, Bangladesh and Ishan Dantanarayana, Group Chief People Officer, BRANDIX, Sri Lanka.

The three-day conference is organized by Monash University, Australia with the support of a number of local organisations and sponsors.

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