Our apparel industry is capable of innovation and transformation
According to a McKinsey CPO survey, Bangladesh is one of the three next largest apparel exporters besides China. However, the Bangladesh fashion industry still lags far behind China. A large part of this is because of inaction towards digitalization and automation. In fact, incorporating advancing technology is so important.
China has created an initiative called “Made in China 2025” which seeks to increase automation in the garment industry. With such a push by the leading competitor for the Bangladesh fashion industry, it seems to make sense that Bangladesh would push towards digitization, too.
But what seems to be happening instead is the herd mindset. The herd mindset is a term that describes how people will adopt certain behaviours based on emotions and influence from peers rather than on a logical basis. This mentality will hurt the Bangladesh fashion industry.
For too long, manufacturers in Bangladesh have produced low-cost basics instead of moving up the value chain to create value-added, high tech products. These products can be sold at a premium, but the herd mindset convinces manufacturers to stick to what they know -- to make the emotional decision not to move out of the familiar and into the future.
Manufacturers must consider what the shoppers want. They must be brave enough to create garments in new product categories with better materials. Doing so will increase value for the manufacturer and provide a higher end product for the customer.
The herd mindset holds manufacturers back in other ways, too. It stops you from innovation. You know you’re stuck when there have been no innovations in your business processes. If you’re still manually creating work orders or ignoring the eco-friendly movement, you are hurting yourself, and all of the Bangladesh industry.
We should not chase the lower end of the garment industry anymore. We can adopt digital technologies that advance productivity, care for the environment, and wow the world -- and it doesn’t need to come at the expense of our workers.
Currently, the Bangladesh garment manufacturing industry relies too heavily on manual production floor control systems. These systems are prone to human error, slow, and ineffective in a high-paced company.
Those with the herd mindset can come up with several reasons why the old ways work, but innovators -- those who will lead Bangladesh forward -- know that switching to a digital, data-driven system that provides executives and managers with a single view of their entire operating base is the only way to move forward.
Currently, in manufacturing around the globe, radio-frequency identification (RFID) and the Internet of Things (IoT) technology has transformed production and floor monitoring. Bangladesh does not need to fall behind.
Even a small step toward automation can exponentially help an organization. Once a company sees the amazing results of automation, it will want to continue finding cracks in the processes -- places that the herd mindset has held it back -- and transforming it for the better.
Another herd mindset that keeps Bangladesh manufacturing industry from taking the lead in innovation is the tendency to wait for the push to come from the buyers/brands. Why should we wait for buyers to push us to embrace sustainability or safe work practices? It took an alliance and accord (a collaboration of brands/retailers) for us to do the impressive remediation work that Bangladesh has achieved.
Why not take the initiative from our own side and adopt innovations not because our buyers want us to, but because we want to, because it makes economic sense for us? It is time to take the long-term approach and do the things that are necessary to be done today to keep us surviving and thriving in the future.
It is time for the Bangladesh apparel industry to break out of the herd mindset and take the bold leadership role in not being the follower but rather the leader in shaping the future of fashion and apparel industry.
We are second today to none other than China in terms of apparel exports to the world. It is time for us to claim our leadership role and show to the rest of the world that Bangladesh can be a modern manufacturing hub, not afraid of facing the future, capable of innovation and technological advancements.
Technology is the enabler that will help us transform. Trying something new, and failing and learning from failure is the path to breakthrough ideas for the future. Let’s iterate, innovate, and transform together.
Mostafiz Uddin is the Managing Director of Denim Expert Limited. He is also the Founder and CEO of Bangladesh Denim Expo and Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE). He can be reached at [email protected]