Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Sustainable Manufacturing Trip to Sri Lanka

I am currently in Sri Lanka on part of a Sustainable Manufacturing and Cultural tour with some of the students I teach on the Fashion Buying and Brand Management BA Hons course at Ravensbourne.  I decided to share my experience here on my blog daily to record the visit as a reference for the students as well as for my own readers who will also hopefully find it of interest.

We are here visiting factories and learning about producing fashion from the very first stage of picking the cotton bud through to printing and production.  We are based at MAS Fabric part situated about an hour and a half north west of Colombo in an area called Thulhiriya.  Sustainability is one of the key ethics on the agenda at MAS and they have created the worlds first purpose-built green manufacturing plant within the apparel industry which we were taken to today.

This trip crucial experience for the students who otherwise usually wouldn’t get the chance to see and experience how clothing is produced until much further into their careers.  In fact, through my own career, I have seen friends and colleagues wait years to get the opportunity to visit factories.  Without this experience, their career can often be forfeited on progressing to the next level as most recruiters and employers require their employees to have experienced and more importantly understand this process before they can get promoted within their positions.  Gaining this experience at this stage, as students, will be key in these student’s journeys to becoming professionals within the fashion industry post graduation (and something I wish I had had the opportunity to experience for myself as a student).

We started our day with an introduction to MAS holdings and how and why it was established.  We were briefed on the company which went into detail about their sustainability program including how they transform the sludge produced from excess waste that they have transformed into a brick to be used in building works which is twenty percent stronger than your usual brick!  They also went into their work ethics for their employees including making sure all employees are transported to work and get off site on busses provided with in six minutes of finishing their shifts.  We were then shown a couple of videos of knit production and introduced to the two different types of knit: Welt knit (horizontal) and Warp Knitting (vertical)

After the introduction we were taken to one of the fabric mills within the grounds and introduced to the fabric manufacturing process from fibre to fabric showing the different techniques used to create fabrics such as Spandex and Nylon.  These fabrics were being used to create swim and active wear for brands such as Nike and Speedo.  This particular mill is at the forefront of fabric technology and innovation creating unique elements such as soft seal, 3D bra wires and flocked silicone.

We then went into a factory called Trishel and were introduced to more fabric manufacturing processes.  We were shown knit machinery demonstrating the two methods of knit we were introduced to earlier.  These huge machines were connected up to hundreds of threads to create these fabrics and take a day to be manually threaded up!  One roll of Nylon and Spandex was being spun from 1700 separate threads!  We were then take through the dying process for these fabrics of which there are two methods; Beam dying and Jet Dying.

Just before lunch we went to a factory called Thurulie who are the worlds first purpose built green manufacturing plant in the apparel industry.  Everything is sustainable down to the bricks that are used to build the building being created from waste sludge from production down to using renewable energy and having a green roof which we all got to go up to and see!  It was really inspiring to see and will hopefully be the future for fashion production.

In the afternoon we were taken to another factory called Textprint specialising in printing fabrics.  We were shown demonstrations of the four separate print processes; foil, flatbed, rotary and digital.

Unfortunately, we were unable to take pictures from within the factories or share all the details but this gives a good overview of the kind of things we all experienced and learned today.

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