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Automation and innovation at the core of Focus Garment Tech’s offerings for Bangladesh apparel sector


Dec 31, 2010
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Automation and innovation at the core of Focus Garment Tech’s offerings for Bangladesh apparel sector​

Speaking to Apparel Resources (AR) on the sidelines of the Garmentech event, Managing Director of Focus Garment Tech Pte Ltd., Foo Toon Pow highlights the significance of automation for the Bangladesh garment makers as they negotiate various challenges to move up the value chain.
by Deepankar Shyam27-March-2023 | 12 mins read
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Foo Toon Pow, Managing Director (MD) of Focus Garment Tech Pte Ltd.
China shifting its focus from the garment and textile sector, has opened up new opportunities for many countries including Bangladesh, thinks
the Managing Director (MD) of Focus Garment Tech Pte Ltd., Foo Toon Pow.

The MD of Focus Garment Tech, one of the subsidiary companies of Chu Cheong Co Pte Ltd.— Focus Garment Tech Pte Ltd., deals in all kinds of industrial sewing machines and garment equipment from cutting, sewing to finishing section (One-Stop Solution) even as its business network spans from Singapore to Asia, Middle East and Africa, leveraging on its reputation for integrity and reliability — believes Bangladesh is better poised to make the opportunities in offer, thanks to its cost competitiveness even as it looks to move up the value chain keeping the future in perspective.
Here’s an extract of what Foo Toon Pow shares with Apparel Resources (AR) in a more than half-an-hour-long freewheeling conversation. Happy reading!

AR: How is the global market shaping up lately?

Foo Toon Pow: It’s a little uncertain at this point in time. I am not very hopeful about the first half of 2023. Three major territories – China, USA and Europe – are already under recession. Then there is the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. Besides there is also the fear that Covid-19 pandemic may raise its ugly head again as we have seen many times over in the last couple of years when the virus petered out only to make a comeback after mutating and taking a different form.

Thankfully, we have the vaccination against it now but the fear psychosis revolving Coronavirus is still there.

Further, in my view, the recession is not as big an issue as is the war, which is showing very little signs of ending anytime soon and there are lot of apprehensions amongst the people in Europe in general, which are impacted very adversely by the war. Then, we also have China and USA involved in a trade war. These are not very positive developments and would have a bearing on the market for sure.

However, if things turn for the better going forward, we may expect the market sentiments to improve in the second half.

We cater to all sorts of clients globally and can tell you for sure that small and medium-sized companies are struggling everywhere as there are not many orders for them even if things are a little different for the bigger companies for sure.

AR: What about Bangladesh?

Foo Toon Pow: Bangladesh is still a low-cost production hub compared to many other manufacturing destinations and as such I would say, its future is very bright. However, China’s prospects as an apparel manufacturing and export hub do not look that good and it is slowly but steadily moving out of apparel and textiles.
Consequently, a lot of orders are shifting from China and it is only going to benefit the other countries. As of what I know, Uniqlo has already shifted a significant volume of orders from China to countries like India, Vietnam and Indonesia.

As more and more buyers do so, Bangladesh, by virtue of its cost-competitiveness and manufacturing prowess, will benefit from this trend.

Besides, Bangladesh garment makers have also started to get into new exciting product categories like lingerie, jackets, etc., even as they strengthen their position in denims and knits.

AR: Labour and utility cost are going up in Bangladesh. How to manage this situation?

Foo Toon Pow: A labour-intensive industry as it is, increasing labour and utility costs are making things little difficult for Bangladesh I know and that is the only reason why many apparel makers are getting into new product categories to beat the competition and bargain better price points even as automation is gaining currency fast.

Vietnam has taken to automation like anything even though Bangladesh has a lot of catching up to do in this regard. However, in my opinion, most of the big garment manufacturers in Bangladesh understand the value and need of automation while the small and medium-level players are still lagging behind.

I would however maintain technology adoption is still in the early stages in Bangladesh and it is at the most advanced level in China, where you will find one person operating 3-4 machines. The very same thing we are trying to implement here by educating the garment makers, who do not have much of an option but to embrace automation if they are to stay relevant in the changing milieu.

AR: Has the devaluation of Taka and dwindling foreign reserves in Bangladesh impacted the technology adoption?

Foo Toon Pow: They have for sure. This has emerged as a major challenge for the industry as one cannot open LCs that easily to buy machines now.

However, dollar crisis is one issue which is impacting almost all the developing nations in varying degrees and there’s nothing much one can do about it. However, for developed countries like Singapore, it is easier to handle the situation as we have sufficient foreign reserves and can control our exchange rates to tide over the crisis.

Another issue that again is impacting technology/automation adoption in Bangladesh is the ROI aspect. On one hand, machines have become costlier, thanks to increased shipping costs while on the other, utility cost and labour cost going up is forcing the garment makers to think twice over on the issue of ROI before making any fresh investments.

But to start with, I must say Bangladesh is doing pretty good in terms of imbibing technology.
As we all know, technology adoption cannot happen overnight and has to progress step by step. Taking the same into consideration, we suggest our clients to automate one line first; see the results and then make an informed decision based on the same.

AR: How is Focus positioning itself to serve the industry in this changing scenario?

Foo Toon Pow: Bangladesh is a major market and contributes around 40 per cent of our total business. So, we are always focused to serve it better in every possible way. Our company is supplying good quality machines for more than 50 years keeping price suitable for the Asian market as we see lots of opportunities here even if many European brands continue to sell high-speed automation sewing machines here at a much higher price, whereas, we are selling ours at almost half the price with performance, which are at par with them.

What’s more, unlike many others, our focus is not just on selling the machines, we are equally concerned about after-sales service, which is the key differentiator in how one can serve the clients better.

We have a 13-member strong team in Bangladesh for servicing and have all spare parts readily available. What’s more, our Bangladesh service engineers are also helping in installation and services in other countries as well.

Thanks to the quality of our machines and equally strong after-sales service, you will be surprised to know, many buy machines from us without asking any questions because they have complete faith in Focus, its products, offerings and services.

AR: Any particular machine(s) that you think has a lot of prospects with reference to Bangladesh?

Foo Toon Pow: There are many such. Vitoni as a brand is very popular when it comes to automation, then we have Robotech Automation for suits, which I think will be of great help for the suit manufacturers in Bangladesh.

We have also come up with THERMOTRON STP 1000, a new automatic folding machine. The STP-1000 is the updated version of the successful automatic folding machine STP-950, which was globally marketed in the past years.

To the new STP-1000, Thermotron has installed state-of-the-art pneumatic, electrical and electronic systems aiming at even higher quality of its construction and ergonomics and has maximum production capacity of 5500 garments in 8 hours.

This automatic folding machine (STP-1000) folds readymade garments quickly, silently and with absolute precision and can be adjusted to fold various types and sizes of clothes, within the permissible limits.

What’s more, the STP-1000 can be combined with the bagging machine PV-40 and the Tape sealing machine KL-60 in order to create a complete line of production, thus giving a comparative advantage, coming on top in terms of speed and standardisation of bagging and having an ultimate advantage (the reduction of labour cost) as the full operation can be handled by only one operator.

AR: Any message for the industry?

Foo Toon Pow: As technology adoption and automation would be the key going forward, getting optimal benefit will also depend a lot on the skill set of the operators, for which quality education is a must. Today, if Vietnam, Sri Lanka or for that matter India is making massive progress, it is because of education and knowledge levels.

I would also request the authorities concerned to be cautious against any economic crisis as many countries including some of the major apparel manufacturing destinations are already struggling on account of the same.

If everything is taken care of, I am sure Bangladesh’s future in the realm of apparel manufacturing and exports is undoubtedly very good


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