Integrating excellence

Ranil Pathirana

The importance of quality cannot be underestimated when customers are voting with their wallet for high quality or the perceived lack of it. In a competitive global market environment, maintaining and delivering a quality product or service is a given if the company or business is to be sustainable.

Ranil Pathirana says: “In apparel manufacturing, Sri Lanka has a proud record of producing quality products for many years and catering to reputed global brands. This preferred status as a country, which is an apparel manufacturing hub and a sought after supplier to leading brands, could not have been sustained without continuous awareness of the end customer’s expectation of quality products.”

Despite various internal and external pressures, Sri Lanka has sustained its focus on quality, which has gained it a reputation for manufacturing high quality products with ethical business practices.

“It can get extremely challenging to maintain quality when faced with price and margin pressures. Most manufacturers have to invest in the most advanced technology and machinery on a regular basis, to help the manufacturing process achieve speed and the consistent quality of a product,” he notes.

In fact, Sri Lankans’ skill sets in apparel manufacturing have a proud track record with many locals working in key global export hubs such as Bangladesh and Vietnam, where they are employed in senior positions and contribute by sharing their knowledge and expertise from back home in Sri Lanka.

Embedding a mindset of quality consciousness is a continuous process and requires sustained attention. In manufacturing, the company needs to instill quality by ensuring that each and every stakeholder is aware of the value of producing a product that will leave customers delighted and satisfied.

Further enhancing their standing among buyers, factories have to focus on innovation, as well as offering superior product development and design resources. The ‘Made in Sri Lanka’ label is now synonymous with quality, reliability, and social and environmental accountability.

Sri Lanka is the first among seven apparel manufacturing facilities in the world to be awarded the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum rating, setting a global benchmark for green apparel factories. Sri Lankan apparel’s definition of sustainability incorporates its entire production, human resource and supply chain processes.

Pathirana adds that training and development of all associates in a company would be an ongoing year-round process for organisations that pride themselves on cutting-edge quality products. In the final analysis, it’s as important to instill a sense of pride in Sri Lankans about the specialised skills they possess and the way in which they can leverage this capability to gain a global reputation.

“In order to build a reputation for Sri Lanka as a quality manufacturing hub across many sectors, not just apparel, a long-term plan and vision from the country’s policy makers about what we want to achieve are needed. More importantly, a buy in is needed from the political leadership so that no ad hoc policy changes are made thereafter”, he contends.

Pathirana feels it’s important that the private sector and policy makers work together, to support and nurture the industry to achieve its long-term goals – with the development of necessary infrastructure and elimination of any obstacles – for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Sri Lanka’s apparel exports of US$ 488 million in January this year topped the pre-pandemic 452 million dollars of January 2019 – the highest in five years, according to the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF). The industry has set a target of eight billion dollars for apparel exports by the year 2030.

Ranil Pathirana is a Director of the Hirdaramani Group