Versatile Manufacturing

Ex-Pack Corrugated Cartons takes on the ‘new normal’ with renewed strategies

Q: What changes have manufacturers experienced in the last 12 months or so?

A: With the business fallout experienced in the financial and manufacturing segments, COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of life; it is the ‘new normal’ humankind must live with for the foreseeable future.

Manufacturers have accommodated many changes such as new health and precautionary requirements to protect the workforce.

This directly impacts costs as physical distancing and additional protective measures have reduced pro­ductivity levels on the factory floor.

The drop in revenue amid declining sales from export markets has made cost optimisation a priority in terms of energy and human resources, and other cost drivers. Overall, there are negatives created by the pandemic but it has helped us focus on trimming costs and being more aware that we cannot rely on a stable en­vironment in the field of manufacturing.

As a positive, we now think on our feet – by facing challenges head-on and being versatile when handling issues.

Q: How important are innovation and product development in manufacturing?

A: For any manufacturing operation to remain competitive, innovation and new product development are vital.

End consumers seek high quality and convenient products at the lowest possible price. Therefore, manufacturers face an evolving challenge to enhance quality levels, and bring innovation and creativity to their products, while maintaining the lowest cost. Being innovative, creative and efficient throughout the entire value chain is the name of the game.

When manufacturers provide innovative products, they offer clients a different experience. This produces a competitive advantage that can sustain, consolidate and expand market share.

Q: Are Sri Lankan manufacturing companies doing enough to foray into new markets?

A: Many local manufacturers have had a measure of success in exploiting emerging markets.

Sri Lanka is blessed with natural produce such as tea, spices and fisheries. Additionally, it manufactures high quality garments, porcelain, ceramics and other industrial products. Innovative businesses are now taking these traditional exports into new and emerging markets.

However, there are immense opportunities yet to be tapped in the international arena. We tend to miss opportunities by failing to address the specifics of expanding into new or emerging markets. Opp­ortunities that are missed will never come our way again as regional competitors are quick to step in and fill the void.

A collective approach is needed to exploit opportunities. Industrial alliances, trade chambers and other collectives must work together in a cohesive manner, while government facilitation through ministries and institutions will play a major role.

Q: And finally, what lessons can local manufacturers learn from their global counterparts?

A: Sri Lankan manufacturers can be competitive and meet international standards by adopting a more scientific approach to manufacturing, and focussing on R&D, knowledge sharing, technology, automation and waste reduction, through which productive output will be increased among the workforce.

Zulficar Ghouse