Just a few days after the lockdown was announced in March, two factories approached a leading consultancy firm and started online training programme which was pending for almost a year since ‘professionals’ in the factories were not being able to manage time. After this training programme which concluded recently, the factories resumed work and got the advantage of these particular learnings.
This is just one example; in the last 6 months, it has been repeatedly said by the industry leaders and experts that increasing productivity and efficiency is the only way to survive in this ‘new normal’. Currently, the majority of factories are utilising very less capacity, so their professionals have time to invest in training and allied activities. But the apparel manufacturers are passing through shortage of funds, as they are already facing a liquidity crunch. As a way out, some leading consultants have come out with supporting initiatives which can be quite beneficial for apparel manufacturers.
It is also pertinent to mention here that even before COVID-19, the Indian garment manufacturing industry was not in a very good shape, be it in terms of overall efficiency, competitiveness and business opportunities, etc. ‘Industry was already in ICU’. So, one will agree that there can’t be a better time than this to improve the production level and close the loophole.
In the current scenario when things are more complicated than ever, various initiatives of consultants matter. Such initiatives include services at reduced prices, payment in instalments or later as per the convenience of apparel manufacturers. And it is good that many apparel manufacturers have taken benefits of these offerings. Rajesh Bheda, CEO, Rajesh Bheda Consulting (RBC), Gurugram, says, “If a company has the intention to introspect and improve, we are ready to support them – be it with reduced charges or paying later, provided that factories are keen to improve. Factory owners have to understand that they are losing with every passing day. Cost of all kinds of wastage is higher than the investment on improvement. So, the time is today.”
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Devadas PM, Director, EFFICIENCIE, Bengaluru, believes that such a period of unplanned ‘vacation’ is the right time to do a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat) analysis of the factory – to plan training of the staff, to look at the capabilities of the organisation, and to look at the resources and plan for the future. “Consultants can play a big role in these activities. It is the industry which gave business to the consultants. So, it is the responsibility of the consultants to support the industry in this bad time and help them to spring back. Many consultants have huge commitments towards offices, staff salaries, overheads, etc. Every consultant or staff working with them has a family and need to be supported. Therefore, the ability to give a concession in the engagement fee depends on the financial health of the consultancy organisation,” says Devadas, who has well-supported his clients in recent months wherever they needed without putting a price to it.
With a focus on World Class Manufacturing (WCM), Nimish Dave, CEO, The Idea Smith, Gurugram, has also supported factories with its Pro Bono consulting and helped around 50 companies on various issues. He avers, “There can’t be a better situation to unlearn the past and to compete globally; every manufacturer should become a world-class manufacturer. As orders from China are supposed to shift or have already started shifting, are we prepared to grab these orders with full expertise?” He also adds that the need of the hour is to unlearn and relearn which is possible only through an expert consultant.
On the other side, majority of apparel manufacturers have a different view, as they strongly feel that as of now, investing even a single penny that can be avoidable is not a wise decision. Ramandeep Singh, MD, Boutique International, Gurugram, states, “Any exporter would like to invest where the return is for sure against that investment. There is a lot of uncertainty, be it Government policy in short-term as well as long-term, and order booking situation. So working in this environment is already very difficult and the priority is to save whatever business and resources are there, rather than investing on a consultant. They mostly ask to invest in automation, etc. which is again not viable currently.”
Though a chunk of apparel manufacturers took up the opportunity to avail the offers given by the consultants, efforts are needed to increase the scale and more companies should follow similar initiatives, especially SMEs as most of them don’t have huge and automated infrastructure. Overall, it depends on factory to factory and the mindset of the top-level management, but no one can deny that irrespective of small or big, Indian factories need to increase their efficiency. Irrespective of the challenges which are there as of now or might be found in future as well, why delay the learning process further?