Bangladesh's apparel manufacturers are increasing the use of modern technologies to boost productivity, deliver products on time and meet demand for finer products from global retailers and brands.
Some local fabrics manufacturers have even gone one step further, as they are using robotic technology and machinery.
Envoy Textiles Ltd (ETL) is one such denim fabrics manufacturer which is using robotic machinery to raise output and improve the quality of products.
“The use of robotic technology ensures higher productivity and good quality of yarn. Although the initial investment in sophisticated technologies is high, at the end of the day it is feasible for us, thanks to increased productivity and improved quality,” said Kutubuddin Ahmed, chairman of Envoy Group.
The world's first platinum rated LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified denim factory, ETL installed the robotic machinery in its spinning section in October last year to bring sophistication to yarn production.
The company, set up in 2008 in Bhaluka, produces four million yards of denim fabrics a month and employs 2,400 people.
Apart from using many other latest machinery for spinning and weaving, ETL has employed 14 robotic autoconers in spinning and rotor at its Bhaluka factory to produce 55 tonnes of denim yarn per day, said Kutubuddin Ahmed, chairman of Envoy Group.
The company has jumped on the bandwagon of the latest global trend in manufacturing of spinning of yarn from long ropes of cotton in the finest possible way.
“If yarn is torn during the spinning, the robot will instantly piece it together and thus continue the production without interruption,” said Ahmed while explaining the benefit of robotic technology.
“Such kind of finer job by human touch is almost impossible. If it is carried out manually it takes a lot of time and a lot of people to perform the task,” he said.
Usually, a machine and more than 10 workers are needed to do the tedious job, which also causes loss of money and time, according to an operator of ETL. With a robotic machine in place, a single person is enough to oversee the production process as everything is automated, said Ahmed. However there are some experts to operate the system.
The chairman of ETL, a listed company, said he is using sophisticated machinery in every stage of the production at his factory.
The company plans to set up a denim garment manufacturing plant in a year either on ETL's premises or near the denim spinning and fabrics manufacturing plant to produce clothing items from its own fabrics.
The company will invest more than Tk 50 crore in the proposed factory. Currently, ETL supplies yarn and fabrics to local and international buyers.
The company exports yarn and fabrics to more than 10 countries such as Egypt, Sri Lanka, India, Germany, Indonesia, Kenya, China, Turkey, Cambodia and Nepal.
Ahmed, one of the pioneers in the rope denim industry, said the future of denim business is bright globally thanks to changes in fashion and style. However, denim is also facing challenges from other apparel products.
He said the denim industry in Bangladesh would grow further as new entrepreneurs are entering into the sub-sector with big investment plans. Currently, Bangladesh has 30 denim mills with annual production capacity of 435 million yards and the total investment is more than $1 billion.
Annual demand for denim products is 800 million yards and the number of denim garment factories is 530 in Bangladesh. The size of the global denim market is more than $56.20 billion and is expected to reach $64.10 billion by 2020.
Bangladesh is the largest denim exporter to the EU and the third largest to the US. Denim export is expected to fetch $7 billion a year for the country.