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CEO Stretchline Holdings, MAS Fabrics
Sri Lanka retains its reputation to prevent 'a race to the bottom' and upholds the standards across the region.
Timothy Speldewinde of MAS Fabrics tells what Sri Lanka has for the global apparel and textile industry during a conversation with Fibre2Fashion Correspondent Manushi Gandhi.
Incorporated in 1987 and based in Sri Lanka, MAS is the region's largest intimate apparel supplier with 39 world-class manufacturing facilities. It has a turnover of more than 1 billion USD. Stretchline is the world's largest elastic manufacturer and is one of six best in class companies that make up MAS Fabrics.
Mr. Speldewinde is the CEO of Stretchline Holdings Ltd and Director of 5 companies within the MAS group. He joined MAS Holdings in October 1995 to start Stretchline (Pvt) Ltd as CEO and has spent the last 18 years growing with the MAS group. From 1990 to 1995 he worked with Aitken Spence Garments. He studied at Royal College Colombo and is a fellow member of the Charted Institute of the Management Accountants as well as Fellow Charted Accountants of Sri Lanka (FCA).
MAS holdings has grown rapidly over the years. According to you what is the strategy/principle that has helped you to achieve this growth?
In a saturated global apparel industry, the success of the MAS group can be attributed to an unwavering effort to always offer stakeholders something different. As a manufacturer our group has evolved over the years to become an innovation partner to global brands and a design-to-delivery service provider with a solid vertically integrated network. For example, MAS Fabrics is the world’s only complete raw material solution provider to the intimate and swimwear apparel sector. It is made up of world class facilities that produce warp knit fabric (Trichele), deploys the latest fabric printing technologies (Textprint), manufactures intimate lace (Noyon Lanka), fashion accessories (Prym), moulded bra cups (Silueta) and elastic (Stretchline).
What role Sri Lanka has got to play in the global textile industry? How can Sri Lanka’s textile industry help in the development of South Asian region?
Fragile economies and fierce competition have driven a shift to value in the global apparel industry. Despite this backdrop, Sri Lanka has retained its competitiveness over the years based on its emphasis on quality and reliability. The competitive strength of the Sri Lankan garment industry lies in a literate and skilled labour force, high quality manufacturing standards, a culture of corporate social and environmental accountability, investment friendly government policies and the benefit of strategic shipping lanes.
Being home to pioneering groups such as ours, it has also given the island a reputation for being able to meet the demands of global brands not just in terms of product but in terms of providing a solution – such as a fully integrated supply chain. Whilst other countries have attempted to mirror Sri Lanka’s framework, it will be increasingly difficult to do so given the context of globalisation, undercutting competition and escalating costs. It is therefore critical that Sri Lanka retains its reputation to prevent 'a race to the bottom’ and upholds the standards across the region.
Establishment of huge manufacturing units involves a lot of maintenance cost. Are there ways to have a low maintenance cost in the innerwear manufacturing?
The 'Lean’ concept of 'Total Productive Maintenance’ (TPM) is critical to managing costs by preventing major breakdowns. The focus on preventive maintenance ensures maintenance at each operational level and prevents long term stoppages, lost production value and capital costs. Furthermore the use of tools such as Mean Time Between Breakdowns (MTB) to analyse and forecast breakdowns contributes to the efficient running of a plant. Standardisation of machinery is another route to reducing maintenance costs as standard machine specifications and a smaller supplier base will require less resources to manage.
What is the scope for further development in performance fabrics? What are its prospects?
Innovation has no finish line and fabrics continue to push the boundaries of science. For example the development of 'smart fabrics' or 'electro textiles’ which comprise of nanotechnology sensors that measure important data about the wearers body or the external environment has opened the door for a variety of uses from sport to the medical industry. Ultimately it is the consumer who has to benefit from the technology and the need for performance without compromising on comfort and style. Given the short cycles in fashion and technology, the search for constant newness continues to widen the scope for development of performance fabrics.
How marketing for lingerie is different from that of the rest?
Lingerie is an intimate product. Quite often it’s an emotional purchase and women want to feel comfortable and sexy, so appealing to these emotions when advertising lingerie is usually the way brands approach their marketing strategy. When marketing fabric or accessories, highlighting the technology and benefits that they bring to the final end product in terms of performance, comfort, innovative appeal is key. Trends change at a challenging pace, so combining fashion with technology for comfort and performance is crucial to the marketing of all apparel products.
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