Global textile and apparel makers are accelerating their digital transformation amid intensifying competition from online fashion brands and booming demand for e-commerce in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic that has kept consumers at home as cities around the world went into lockdowns to curb the coronavirus from spreading.
With the pandemic upending the fashion industry, Beximco—Bangladesh’s leading textile and apparel maker—is leveraging innovative technologies to gain global market share and deepen relationships with customers in the fashion and retail industries.
“Global competition is increasing with the rise of fast fashion and digital only players,” says Syed Naved Husain, Group Director and CEO of Beximco. “Traditional retailers are under financial pressure and players such as Amazon and Primark—are fast moving and at the forefront of the digital economy and are gaining market share. Retailers that can adapt and change quickly, such as Zara and Target, are doing well, but they want to work with suppliers who can also change and adapt quickly.”
Beximco has been quick to adapt technological innovation, one of its hallmarks since it began operations over 26 years ago. The company employs advanced design, manufacturing and distribution solutions to add value to its customers’ businesses across the entire value chain. It’s a one-stop shop that gives clients best in class service with flexibility, agility and speed.
“We’ve taken a very proactive approach to the implementation of production technologies and processes that have the greatest impact on efficiency and product quality,” says Group Chairman of Beximco, A. S. F. Rahman. “We collaborate closely with our customers across the entire value chain. Beximco also invests in the education, training and skills development of all its employees, enabling them to support the production of differentiated value-added garments.”
One area Beximco has excelled in is its use of “smart fabrics,” or textiles that leverage technology for fashion or design purposes. About 45 percent of apparel companies surveyed by McKinsey in February 2020 are looking to integrate more innovative materials into their products, a trend McKinsey describes as “materials revolution.”
Beximco makes use of performance fabrics that can be engineered to integrate features such as thermal management, quick drying, extra durability, antimicrobial, odor free, or UV protection. In partnership with brands such as Zara, U.S. Polo Assn, Land’s End and Marks & Spencer, the company makes garments that look stylish for work, but wearable for outdoor and sports activities because of features such as all-way stretch, temperature regulation and reinforced seams.
3D Design Solutions
Beximco also utilizes 3D design technology to efficiently showcase samples to clients. The digital solution—developed by fashion design software firms CLO and Browzwear—enables realistic garment simulations.
Using the software, designers can make virtual samples, see how the designs fit on models and show them to buyers at different locations, without cutting any fabric. This speeds up the design process and enables the designers to save time and resources, while identifying potential issues with the fit and pattern.
“3D processes will result in reduced approval timelines and less fabric wastage, enabling Beximco’s designers to be more creative and have closer collaboration with their counterparts at the brands,” says Husain.
SmartLab New York
Beximco customers in the U.S. can even access the company’s cutting edge technology at its SmartLab in New York. Designers and product developers who visit the SmartLab are able to develop garment washes that fit their requirement on the spot, and digitally transfer their chosen wash recipe to Beximco in Dhaka for bulk production.
The company is also building a network of “urban factories” that will help designers develop and produce a small batch of orders for trials or test marketing. These facilities can make up to 1,000 pieces of garments for quick-to-market and pre-bulk-buying runs.
“This will save customers travel and shipping time and provide them with many of the same capabilities in New York as would be available in Dhaka,” says Husain. “The SmartLab New York also allows fashion design students in the U.S. to practice creating washes and looks using the SmartLab software and immediately see their designs in actual fabrics.”
Beximco’s technology initiatives help to slash manufacturing lead times and retailers’ time to market, allowing the company to cater to fast evolving fashion trends. Recognizing the firm’s capabilities, Zara Women exponentially boosted its orders with Beximco.
The company’s agility and flexibility was put to the test as Covid-19 spread rapidly last year. At the height of pandemic, Beximco quickly pivoted to make fabrics for the manufacture of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The company leveraged its existing strengths in technical fabric, sewing and large scale manufacturing to launch Beximco Health—a new division dedicated to making PPE materials for the production of surgical and isolation gowns, coveralls, as well as N95 masks. The new division built a new facility, with clean room and PPE testing lab, on the group’s 20-acre (80,900-square meter) campus in a very short period of time.
Since advanced PPE testing facilities were limited in Bangladesh, Beximco formed a strategic partnership with Intertek UK to create an on-site laboratory. The 12,000-square feet (1,100-square meter) Centre of Excellence PPE Lab conducts physical, chemical and microbiological testing, enabling Beximco to obtain PPE certifications fast. Following its launch, one of the first shipments was the delivery of 6.5 million PPE gowns to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the U.S.
“The new Beximco facility marks an important step in the diversification of the global supply chain, especially for healthcare equipment,” says Earl R. Miller, the U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh, who personally witnessed the shipment of the PPE gowns to the U.S. from the airport. “Beximco instantly saw the dangers of this dependence and invested to meet the challenge, and it’s not the first time Beximco has risen to the challenge posed by a disrupted supply chain.”