Before I knew it, I was leaving a wet Manchester, UK, airport to the sunny, exotic land of Sri Lanka (what I didn’t realize is that it was actually monsoon season, and much wetter than Manchester).
I was off to work alongside my fellow Sri Lankan colleagues at Avery Dennison RBIS’ Biyagama site, one hour outside of the bustling capital of Colombo, and home to several of our capabilities in weaving, heat transfers, and printing.
This amazing opportunity was intended to focus the factory - versus brand - side of the business and put an External Embellishment strategy in place. Focused on the materials that sit atop garments - be them badges or heat transfers - I was working to identify paramount objectives of our customers, and how our local capabilities can service needs and create demand.
In the five years that I have been with Avery Dennison my customer meetings have mostly occurred at the brand and retailer customer level. I love this part of my job – the opportunity to visit almost any customer headquarters in the world and feel like part of an extended team. I was hopeful that the factories would be inspiring as it’s become apparent that factories are becoming more design led and innovative. Some sites come with a gym, a juice bar, swimming pool, lounge area, and even a cinema!
Meeting after meeting, factory after factory visit, it became apparent that there is growing shift in influence between our customers and their suppliers. From a previous model of customers directing style, trends and future thinking to one where our customers are looking to their garment manufacturers to develop ranges and graphics to sell direct to the consumer to save time.
In the factory, we’re now seeing:
Fabric innovation created exclusively for leading performance brands
Design/trends teams that are talented, traveled, and aware of global design and insights
Factory sites that are advanced, sophisticated, and market leading
Putting yourself in a completely different situation from your current position in life or work, I believe, helps you to understand different problems, gain differing perspectives and helps you to gain experiences that form better decision-making choices. By venturing to Sri Lanka and seeing first-hand the opportunities and challenges enabled me to form a greater knowledge of our industry, of Avery Dennison and a different culture that I respect and admire.
The key learning from my time spent in Sri Lanka is the opportunity to continue to approach the factory side of our business with a laser focus on speed. We must continue to collaborate with garment manufacturers to develop designs with their design teams, innovative with their innovation team and approach our customers with tested, go-to market solutions as a key strategy to accelerate speed and remain competitive in the market place.
Learn more about our factory capabilities here.