LEED Platinum certified ‘Echotex’, a role model Bangladesh factory

Abir Basak       
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Textile and Apparel industry is a pride of Bangladesh, which has become the driving force of the national economy today, after walking on a short scale from the 1980s. About five thousand factories have been built in this sector alone. Entrepreneurs are awakened to establish new industries now. Over the time, the tag ‘Made in Bangladesh’ has been spreading from one corner to another of the world. Lots of companies are working with pride to preserve this acquired reputation. And by connecting with that continuous success, Echotex Limited, an England-Bangladesh joint venture LEED Platinum certified knit composite industry, has been contributing to the domestic economy. With the advancement of technology, the combination of the latest machines and designs, the ready-made clothing here is meeting the needs of foreign buyers within short lead-time.

Figure 1: Echotex factory located in Gazipur, Bangladesh.
Figure 1: Echotex factory located in Gazipur, Bangladesh.

Recently Bangladesh Textile Today team visited this company to know its vertical growth and fruitful contribution to the country’s textile and apparel sector.

History

EchoTex-9In 2008, the factory was developed on 15 acres of land in the Chandra-Pollibiddut area of Gazipur, near Dhaka aimed at making quality clothing. Nearly one and a half decade ago, Echo family started its journey with a Buying House named ‘Echo Sourcing’ and its activities were conducted from London, the heart of international business. And then, there was a branch office in Bangladesh for Dhaka operation and monitoring. In the early years, they worked at different factories in the country because there was no manufacturing plant in the country of Echo Sourcing. But later, due to increasing demand for special items of buyers and considering the direct involvement with the domestic economy, Echo Sourcing started its operation with garments section by setting up its own plant named Echotex Ltd. The Managing Director of the company Mr. Shafiq Ul Hassan is known as ‘Green Apparel Maker’ in textile community. He has been running Echo Sourcing, an outsourcing British-Bangladesh apparel company with his British partner Para Hamilton since 1996. Hamilton, chairperson of both Echo Sourcing and Echotex, supervises and directs product designs, developments from the Echotex’s London office. On the other hand, it has also another branch office in Turkey. Workers and stuffs’ welfare is the main priority of the company’s corporate social responsibility where the main commercial tagline or motto of this company is Planet, People and Product.

Achievements

In March 2017, Echotex Ltd. gained LEED Platinum certificate from United States Green Building Council (USGBC) with score of 86 which made Echotex as the most environment friendly or green factory in the Bangladesh. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification is a rating system that reviews a factory’s green initiatives such as sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere conservation, materials selection and resources, indoor environmental quality, innovation, regional priority and integrative process credits.

To get a LEED Platinum certificate, one company must score 80 or above out of available 110 points. USGBC also gives Silver and Gold classified certification which score range are systematically 40-49, 50-59, 60-79 if to fulfill their requirements. Apart from the ISO, IMS, ACCORD, Echotex received the “National Environment Award” by the Directorate of Environment and Forest of Bangladesh Government and another certification from Dhaka Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry as environment friendly factory in 2010.

Industry scenario at a glance
Authorities have emphasized on the safety of workers since the beginning of the factory construction. Authority believes that workers and stuffs is the foundation of a company. They are the heart of a company. Multiple emergency protection stairs of 100% compliance have been set up with each infrastructure of the industry surrounded by the natural environment. In total, the number of stairs is about 18. In 2013, 250 world class NINZ (Italy) certified fire protection doors are installed helping to ensure safe business practices. 25 percent of the total area of the factory is opened, no infrastructure is built there. Indigenous and different species of trees have been planted. There is a huge open field and big lake in the factory premises and the lake has greatly enhanced its beauty here. This lake water can be used for fire extinguishing. The company is very conscious about the energy saving. So power saving LED Lights and maximum day lighting are used in every section.

Two-storied dye house building of the factory is made of steel, which is capable of 7.8 magnitude earthquake. There is a spacious corridor, besides the newly constructed 8-storey administrative building. Washing is very important for dyeing and printing. It needs lots of water. Large water tanks have been built across the bottom part of the Water Treatment Plant building. There are 3 crore 20 lac million gallons of water to be reserved. The maximum use of natural sunlight and rainwater harvesting can meet the internal demand. It is possible to meet the needs of 7 days. Separate buildings for boilers and chemical warehouses. Waste treatment and water treatment plants are in the opposite of dyehouse.

Figure 2: ETP inside the Echotex Limited.
Figure 2: ETP inside the Echotex Limited.

The company has already established ETP (Effluent Treatment Plant) with the Ozonation-bacterial system for the treatment of liquid waste generated from the factory to maintain environment friendly values to the European standard since its inception. 33 lac liters of waste water are treated per day keeping ETP run in 24 hours. This initiative of Echotex Limited has received praise from everyone including the Government of Bangladesh very quickly.

The factory is monitored by an addressable fire detection system. More than 2000 smoke and heat detectors have been fitted to detect fire in any compartment. Full premises and sheds are inspected by Close Circuit cameras.

Figure 3: Workers in front of the factory building during a fire drill.
Figure 3: Workers in front of the factory building during a fire drill.

Echotex has a very strong administration and management system, which looks over entire mill regularity and irregularity and ensures the industrial labor law. For relaxation of the workers, the entire mill is oriented with musical system so that the workers do not feel bore in the working time.

Shafiq Ul Hassan, Managing Director of Echotex Ltd. said, “Planet, people and Products are key to us. If we do not protect these first two sectors, we cannot produce good products. We are committed to place environment and the welfare of our team members before profit. Our ambition is to become the country’s first zero discharge garment manufacturing facility and to ultimately revolutionize the way textile waste is handled. The company won the hearts of buyers for quick delivery of orders. One can always do more and we will continue to strive to do more in future.”

At present, knitting, dyeing, finishing, printing (digital all over and screen) section, chemical lab dip, physical lab, research and development, knit washing, 10 storied of garment section are available in the company. More than 12,000 people have been employed here. Echotex, 100% export-oriented sustainable green factory is currently working with world-renowned buyers, including Europe based Swedish giant H&M, Sainsbury, Primark, New Look, Zara, Bershka, Vernar, Debenhams, Fatface, Lindex etc. Newly designed and ready-made garments are meeting the needs of these clients. Echotex brings Robolab machine to reduce physical labor and time. Using this machine to prepare the dyeing sample’s stock solution perfectly takes less than half the time and more importantly efficiency and performance increases significantly. The factory’s monthly production capacity is about 35 million pieces of clothing items.

Figure 4: Production capacity of Echotex’s different production facilities.
Figure 4: Production capacity of Echotex’s different production facilities.

Product Range:
Echotex can produce and process high quality knit fabrics in different constructions within the weight range of 60 to 350 GSM.

Knitting: Single jersey, slubbed jersey, twilled jersey, lacost, pique fabric, rib, interlock, fleece etc.

Dyeing: All kinds of dyed & finished fabrics.

Printing & AOP: Digital inkjet print, transfer, screen print, discharge, flock, metallic, glitter, puff, foil, pigment etc.

RMG: Basic T-shirt, polo shirt, long sleeve, sweater, tang tops, ladies &kids knitwear and all kinds of knit apparel.

Garments washing: Acid, stone, indigo, burnout, vintage, silicon, crystal wash, pigment dyeing, dip, tie, fluorescent, gel pigment, foam dyeing, oil dye, samba dyeing etc.

Worker security and amenities

The factory has the facility of labor-intensive work. Because of having good company policies and management, no worker’s unrest is occurred in the factory premises before. Many workers have been here for the last several years. They did not have any attitude of changing the company. It is mandatory to use gumboots, gloves, goggles and other PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for health protection of workers. To ensure free medical care for workers in any accident, there are medical clinic and day care for worker’s children. The fire drill is held in every month. They have own rescue team.

The company aims to provide a proper balanced diet for all workers. Each day company cooks hot and fresh lunch for 12000+ employees free of cost. Breakfast will soon be introduced in addition to lunch. These meals not only improve the health of workers, they ensure high productivity in return. Along with maternity and paternity leave, there is a provision of the provident fund for the workers. On November 15, 2017, Echotex has signed a healthcare contract with Public Health Center (Gonoshasthaya Kendra) at a cost of several crores to ensure the health of all workers, organized by the international development organization named ‘SNV Netherlands Development Organization‘. This contract signing ceremony is done under the ‘Health Insurance Pilot Project’ for RMG workers in Bangladesh. This project is being implemented with the financial assistance from Weave our Future (WoF). Under this agreement for the next four years, Gonoshasthaya Kendra will provide all types of medical services and facilities, including ensuring the better protection of sexual, reproductive and the basic, secondary health services to the workers of Echotex Limited.

Aminul Islam is a worker has been working in Echotex for seven years because of good facilities. When asked, he said, “The factory environment is very good. Labor hours are fixed, daily 8 hours. The salary-allowance of workers is given within top 7 days in a month. Company gives also staff bonuses based on performance and attendance. Having better opportunities than other factories, I have been working here for more than seven years.”

Company worker’s lives are not limited to only work, eating and sleeping. Various types of sports and competitions are running throughout the year. One day of the year, usually in the last week of January, is celebrated as the foundation year festival. Depending on the quality of the workers, they are given reward to be encouraged. The authorities have made arrangements for travelling overseas as well as quality training and workshop courses to make the staffs skilled.

Figure 5: Workers are busy with their regular task.
Figure 5: Workers are busy with their regular task.

Machineries and technology
Echotex is trusted globally for meeting the quality standards of international brands with innovation, precision and speed. They satisfy their customer’s demands with their most complex design requirements, delivering the finest garments with dedicated modules with extreme satisfaction. That is why they use world class brand machineries and equipments. In knitting section, Pailung, Lisky, Mayer & Cie auto stripe, Flat bar knit machines in total 66 are being used. Data color- spectrophotometer, robolab dispenser, James H. Heal bursting, ICI pilling tester, Martindale abrasion tester etc. are used in lab dip and physical lab in dyeing and finishing section. They choose brand Sclavos from Greece, Fong’s from China, Bruckner from Germany, Cornio, Icomatex, Ferraro, Fabcon, Mahlo etc. machinery for their dyeing and finishing section.

Figure 6: World class brand machineries and equipments are used in Echotex factory.
Figure 6: World class brand machineries and equipments are used in Echotex factory.

To get higher proficiency in digital AOP and screen printing section, management have been using ReNOIR sublimission, calendar (continuous heat press) machine, loop steamer, Octopus (M&R) etc. since few years. For knit wash, branded classy dip dyeing, tie-dyeing, Tonello, Naga Sung etc. are nominated.

There are 12 sewing lines in each floor of garments section and each line consists 34 different branded such as Juki, Brother Machines. Quality department uses 4-point system to find out spots. Eighth floor is oriented with CAD room and automatic and manual knife cutting section. CAD software is from Optitex and Plotter from MASTtech.

Figure 7: The turnover update of Echotex during the last few years.
Figure 7: The turnover update of Echotex during the last few years.

Future plan

Echotex has invested about $ 2 billion in textile sector. At present, the company’s annual turnover is about US$ 100 million. Target is set to reach US$ 150 million within 2018. Keeping in mind the demands, yarn dyeing, all over printing, athletic sportswear, warp knitting, beam dyeing sections are under construction. In future plans, the denim project, technical textile, a separate sweater factory have been kept.

Recently, a joint research agreement has been signed among the Institute of Radiation and Polymer Technology (IRPT) of Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, an expert from Cambridge University and Echotex so that a decision has been adopted to make ‘Zero Disposal’ sludge (contaminated chemical waste) in the radiation system through electron beam. This sludge will be used later in the production of organic fertilizers and biogas, which can be used in agriculture without damaging the environment. On the other hand, the water that is available after refining from updated ETP will be so pure that anybody can drink it and used in dyeing, washing, garden and bathrooms again. This will reduce the pressure on ground water. Besides, research is going on for dyeing without salt, soda, scouring.

When asked about the company’s working conditions and future goals, Mohammad Abdur Rahim, Head of Dye House of Echotex Ltd. (Textile Operation) said, “Keeping in mind the fire protection, every building in the factory has been designed in such a way so that everyone can work safely. Moreover, with the help of modern technology, we reduce the carbon emission levels and use the environment friendly materials to produce the best quality garments. Buyers have been very satisfied and confident on our works as we have achieved several certificates including LEED Platinum.”

“We are getting a lot of response from the buyers for giving order in the eco-friendly factory. From the beginning of production, we have to give maximum importance to quality. We have massive pool of high skilled and creative strong professional merchandising, IE, designing, marketing, materials sourcing and R&D team. Various diversities is being brought to the costume alongside different product developments under the Research Department,” he added.

Figure 8: Mohammad Abdur Rahim, Head of Dye House of Echotex Ltd. (Textile Operation).
Figure 8: Mohammad Abdur Rahim, Head of Dye House of Echotex Ltd. (Textile Operation).

“There are huge scopes of expanding country’s textile market in the world to achieve US$50 billion by 2021. Only we have to follow up that with proper planning and strategy. New market sourcing is essential for us to acquire the target. We have to emphasize to produce sustainable woven, smart textiles, denim, printing sector etc. Besides gas-power, port, transportation efficiency also have to be increased”, he said.

Only Rana Plaza or Tazreen Fashion does not represent Bangladesh’s garment sector. When Bangladeshi factories are being blamed for low infrastructure, bad industrial set-up, inadequate compliance, bad working environment Echotex Ltd is an example for all. Many factory owners and new entrepreneurs are coming forward for greener industrialization. Bangladesh’s position is now at the top of the world’s garment factories. In the case of environment-friendly factories, the best seven of the world’s top ten have been established in Bangladesh. More than 170 factories will be added to this list. It’s a great achievement of the country, matter of pride. Therefore, it could be said that the country Bangladesh is the role model in the world for green industry and Echotex is one of the leaders in Bangladesh.

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