Tuesday, 27 February 2018

International Networking: An Industry Visit in Bangladesh

Tahira Resalat, SELA Cohort 2017

‘Never be afraid to pursue things,’ and ‘Be a self-starter. A go-getter,’ are two of the many simple and yet exceptionally profound things SELA guest speaker, Gareth Griffiths said during his talk. There was something very fitting about Mr Griffiths being our final guest speaker of the semester in that he inspired me to end my year on a very productive and positive note. Following his talk about how important he thought networking was, not only within British and European companies, but globally also, I decided I wanted to gain some international experience over the Christmas holidays.

As an engineering student, one of the many dilemmas I face is the choice between working in industry or going into research. After Mr Griffiths’s talk, I decided to consider composite factories in Bangladesh, as I had plans to visit my dad there anyway. We had only just covered an in-depth module on composite materials on my course and I was intrigued to find out more about their manufacturing and application in the textile industry, a sector on its forefront in Bangladesh. I managed to get in touch with the assistant general manager (AGM) of GMS Knitting Composite Ltd and arranged a visit to the factory.

1. Meeting with the Assistant General Manager

Upon arriving at the facility, I got a chance to sit down with the AGM and ask him a few questions about the general workings of the factory, their relationship with companies in the west, technology transfer across the globe and the future of the factory. I learned that the managerial hierarchy in all organisations are very similar regardless of their scale. Mr Bulbul, the AGM, gave me an insight into his role in managing both those above and below him, something I could draw parallels with as project leader of the creative team in SELA. Not only did he have to answer to the general manager, the executive director, director and chairman above him, he was also responsible for 16,000 employees below him. Mr Bulbul graduated as a chemical engineer before finding himself in the role of a general manager at one of Bangladesh’s largest composite knitting companies. This was a real-life example of how broad the scope of engineering degrees can be and it showed me an alternative to having a very hands-on industry job or working in research.

2. Tour of the Factory

I was given a thorough tour of the factory, starting from the yarn being brought in to the finished goods. Jack & Jones are GMS Knitting Composite Ltd’s main client, with Adidas, Nike and Lonsdale being amongst several other notable customers. The tour comprised of being shown how specialist machines such as the circular knitting machine, single jersey knitting machine, double jersey knitting machine and jacquard machine worked as well the step by step processes taken by employees to maintain health and safety regulations. Risk factors, costs and the environmental effects of using all the machines were also discussed. I particularly enjoyed the visit to the printing and R&D lab. I got to meet some of the in-house graphic designers of the company and heat-press my own t-shirt as a souvenir from the factory.

I also got a chance to enter the display rooms that are usually only open to buyers and look through over 2,000 fabric samples as well as finished products from previous, current and future fashion lines. The employees and factory itself maintain a high level of security as clothing lines can be very confidential for fashion designers and they don’t want the products leaking out into the local market. Nonetheless, I am extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to consider the more industrial and engineering side of the fashion industry. My 4-year-old self who dreamt of being a fashion designer but found herself doing a Materials Science and Engineering degree was unbelievably pleased with the combined experience!

3. Future Research Prospects

The importance of networking has been reiterated repeatedly by multiple guest speakers as well as SELA as an organisation. Our networking session with Will Kintish proved particularly useful in this light and was undoubtedly my favourite SELA workshop. Mr Kintish described networking to be all about building relationships with people and I believe it is one of the most fundamental skills needed for us to succeed as future engineers. A large part of networking is being able to meet people different from ourselves and Mr Kintish has certainly helped prepare us for those future meetings.

I truly enjoyed visiting GMS Knit Composite Ltd and learning about their working conditions, their relationship with foreign consumers, technology integration and transfer between the east and the west. In the future, I intend to continue broadening my knowledge and learn about the similarities and differences between engineering methodologies across the globe. SELA has largely inspired me to pursue my research interests and given me the confidence and expertise I need to approach those who can aid these interests.

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