Customers, friends, colleagues and other (business) relations,
The new year has started, so let’s make a great year together. Let us start by wishing you all good health, optimism, prosperity and happiness.
We are on the threshold of a very challenging year. The project that we have worked on for so long finally started at the end of 2019. We didn’t give much publicity to this, because we wanted to enjoy the moment. It had been a very difficult period, which ultimately required much more time and energy than we had previously thought possible. When we started preparations for the project more than 2 years ago, we had programmed a maximum of 9 months for the project to start. That was of course a “joke”, after more than 30 months we were finally ready to launch the project. But it was mid-November, so we thought this was not the time to do the big launch. The project would not get the attention it desperately needs, especially because the public was busy with other things, such as closing the year for companies, but even more so the December holidays, Christmas and New Year celebration.
Back in time to the moment when we started this adventure more than 30 months ago. Our company was forced to make a decision about future investments, the company had to be prepared for the future and the influence that the “Industrial Revolution 4.0” could have on the work and financial basis of the company. We had to take this problem seriously with our team. The investments needed to remain competitive in the sector where we see the future of our company far exceed the internal financial resources of the company. The question therefore arose as to whether we should incur debts or whether we should find a strategic partner. This forced us to take a good look at what we expect from the future of the sector, clothing production. During the research into the future of the sector, we firmly believe that the entire sector, from production to sales, is not ready to embrace the future with optimism. The sector is not determined by what the consumer wants, the sector still thinks that it can dictate what the consumer wants. There has not been any innovative development in the last 40 years that can further support the production of clothing. There is still a huge dependence on manual production processes.
Without shame, the clothing brands dictate the prices for production. There is no attention whatsoever to the workload of employees in this sector. Good initiatives have been developed from the countries with the largest markets, covenants have been created to combat abuses. But does a clean workplace, accessible emergency exits, and no child labor help the employee’s perception? No, nothing at all, work pressure remains extremely high, revenue for production facilities has been under heavy pressure for years. The sector itself is also guilty of this. No one in the entire sector has an answer to what the future holds. It has always been that way; it is said, and we must accept the circumstances as they come to us. New innovations do not reassure us that it will get better. It may be better for the clothing brands, but they are generally not the producers. The real producers are no longer producers, but service providers without looking at the actual work. They have to live by the whims of the clients, afraid to give a negative reply and thereby lose customers. The innovations that Western companies and development labs bring along do not take production workers into account. They would prefer not having any employees in the workplace. But is that helping the consumer? Again, we have to answer this question with a big NO. These developers want to force the consumer to accept a high degree of uniformity in clothing choice, because the new developments can only handle a limited number of models to manufacture. All this while we think that much more personalization in clothing choice is required to meet the wishes of the consumer. So why trying to exclude human interference in the production of clothing? Why go back in time when the future can be so interesting?
We see the challenge in the collaborative robotization of production. The problem is that there is no existing model that can be implemented. But hello, that is what innovation means, coming up with something that does not yet exist in that form. For many decades there has been a poverty in the development of new production machines and other applications. Production processes are pulled apart, there is an increased degree of innovation on details throughout the production process, but that often involves small parts such as buttons and buttonholes, pockets and sequins. This means that the production employee is expected to perform even more monotonous actions and that more employees must be freed up to handle those specified parts. But how would you feel if you had to perform the same actions all day, day in day out, week in week out, month in and so on? We become a slave to the production process, victim of a lack of creativity among the developers. This must be better, we must listen to the consumer, but we must not ignore what is good for all employees in our sector. Without the tireless efforts of all employees in the sector, clothing would be many times more expensive for the consumer. The question must be answered what the future will bring and what that production will look like in the future.
Moreover, we certainly should not be led by developers who come up with the cliché that it is difficult to master the skills for dealing with textile fabrics. Because that is also what we expect from all employees, so why not from innovative developments? If a robot can peel a grape, why can’t it treat a satin fabric for production? We must not settle for what is easy for developers of new production machines and platforms, we must force ourselves to become better than what is now available. Here we have found the task for ourselves to bring all elements together to come up with the production solution for the future. The technology and possibilities are all already there, we have to get the puzzle pieces in the right place. This will not be a simple task, but we must learn from the past, involve employees in new developments and not omit something because it is difficult. We can still learn so much from human production actions to make it better, but that is why we should involve production staff in the new developments. There is nowhere to be found a study of what all individual actions mean in the entire production process. When we ask how many fingers are factually affecting the production process, we are looked at as if everyone sees water burning. A simple question, but a complicated answer. The same applies to arm movements and joints of the wrist and elbow. We dare to state that there is currently no robot arm and gripper that can take over production on a technical level, so we will have to bring the best parts together into a perfectly functioning whole.
Here we find the challenge, get answers to those questions and come up with solutions, so that the entire sector can benefit in the future and remain relevant. Before we make major investments in the company for the future, we must solve these problems. This is our challenge for 2020. We expect that we will have a first prototype available this year. If we succeed in our intention, we can then prepare the company for the future. That is also the message for everyone, think in solutions, not in obstacles. Approach each problem as an opportunity for improvement, look for the solution. But be creative, take a look outside your own ‘field’, dare to gather other insights to come to solutions. For all “aspiring” entrepreneurs, there are obstacles to be overcome, they are not problems, but challenges, an opportunity to learn, change and implement what you have in mind. Your problems are not unique, there are no obstacles that others have not taken before you. Learn from your own mistakes and shortcomings, but also look at what others have done in the same or equivalent situations. Nowadays, reading is proclaimed as the golden formula for being a successful entrepreneur. But reading is not a goal at all, your company, your product and your customer should be the goal. Reading is to gain inspiration, to learn from others, to gain creativity or to stimulate it. Reading is not learning, don’t think that when you read a book every week you have actually learned new material. Getting ideas, looking at something from a different perspective, that is what you can achieve with reading, but don’t think that if you read a book from a Nobel Prize winner you will also become a Nobel Prize winner, it takes a lot more, especially a lot of “falling and get up ”especially getting up is what will distinguish you from the rest.
What if we had given up after those first 9 months, the time we thought it would be enough to start a new project? Then it would never have happened, not even twice the time. That is also the beauty of doing business, a road that leads to nothing is not a dead end, it is a learning moment, then you know where you should not be. There is no “blueprint” that you simply have to look at to know what you have to do to be successful. Ask every successful entrepreneur what the path to success is, they will all mention paths that were previously impassable. There is no GPS that gives you instructions on which path to take, no left, right, straight on message, you are the one who maps the route. Otherwise you are not an entrepreneur, but a manager. But creating that new roadmap will be extremely satisfying and bring success. Dare to ask others for advice, but formulate your decisions yourself, because ultimately you have to do it yourself, you will have to stand behind your own decisions to defend them. We can give you a lot of advice, but we can never do the work for you.
In addition to the development of a collaborative robot for the clothing production sector and guidance and advice for “aspiring” entrepreneurs, we have another goal. That goal is to provide our employees and future employees with more knowledge. Knowledge that is needed for every employee so that he continues to be involved in the production process in the future and creates more value for himself in a rapidly changing labor market. That is why we will also focus our attention on the realization of an education center for employees in the production sector, what does the “industrial revolution 4.0” mean to them and how can they emerge from it more strongly. Remove resistance to innovations by offering guidance, training and support. As the board of the company, it is our duty to offer the best for our employees, after all we work for them, so that this is translated into the best product for the consumer. You can expect more information from us about this. We will keep you informed of all developments.
Then another message from our team; for the customer we want to indicate that during the coming months the web shop will be supplemented with new products. We will also include products from local producers in the web shop, which do not yet have a commercial platform, we will therefore offer our customers the opportunity to get to know these producers and their products. We are always ready to offer you the best service that lies within our capabilities, if you have advice and / or comments about the product range, we would like to hear from you. We and the team of P.T. Emas Cemerlang Bersama are ready to execute any (special) request for you. The team will be happy to answer questions and requests and handle any problems.
For the (aspiring) entrepreneur, who participates in the advice and guidance programs, we want to state that there is no such thing as a stupid question. Better ask the question 10 times and eventually get the answer that will get you further than not looking for a solution at all. Obstacles are there to be removed, problems should not belong to the package of an entrepreneur. Wherever problems arise, opportunities are also created. But that applies to everyone, work hard, stay curious and listen, listen to the advice you get from others, but formulate the solution that suits you. But keep listening to the wishes of your client, your client will teach you more about your own product than others can ever do for you. The market never lies and within the market your own customers are the best indicators to know if you are and remain on the right track. For everyone, whether you are a customer or an (aspiring) entrepreneur within our advisory department, we are there for you, our team is ready to embrace every message with enthusiasm, thus striving for good cooperation and pleasant experience.
Finally, we wish everyone a very prosperous, healthy and happy 2020 and a good adventure to add a new chapter to your “journey”. We hope that everyone continues to follow our adventure and offers support where necessary. Thanks for the attention and see you soon.
Y.S. Koen, author of this and “Entrepreneur in residence”
and the entire team of P.T. Emas Cemerlang Bersama