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Feature story : The Garment industry in Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh(2)
Training inexperienced labour to ease the difficulties of recruiting sewing technicians
Vice Director MR.THANH-LONG LE
Chuong Van Dung (Director) and Thanh-Long Le (Vice Director) handle various TATONKA-brand outdoor products.
"Well, we don't know how many different products. There are too many to count precisely."
MOUNTEC is a garment company with two factories headquartered in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The factories manufacture outdoor articles under a German brand name, TATONKA. TATONKA produces a tremendous variety of products, including alpine sacs, travelling articles such as purses, and so on. The two MOUNTEC factories produce all TATONKA-brand products and ship them out to buyers around the world.
MOUNTEC's garment factory in Industrial Park Ward 9
As is typical of a factory of German-origin, the facilities are well organized. TATONKA gives strict guidance on environmental improvements in the workplace.
Busy staff in the production control department.
Cutting of materials is hard to manage for the small lot production of so many designs.
Many new sewing machine models are installed on the site, including the LH3178 2-needle lockstitch machine (with large hooks).
the LH-3188 2-needle lockstitch machine (with an organized split needle bar).
the DSC-246 cylinder-bed, 1-needle, unison-feed, lockstitch machine.
TATONKA was established by Mr Winfriend Schechinger, a licensed manufacturer and distributor of American brands products in Europe. The company is based in Dasing, a city at the feet of the Alps in southern Germany. Then in 1994 he set up the brand TATONKA. TATONKA products are highly esteemed for their reliability and quality among Europeans, a people with a long history and culture as outdoorsmen. In 2005, Mr Andreas Schechinger, the son, become President of TATONKA.
TATONKA means "buffalo" in the Native Americans language. The image of the Buffalo, a creature wild and strong, is used for the company logo.
TATONKA is known not only for its wide selections overall, but also for its versatile production items of different materials, designs, and price ranges even within single product categories. The greatest challenge for TATONKA, as a supplier, is to deploy a production control system capable of responding to the demand for the production of diversified items in small lots. MOUNTEC, a wholly owned subsidiary of TATONKA, is led by Chuong Van Dung (Director) and Thanh-Long Le (Vice Director).
All production directions for MOUNTEC are issued directly from TATONKA in Germany. Thanh-Long Le, Vice Director, acts as the bridge between the two companies.
How many different products designs are produced annually? The variation in items, materials, and designs seems virtually endless. The actual number of products produced is hard to grasp. The catalogue, almost 250 pages, introduces astonishing assortments of backpacks, day bags, travel bags, accessory pouches, accessories, camera bags, hip bags, rainwear, parka, sports jackets, outfits for cold weather, tents, and more. The production of so many lines of products is an extraordinary feat.
The two factories produce more than a million products annually.
The Director and Vice Director are responsible for controlling complicated production processes to meet customer demands. Chuong Van Dung, Director, joined a Vietnam state-owned enterprise in 1989. When he moved to MOUNTEC at the founding of the company in 1993, he took charge of clothing production for the first time in his career. He became a company director in 1996 and has remained in that position to this day.
Thanh-Long Le, Vice Director, is a German-born Vietnamese. After graduating from a school he began working for a garment company. Not long afterwards he met the manager of TATONKA and moved to the company. Now he works for MOUNTEC as a German, spending most of his time coordinating and facilitating communication between TATONKA in Germany and MOUNTEC in Vietnam.
In principle, MOUNTEC receives both the product designs and materials from TATONKA in Germany. It seldom procures materials locally in Vietnam. MOUNTEC's two garment factories in Vietnam collectively produce about a million articles every year. The first factory has 450 employees; the second, 350.
The 450 employees in the first factory are divided into three groups, each of which takes charge of five production lines. On average, each of the 15 production lines in the factory is manned by 25 personnel. The number of production items is allocated roughly, and changes from time to time among the groups.
The factories produce mainly items made of heavy-weight materials, such as bags. The operators must have skill in working with heavy-weight-materials. Special-purpose facilities are also needed. Many experienced operators in the first factory have acquired skills through long experience. This supports the high reputation of TATONKA products.
Ever-more diversified product designs
Development of machines for heavy-weight material is repuired
MOUNTEC awaits the next generation of sewing machines for heavy-weight materials.
The manufacture of products on the site grows more difficult by the year for MOUNTEC. Product designs continue to diversify, with specifications for new features and functions never foreseen in the past. Through an advance in material technology, for example, a new model of backpack is now equipped with a 3-cm thick cushion. Three centimetres is too thick to clamp, even with a presser foot for a dedicated machine for heavy-weight materials.
"The operator has to push the material down with all his weight to keep it under the presser during sewing," explains Thanh-Long Le. "With more orders for this type of product, we need a new sewing machine dedicated for extra heavy-weight materials. We now use hundreds of JUKI sewing machines and are pleased with their operability and consistent quality. We hope JUKI can solve our problem by developing a new model for extra-heavy weight materials."
TATONKA sends product designs to MOUNTEC, and MOUNTEC draws out patterns based on the designs. TATONKA has no particular requests with respect to the manufacturing facilities used. TATONKA doesn't care about the manufacturing procedure, as long as the samples delivered by MOUNTEC meet the design specifications. Two executive at MOUNTEC handle the manufacturing.
Thanh-Long Le visits TATONKA in Germany for an annual planning meeting, and sometimes for preliminary discussions. TATONKA seldom gives requests with respect to manufacturing procedures. Instead, they give strict directions with respect to the environmental arrangements and the workers' rights of the operators.
"As we diversify the products, we need higher sewing techniques," says Thanh-Long Le. "Given the challenges in recruiting skilled operators in Ho Chi Minh, employee training is very important. We now have seven sewing technicians, but need to hire more. We also need to try to provide technical training."
"TATONKA isn't very famous in Asia now," says Chuong Van Dung. "But we expect an increase in sales toward the future. We need to develop our facilities and foster both operators and technicians. We rely on JUKI for their ongoing support and cooperation."
The market for outdoor products and bags continues to expand, brightening prospects further progress.