After two days touring Gildan’s Honduras facilities, its Board of Decorators is awed, inspired and motivated to make changes for the better.
“I came back from Honduras a changed person, professionally speaking,” says Jen Badger, owner, ShineOn designs, Jefferson, IA. The decorator was one of 10 industry professionals who, as part of Gildan’s recently formed Board of Decorators, enjoyed an all-expense-paid trip to San Pedro Sula, Honduras to see its state-of-art facilities.
“As I was flying home and I saw the Gildan complex below, the thought came into my head that I can no longer say ‘It’s just a T-shirt.’ Now I think about the number of people who have touched that one piece before it gets to me, and the number of families who are fed because of that shirt.”
Zach Traxler, Traxler Printing, Columbus, Ohio, was similarly impressed. “I think we all came to the conclusion that we (manufacturers, distributors, decorators) need to do a better job educating the customer on the amount of work and effort that goes into the manufacturing process from spinning the cotton to cutting and sewing.
The group spent a whirlwind two days getting tours of one of the world’s largest and most efficient textile facilities, which does everything from spinning and dyeing yarn to cutting, sewing, packaging and distribution.
In addition to manufacturing, the group learned about some of Gildan’s CSR practices; they visited the BioTop wastewater treatment plant which takes the textile manufacturing effluent and using a natural process of only bacteria, sunlight and gravity eliminates all dyes and chemicals resulting in clean drinkable water.
“It’s a series of lagoons that is a whole ecosystem of its own,” says Badger. “We drove all around them and saw fish and alligators. They explained how the water that ends up going into the river is completely treated by that time. So they are not dumping anything harmful into the water. That was really fascinating.”
Equally impressive was the Biomass renewable energy steam generation system in action.
“They produce most of their energy right there,” Badger notes. She explained that Gildan purchases and uses the waste from local farmers who harvest the African palm plant to make palm oil and burns it to make steam energy that powers a lot of the electricity usage.
Gildan’s special guests also found they learned a lot from each other during their time in Honduras. As part of the curating process, business owners were selected from a broad cross-section of the printwear space that ranged from a three-person shop all the way up to a multimillion dollar, high-volume full-service decorating operation. Members were chosen for their extensive experience, entrepreneurial spirit, and distinctive point of view.
According to Mitch Heiman, president, Perrin Resort Apparel, St. Paul, Minn., this allowed participants to gain new perspectives on the industry and their own businesses. “It's always good to talk with other individuals in the industry to see what their challenges are,” he says. “We all get so caught up into what we're doing, and our business model, that sometimes you don't always have that opportunity to really make connections outside your business.”
Traxler agreed. “Our group was composed of every walk of life, which was really cool. I learned a lot of different things from each of them. We plan on making trips up to Michigan (Perrin Resort) and down to Florida (Garment Gear) to visit these other facilities and learn from how they're structured, and what we can do to work together.”
“We can feel pretty isolated in our company. We don't get the chance to get out and network with other people who do what we do,” says Badger. “And so, it was nice to sit down and talk shop a bit. I definitely learned some things that I brought back.
“It's challenging me to think about the way we do things and make changes based off of discussions I had. But also it was good to hear ‘Oh, you face the same challenges I face?’ We're a small company, and you're a large company, but we all face the same challenges? So it was great to feel like we were not alone in what we do.”
The second meeting will be held in Barbados November 4th and 5th.