The first year of MYPOD
By Ms. NuNu Hlaing, Local Project Coordinator in Myanmar
The three-year MYPOD project was commenced in August 2017 with the aim of improving the work environment, increasing productivity and occupational health and safety, and enhancing worker relation through dialogue in selected factories for the project in Myanmar’s garment sector.
The inception phase
Since the project started in August 2017, we have successfully established partnership with local partners and stakeholders in a collaborative approach on the ground in Yangon. The project involves various Danish partners, such as DIEH, Aalborg University, 3F and BESTSELLER together with the UK based Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI). The local project partners to implement the interventions are Yangon Technological University and the two trade unions - Myanmar Industrial Craft and Service (MICS) and Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar (IWFM).
In December, the launch of MYPOD was successfully carried out in Yangon with more than 80 participants from different garment organizations, NGOs, brands and local media. The day after the launch, the Danish MYPOD team organized a one-day engagement workshop with the local lean team and factory representatives. The workshop covered how MYPOD would be implemented, who are the key players, and who will benefit from the project. Additionally, a Training of Trainers on lean and Occupational Health and Safety was conducted for the lean expert team, consisting of 6 professors from Yangon Technological University in December 2017 and February 2018.
The baseline studies for productivity and social dialogue were successfully conducted at the selected factories within a four months period from March to June 2018, led by Aalborg University and 3F in collaboration with local partners. Aalborg University and the local lean team have been working closely with operation teams from the factories on productivity and improvement of occupational health and safety. Overall, the baseline has shown us that there are general efficiency issues as well as in workstation design and working postures. We have also identified areas where social dialogue improvements can be implemented for improved productivity, particularly with regards to bargaining through dialogue between management and workers to build lasting lean systems in the factories. We also know that workers’ knowledge about their rights can be improved, as well as the opportunity to raise issues to the factory management.
The MYPOD project is a pathway to improve the quality of the products in Myanmar’s garment factories by using the lean system and improving social dialogue. Since baselines were completed and interventions were initiated, we have already seen factories solving bottlenecks within a month (bottleneck is a process in the production line that blocks to meet the target in a the whole chain of processes). A learning so far is that collaboration between the lean expert team and the operational team from the factories is essential to lead to process of bringing the engagement of the top management. And according to the lean expert team, several factories have been keen to collaborate in the process and participated at different levels so far.
The MYPOD project has both the opportunity and the challenge of being a multi-stakeholder project, where different needs should be met. Another challenge has been language barriers and cultural differences, which has been a learning process in terms of communication. Initially, communication between Danish and the local partners was difficult, and the project partners had to establish fixed communication frames. Similarly, communication with suppliers/factories was challenging, and it was important to make sure that the relevant people in the factories such as the management staff and the selected lines were aware of the project.
Of course, the language barriers have also been evident as the majority of the garment factories involved with MYPOD are Chinese owned. Thus, it is possible that information dissemination might sometimes be inadequate between the MYPOD partner, the interpreter, and the key contact person in the factory.
The future of MYPOD
The 1st batch of interventions is currently on track, and is ongoing until December 2018. It will be finalized with a proper evaluation of the interventions and analysis of the results for that period. Afterwards, the results and learnings will be presented to relevant stakeholders before moving to the second batch of factory interventions, which will be in early 2019. One of the important learnings so far is the importance of factory engagement with the project and the implementation team.
The MYPOD project is essential to garment workers in Myanmar. Low productivity can be caused by low level of social dialogue and bad working conditions, such as bad ergonomics and high temperatures. Thus, the MYPOD project will particularly benefit the workers in the selected factories as it aims to improve working conditions through social dialogue and increase productivity with healthier quality. The project will hopefully set an example in the garment sector by proving the business case for suppliers and brands in improved productivity through improved working conditions and enhanced social dialogue.