AN INSIGHT INTO TEXTILE R&D IN PAKISTAN

FOZIA ISHAQUE (fozia.ishaque@hotmail.com)
Dec 17 - 30, 2007

Research and development (R&D) is the main philosophy behind successful industries. From idea creation, developing product, marketing and enhancing operations, R&D plays important part in every step. Without R&D, the industry becomes stagnant and looses its competitive advantage. Therefore it has become an important area of concern for developed countries. Although they have high cost of industrial operations and manufacturing, their industry still thrives because of the R&D culture.

However, like most of the industries in Pakistan, textile sector particularly is also not known for its focus or expenditure on research and development or on environmental compliance.

Textile has been one of the most important industrial sectors in Pakistan in terms of economic output, investment and employment. Presently, it is said to account for over 60% of the country's exports. Pakistan is fourth biggest grower of the cotton in the world and it does not need to import cotton from other parts of the world which helps decrease the cost of production as compared to other countries. In 2005-06 the country was the fifth largest producer and second largest exporter of cotton yarn in the world. It was also the fifth largest exporter of woven fabrics in the world. The textile industry of Pakistan has a total established spinning capacity of 1550 million kgs of yarn, weaving capacity of 4368 million square metres of fabric and finishing capacity of 4000 million square meters. The industry has a production capacity of 670 million units of garments, 400 million units of knitwear and 53 million kgs of towels. The industry has a total of 1221 units engaged in ginning and 442 units engaged in spinning. There are around 124 large units that undertake weaving and 425 small units. There are around 20600 power looms in operation in the industry. The industry also houses around 10 large finishing units and 625 small units. Pakistan's textile industry has about 50 large and 2500 small garment manufacturing units. Moreover, it also houses around 600 knitwear producing units and 400 towel producing units.

The textile industry's importance to our economy lies in the fact that it employs 38 percent of the country's total industrial labor force which amounts to a figure of 15 million and contributes 27 percent of the industrial value addition. It has 67 percent share in the country's total exports. According to recent official figures, the Pakistan textile industry contributes more than 60 per cent to the country's total exports, which amounts to around 5.2 billion US dollars. The industry contributes around 46 per cent to the total output produced in the country. In Asia, Pakistan is the 8th largest exporter of textile products. The contribution of this industry to the total GDP is 8.5 per cent. Further, it consists of a large-scale organized sector and a highly fragmented small-scale or cottage sector. The organized sector comprises integrated textile mills, i.e. spinning units with shuttle less looms while the downstream industry comprising weaving, finishing, garments, towels and hosiery (which has great export potential) is mostly in the unorganized sector.

RESEARCH IN TEXTILE:

Textile sector in Pakistan is faced with numerous problems. One of the primary challenge lying ahead for this industry is dearth of business research in all fields of trade so as to identify successful strategies needed to produce, distribute, and market textile products to consumers. As a matter of fact economic competitiveness in the global marketplace is a key research interest. It takes into account both the strategies and tactics that industry participants utilize for global leadership positioning. Being a very broad realm the textile sector research can subdivided in specific areas which include marketing strategies, international trade, product development, strategic analysis, consumer research and economic competitiveness of global textile complex.

There is no research culture in the field of textiles in Pakistan. With only limited textile institutes producing only production managers for the industry, less focus is given on analytical approaches and research. Though textile is a major revenue earning source, the research budget allocated to this sector is nothing. Even the R & D subsidy given to the garment industry results in the wastage of money without any promising outcomes. There is a huge gap between academia and industry which must be closed by establishing stronger links with the industry. Otherwise the research done in the institutions would never benefit the industry.

The most pressing need in Pakistan's textile industry is to improve the quality of its products as well as inclusion of greater value addition in its products. The textile machinery used in Pakistan is imported mainly from countries like Japan, Switzerland, Germany, China and Belgium. The technology that is in use in the industry leaves a lot to be desired. It is necessary that the industry undertake an up gradation in the technology used. There is lack of efficient R&D and training.

Researchers, who provide the intellectual content in the activity, are few in numbers. There are hardly any managers in the industry dedicated to research and development. All of them devote their 100 per cent time to complete the core activity of the company i.e. production. Moreover, in existing textile institutes in the country, there is a huge shortage of professional researchers. Under such circumstances, it is not clear how the government realizes that the initiative for industrial R&D could be triggered through subsidizing exports. Besides, there are no details available as to how many R&D projects have been completed or are still in pipeline on the base of which the textile R&D subsidy is claimed in by exporters. Neither there are any details and publications on the R&D results to-date. In the absence of any R&D activity in the industry, this subsidy could only function as a normal export subsidy or industrial survival subsidy. The way this subsidy is dragged to next financial year is also questionable. Despite of the absence of any industrial research policy, again millions of rupees are planned to disburse.

Due to lack of adequate investment in R&D, Pakistan textile industry is troubled with various problems like lack of the export houses' shortage of capacity to meet bulk orders, rising prices of raw material, lack skilled laborers and more over competitions from the neighboring countries is creating havoc on this sector. Other factors include lack of a strategic plan, paucity of a professional manpower, use of old plants and equipment, the high cost of operations, multiplicity and a high rate of taxation, high cost of financing, inferior quality, low productivity, lack of marketing expertise and inadequate infrastructure. All these factors have discouraged investment in this export-oriented industry. Un-competitiveness in terms of adherence to contracted quality and the general failure to stick to delivery schedules are the other major reasons that have dented our textile export sector.

INTERNATIONAL DRIFT:

Research and development in textile industry is on its way in the international market. The market is moving from conventional to technical textiles. Technical textiles refer to the application of textiles in relevance to their technical properties and performance rather than appearance or other aesthetic characteristics. In early years, traditional methods and materials were used to build products. Nowadays, new high performance materials are introduced to make goods. As conventional textile (fashion textiles) is no longer a very profitable business, the developed countries have shifted their focus on technical textiles. Technical textiles require high level of research expertise and it is a purely knowledge based business. The return on investment in technical textiles is hundred to thousand times higher than from conventional textiles and it comprises high value-added products. Developing countries like India and China have already aligned their future targets in the footsteps of developed countries in this field of textiles. Pakistani textile industry has to shift to high value addition and undergo radical change in technology to be more profitable. Following are the main issues related to technical textiles in Pakistan. Technical textile contains products that are highly flexible and customized. In this methodology it is important to introduce new high-tech materials and processing techniques to develop high quality textile products. For instance, on a conventional sock knitting machine, an idea can be propagated through research to knit a mesh for developing cardiovascular implant using specific bio-resistant material with certain mechanical machine adjustments. The result will be thousand time increase in the profit margin as compared to the business of knitted socks.

GOVERNMENT PARTICIPATION:

At present the government is providing 3.5 to 6 percent R&D support to the textile sector to enable it to compete with the regional competitors in the world textile markets. This sector has been unable to compete with the regional competitors like China, India, and Bangladesh in world textile market due to a lot of reasons in post-quota era. The government is of the view that R&D for the textile sector is an ad-hoc arrangement, which would be streamlined and converted to support the new sectors and new products to diversify the export base of the country.

According to a recent report published in "Business Recorder" the Ministry of Textile Industry has linked the grant of six percent R&D rebate to supply of complete information on their business and R&D expenditure by all registered textile units. The information is being sought after regarding company profile, quality and environment compliance, infrastructure, machinery, human resource, unit's operations and manufacturing and total R&D rebate collected by the textile unit, in addition to the expenditure incurred by it on IT and staff training.

A report in "Daily Times" discloses that the government has decided in principle to gradually convert Research and Development (R&D) support into export-oriented units (EOUs) promotion scheme for increasing investment and enhancing exports. In the textile sector R&D support would be eliminated from those sectors which are contributing less and it would be shifted towards those sectors which are value-addition driven and can increase contribution in exports.

SUGGESTION & SCOPE:

Industrial R&D comprises of development of new materials and products, increasing existing materials and products, development of new technologies, enhancing of the existing technologies, management and market research, industrial operations and supply chain research. In Pakistan the research priorities can be established by keeping main areas under consideration and deal secondary issues at a later stage. In order to strengthen global positioning it is inevitable to deploy funds and efforts to produce new specialty fibers and fiber-composites for innovative textile products. The fictionalization of textile materials and related processes along with adoption of bio-based materials, biotechnologies and environmentally friendly textile processing is also essential for the growth of industry. The introduction of new textile products for innovative technical applications (transport, construction, energy & environment etc.), textile integrated electronics and mass customization for clothing and fashion may be a profit maximizing area for Pakistan in South Asian market. However it is indispensable and crucial to the survival of the local industry to invent new design and product development concepts and technologies. The manufacturing strategies may be diversified from adaptive and digital manufacturing to network and knowledge-based manufacturing.

Primary attention areas for research are:

* Deeper understanding of the basics of the main manufacturing processes to give machinery makers and producers the chance to continuously improve them and development of innovative textile manufacturing technologies to enable new processes, to shorten the process chain, for specialties and commodities

* Evolution of procedures for early detection of new trends and requirements in the user industry and quality focused development based on knowledge of the complete production chain

* Development of new testing methods and online quality inspection systems and technology development taking into account the impact of broader societal trends and needs like the ageing society or environmental ad resource efficiency imperatives on textile product markets

* Application of RFID-technology in machines and components and integration of energy storage systems

* Development of more sophisticated tele-service systems for remote machine optimization and maintaining better networking of suppliers

New processes and products arising from such research will enable Pakistan introduce new innovative technology and products to the market and give the opportunity to local textile and clothing producers to exploit advantages through co-developed leading edge machinery and equipment.

CONCLUSION:

Future of the textile industry in Pakistan seems bright as lots of opportunities are available in the wake of rising world demand for textiles, thus creating greater opportunities for us. In line with the world market situation the Pakistan industry can capitalize the opportunity to expand their scope. But for achieving this target it is imperative to concentrate on research and development of textile units in the country. Joint action of government and industrialists to focus both on nearer term targets involving significant improvements of existing material and manufacturing concepts and technologies as well as on more long term objectives targeting radically new manufacturing concepts and technologies can streamline and upgrade the sector. In addition there should be a central controlling authority looking after industrial R&D and working in close partnership with research institutes. . There should be a centralized authority to manage research and development and provide resources to the relevant institutes to trigger research in technical textiles and other value adding areas.

Close monitoring of R&D budget and its spending in a proper way must also be ensured. A pragmatic research is the core dogma, if applied can boost the value of textile products and industrial expansion.