• Hela Clothing opened its first factory in Ethiopia last year. 
  • It has shipped its one millionth garment and logged 70,000 hours of production at the factory.
  • The company is now looking to increase investment to shorten lead times.
Hela Clothing is to increase its investment in Ethiopia

Hela Clothing is to increase its investment in Ethiopia

Sri Lankan apparel manufacturer Hela Clothing is to increase its investment in Ethiopia in a bid to reduce lead times and increase output as it revealed its growth in the country over the last 12 months.

The company, which commenced operations in Ethiopia in June last year, has shipped its one millionth garment and logged 70,000 hours of production at the factory. Employing around 800 workers, Hela says it is the most efficient factory in Ethiopia, representing 66% of the country's total knit women's underwear exports.

"We are proud of achieving this milestone in such a short period of time," says Dominic McVey, group board director. "It is a testament to our operational expertise and execution. It is also a testament to the hard work and dedication of our entire Ethiopia team who made all this possible. Following this success, we are looking at increasing our investment in the region and raising our workforce to 2,000 people."

McVey says this will help the company to further reduce lead times, increase output and provide its clients with better customised solutions.

"We truly believe in Africa as the driver for growth in apparel solutions, we are committed to continue investing and expanding in the region. We are the largest intimates apparel exporter in East Africa and aim to have a workforce of 8,000 people by the end of the year through our plants in Kenya and Ethiopia."

Keeping to the founding tenets of the company, Hela says it practices sustainable manufacturing in Ethiopia, which ensures the resources of the company are "aligned with the needs of the community". Hela provides its employees with meals, accommodation and transport.

It also provides comprehensive training for the workforce, from machine operators to management trainees – vital in a region with no extensive apparel manufacturing background – which gives them valuable transferrable skills that will allow them to earn a living wage, it says.

"Since beginning operations in Ethiopia we have endeavoured to balance profitable growth with caring for people," adds Keith Harding, CEO Hela Ethiopia. "This latest milestone is further proof that our sustainable approach to apparel manufacturing and ability to adapt strategies to local conditions allows us to better cater to our clients' needs."

Hela Clothing is a US$200m company focused on apparel manufacturing, design and innovation. It operates 12 factories across four countries, employing a workforce of 15,000. The company works closely with leading brands in the US and Europe and provide design to delivery solutions in the intimate, sleep and casual wear product range.

Last month, Hela joined forces with Tesco to launch an augmented reality children's T-shirt as the UK retailer continues its work to develop and test new technologies in the apparel space.

Hela Clothing develops augmented reality T-shirt with Tesco