“I think our factory now is world-class and can compete with any factory anywhere in the world. We have the latest equipment and our people are very well trained.”
This is the assessment of Brenton Pooley, MD of Dyefin Textiles, South Africa’s leading commission dye house based in Durban.
This confidence and sense of achievement is a far cry from the position he found himself in a few short years after he and a partner bought the business in 1989.
“Little did I know that it was on its way down from there,” he says. “We have had very tough times along the way; as you know the industry has been through very difficult times.”
His story is no different from any other participant in the local textiles industry that suffered tremendous losses in the mid-1990s as the industry came under pressure from cheaper imports. But the Dyefin story is also one of rapid and effective government intervention through the introduction of the Clothing and Textiles Competitiveness Programme (CTCP) that helped stave off complete collapse.
The introduction of the dual support mechanisms, the Competitiveness Improvement Programme (CIP) and Production Incentive Programme (PIP), in 2010 is heralded by Pooley as a turning point for the business.
“If we had carried on the way we were, with the equipment we had, I don’t think we would have survived,” he says. “The IDC support enabled us to revive the business from being in a loss position to last year when we started paying tax and the business is flourishing now.”
The incentive schemes allowed Dyefin to invest heavily in renewing new machinery that has boosted capacity, improved efficiencies and grown jobs – from 150 in 2010 to more than 260 today.
“Today we can dye 400 tons of fabric a month and are able to print almost 400 000 metres of fabric a month,” he says. “The impact has been dramatic with electricity savings, water savings and our reject rates are now very low.
“We also spent the money on printing machinery. Together with Ninian & Lester we introduced the printing division and that certainly bolstered the service offering, whereas previously we only offered commissioned dying.”
Ninian & Lester is a clothing and textile established in 1936 that, amongst other businesses, owns the rights to the Jockey underwear franchise in South Africa. Dyefin joined the larger group in a strategic partnership in 2010.
This partnership has clearly paid dividends for both parties given their stronger position now that they’re able to service a broader market, and do so to exacting standards.
This is crucial to Dyefin’s future success as it serves downstream producers in the textile value chain who demand fast response and quick turnaround times.
“The emphasis in the industry has now changed where quick response is very important as chain stores need to respond quickly to customer demand and that has played into our hands and we are able to take advantage of that.”
The comparatively small size of the local industry also places greater responsibility on the company to supply the right goods to the right standards as upstream jobs are dependent on being able to supply their end customers.
Pooley says that apart from installing new equipment to raise efficiencies and quality, the company has also invested heavily in training staff to increase productivity. This training has also been facilitated by CTCP incentives, which has also enabled it to take in younger employees on learnerships.
The net effect for the business has been dramatic improvements in productivity and staff morale, with absenteeism reduced to almost a zero.
Despite these tremendous improvements, company management are not yet satisfied that they have achieved all they could. And due to the stronger financial position and ability to expand its product offering, Dyefin is able to plan its next steps off a more solid base.
Pooley says that among the goals is the desire to improve its BBBEE rating, continue to invest in socially responsible programmes and expand the business. Part of the plans on the latter priority include building a new 1350m2 factory that would allow it to expand its printing business.