Malmi Maddugoda’s Research Focused on Innovation and Sustainability
In line with her long-standing interest in sustainability, Sri Lankan student Malmi Maddugoda decided to write her master’s thesis on how the implementation of smart factories and sustainable manufacturing practices by the Sri Lankan apparel industry impact on economic sustainability. Maddugoda, who recently completed an MBM degree in Logistics & Trade, explains that the study is connected to research she had conducted during her bachelor’s studies, addressing sustainability in the Sri Lankan petroleum retail industry.
“I decided to do a continuation of that for my master’s, but focusing on a different industry. So, I picked the Sri Lankan apparel industry, which has a huge influence on the country’s economy. However, it is worth emphasising that smart factories are not yet popular in Sri Lanka, with the majority of the country’s manufacturing still being at Industry 2.0 level and labour intensive. Despite the overall situation, Sri Lankan apparel companies have proactively taken part in adopting smart factory technologies,” she says.
The student highlights that sustainable manufacturing encompasses economically sound manufacturing processes that consider environmental externalities. Economic sustainability, in turn, refers to the income’s ability to overweigh production costs for an extended period through different methodologies, such as resource efficiency, cost reduction, positive environment externalities and enabling social security, in order to ensure the future of an organisation or an economy.
To conduct her investigation, Maddugoda made use of quantitative methods, administering an online survey to 21 large and medium-scale apparel companies that adopt sustainable manufacturing practices. According to the study’s findings, the adoption of smart factory technologies by the Sri Lankan apparel industry is at an intermediary level, while the implementation of sustainable manufacturing practices is at an advanced level. However, despite the initiatives that have been conducted, the Sri Lankan apparel industry needs to strengthen its commitment to competing with the global apparel industry in the field of smart technologies.
“Special attention should be directed to medium-scale apparel companies in terms of promoting and making them aware of smart technologies. Nevertheless, the Sri Lankan apparel industry has overperformed when compared to the general trends of adoption of sustainable manufacturing practices. The implementation of these technologies may help the Sri Lankan apparel industry face the highly increasing competition from countries such as India, China and Bangladesh, among others, in the market of sustainable apparel products,” Maddugoda stresses.
After successfully graduating, the student plans to stay in the Netherlands for a while, with the goal of having a corporate experience in a highly developed European country. “Since my major is in Logistics & Trade, I am looking forward to securing a job in the Logistics and Supply Chain industry. Even though I worked for three years in this sector while in Sri Lanka, I plan to start the new job from entry level, hoping it will provide me with the ultimate international experience,” she says.
by Ulisses Sawczuk