Southeast Asia’s manufacturing capability has been on the rise for some time – particularly in the garment industry – though many international brands remain reluctant to operate in this region. It is worth looking closely at the reasons for this hesitation, to see how well they fit the current reality.
This review is especially important in light of supply chain disruptions elsewhere, as brands seek partners in new regions to ensure manufacturing continuity. Indeed, despite advantageous manufacturing conditions in Southeast Asia as a whole, some remain concerned about issues surrounding product quality, production capability, and local working conditions.
As we will see, these concerns are understandable, as they stem from genuine challenges that beset the region in the past. Moreover, working practices inevitably vary within any area, and it will always be important to choose one’s business partners carefully. Overall, however, Southeast Asian manufacturing has been radically transformed over the past generation, and earlier perceptions about the region no longer hold true.
Let us therefore examine two key myths surrounding garment manufacturing in Southeast Asia.
Myth 1: Lower cost manufacturing means inferior quality
The common adage, “you get what you pay for”, is no longer the rule for garment manufacturing in Southeast Asian countries. Low-cost production of superior garment products is not only possible, but is quickly becoming the norm across the region. In such a context, better prices should be seen as a natural product of emerging economies – with their lower tax rates and property values, as well as other variables – rather than a reflection of output quality.
Vietnam, for example, is commonly recognized as a world leader in garment manufacturing. Aside from its competitive labor costs (especially when compared to countries like China and Mexico), Vietnam’s ability to produce high-value goods makes it an excellent alternative for international brands that are affected by the US-China trade war.
Southeast Asian countries also produce at much higher capacity than a generation ago, thanks to technologically advanced facilities that utilize automation for embroidery work and other complex production processes. Manufacturers in Cambodia, for instance, are already preparing technical upgrades to increase efficiency and create high-end garments.
This context explains why globally recognized brands have already secured trustworthy garment manufacturing partners in countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Myth 2: Unsafe working conditions and child labor are prevalent in this region
Improved regulation and tighter government policy have brought about considerable improvements regarding child labor and unsafe working conditions as part of a larger set of active efforts aimed at minimizing these problems.
Together with these official initiatives, local and international activist groups such as Anti-Slavery International and the Clean Clothes Campaign are helping to ensure fair treatment and compensation for workers.
Manufacturers have gotten the message, to the point that sustainable, ethical, and transparent production priorities have largely been absorbed into the business culture. Our own values statement includes the following passage: “We firmly believe that technological innovation is the key to making our world a better place and unlocking human potential to its fullest.” Everything we do is centered around that core belief, and has been for many years.
Indeed, the rise in smart technological innovations has already helped change working conditions within the industry. High-end production lines help reduce reliance on physical labor, while reshaping the workforce with more technologically skilled personnel.
On a larger scale, these trends have come to define major economic developments such as Thailand’s move toward Industry 4.0. Through digitization and automation, garment manufacturers across the region have leaped beyond their origins to build an industry that can compete successfully on the world stage, all while improving worker conditions and embracing sustainable manufacturing techniques.
Choosing the right partner
Of course, finding the right region of the world is only the first step. Brands should choose a reliable manufacturing partner whose quality and customer service are as well-developed as their commitment to shared values. Hi-Tech Apparel embraces these positive changes across Southeast Asia, and in many cases is leading the way forward. If your brand is looking for a trusted garment manufacturing partner that puts people first, get in touch with us today.