Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Day One - Melbourne Textile Washing Plant

18th August 2010

In stark contrast to my last few days, I went to a high tech washing plant today called Melbourne Washing part of the Maliban group. I had not been looking forward to it as over the last few months I have come to the conclusion that hand weave is the way forward and large factories are impersonal and even a little boring. How wrong could I be. It was fascinating. If your tie dye top or jeans are made in Sri Lanka, they will have been treated here. This plant does every treatment to clothing – stone washing, bleaching, overdyeing, acid wash, tie dye, sandblasting, grinding, 3D wrinkle effects and the most amazing LAZER (not sharks with lazers though, that would have been cooler). The jeans go into a sealed glass box on a mannequin, a design begins appearing on the fabric as if by magic. One example of a lazer design was what looked like splashed bleach – phenomenal.

Asoka de Silva, a graduate of Moratuwa university and now the operations manager showed me around made me feel very welcome. All the employees seem to love him and joke around with him (respectfully) as though he is truly a kind employer. Asoka personally trains the new recruits and keeps an eye on them over their first few months, he then places them in an area that he thinks they will excel. I was introduced to their current group of new recruits, Asoka is particularly proud of one of them and is thinking of putting him into research and development, an amazing opportunity for this boy (I would guess he is about 18).

After my factory tour I was handed over to Pradeep the factory engineer. He covers three main areas; machinery maintenance, waste water treatment and energy management. Over the next hour he gave me a very detailed run down on how his job saves the company money. It was very impressive actually, it was just the level of detail which went over my head slightly. He has come up with some very interesting ideas which save a lot of resources and subsequently money. One in particular is the re-processing of steam. Their biggest energy consumption is through their boilers (oil fueled) which make steam for the whole factory used in their dyeing and drying procedures. Pradeep has connected the used steam back into the system and the recycled water accounts for about 60% of their steam.

I got given Pizza Hut for lunch, an interesting interpretation of pizza toppings – pineapple and curry, nice! In the afternoon I was shown around their design studio where there are samples of every single kind of wash or finish that they do – some are hideous, but most are simply amazing. The effects that they can achieve through different washes, dye techniques, lazer and abrasion are mind blowing.

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