Headline, April 19 2019/ ''' ''THAT ECONOMICS TALE'' '''


FEW ITEMS OF CLOTHING CONVEY ECONOMIC seriousness quite like the white-collar shirt. It took the exuberance out of Elizabethan ruff and put the starch into Victorian Britain.

It defined a sense of upward mobility whether for bank clerks, Japanese salarymen or anyone keen to push around paper and professional underlings.

But few white shirts sold as earnestly as those at the PYE stores in China. You half expect the shop assistants to whip out a slide rule than a tape measure. The name PYE, the brand enthuses, ''combines the Chinese character for flair with its homonym, the mathematical constant pye.''

Its white shirts are named, unfashionably, after mathematicians; Euclid and Newton for ones with a Western collar, ZU & Liu for Mao-like Mandarin ones.

Esquel, owner of PYE and a big shirtmaker for Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger and other global brands ' is not just serious about its shorts. It is also concerned with the upward mobility of its 56,000-odd employees, half of whom, work in factories in China.

The garment trade is not where you usually find stories of business success that are also inspiring, especially in cut-throat China. The supply-chain is brutal. The work is repetitive; piece work makes it all the more soul-sapping.

It is relatively hard to automate soft materials like textiles, Esquel's shirts involves up to 65 fiddly sub-processes, such as stitching sleeves and cuffs.

As soon as labour costs rise, textiles and garments factories tend to fly way seeking cheaper fingers to work to the bone, be that in Bangladesh or Ethiopia. Esquel plans to keep lots of its work in China.

Walk through Esquel's biggest factory in Foshan in the Pearl River Delta, and it is clear that even here are the robots are coming. The hundreds of workers, sitting, heads down, in pink caps are a sight to behold. They are also outnumbered by machines.

On some lines, robots arms swish, trimming collar buttons and pressing plackets. The dices do fiddly jobs like making sure  that tiny pearl-coloured buttons for Banana Republic have the word Banana at the top.

Israeli cameras, adapted from military devices, use artificial intelligence to scan for flaws in the fabric, automating one of the most mind numbing jobs.

Take ''Sister Yan'', a matron in black dress and sensible shoes, who started on the factory floor aged 21. She worried about the shoddy quality of many of the hand-stitched garments, and helped the firm's engineers to design mechanisms to do the job better.

Now she is a senior manager, and with ''Brother Ming'', the chief engineer, shares credit with for several industrial patents.

Two factors are likely to encourage manufacturers in China to remain loyal to their home market.

The first is its sheer size. Willy Shih of the Harvard Business School says this enables them to   practice and refine their production processes on a scale that allows them to keep cutting costs.

The other is the skill of the robots themselves. He says there is so much ''embedded knowledge'' in today's machine tools that China can quickly start creating products that may have taken a generation to develop previously, such as cars with top-of-the-range automatic transmissions.

It is worth remembering that amid the fears about the pandemic and a trade-war related slowdown in China's factory activity. If Esquel is any guide, Chinese firms may use the opportunity to become even more efficient, rather than wilting in the face of adversity.

In the long run, that would make China's economy as whole more resilient.

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of the world. See Ya all prepare and register for Great Global Elections on The World Students Society : wssciw.blogspot.com and Twitter - !E-WOW! - the Ecosystem 2011:

''' Wages To Trade '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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