Filling its own shoes as one of the world’s most innovative manufacturers once again, Nike has partnered with MAS Holdings to open the new Apparel Innovation and Training Centre in Sri Lanka. The new center, operated and staffed by Nike but located in the MAS Fabric Park in Thulhiriya, Sri Lanka, will feature a 12-week Core Lean Program with sessions on theory and lean manufacturing as well as hands-on training with manufacturing process innovations.
The move spotlights Nike’s idea that just providing jobs alone isn’t enough, and that educating and training factory workers in itsdeveloping world facilities offers deeper benefits than running asweatshop production line. It’s a warm approach: Years ago it wouldhave been unheard of. Even today, it’s somewhat of a coup for a brandto get a major factory manager to co-fund an innovation center simplyfor the betterment of its employees. This effort is modeled on Nike’s Innovation and Training Centre forfootwear in Vietnam, which is using a similar formula for apparelproduction.
MAS is also setting up the Linea AITC, a new apparel manufacturing facility that will manufacture Nike products and serve as a lab for students to try out and experiment with the processes and improvements developed during the program. MAS Holdings, the region’s largest supplier of intimate apparel and active wear, partners with major global brands like Speedo and Victoria’s Secret. Perhaps other big brands like these should take a hint from Nike—and its growing financials, up 3% to $19.2 billion in 2009.