By Rou-Fei Chen, Intern at Men-Chuen Fibre Industry Co., Ltd.
There are plenty of foreign companies—from Taiwan, China, South Korea, Japan, etc.—doing business in Vietnam. These companies build factories that require workers. Southeast Asia is an attractive environment for foreign investment because of its abundance of labor and lower costs; Vietnam, with its large areas of land and ports, is particularly a suitable place for setting up manufacturing operations.
My internship began at the Taipei headquarters of Men-Chuen Fibre Industry Co., Ltd, a homegrown Taiwanese company that specializes in producing fabric. Most of its clients are manufacturers of sporting apparel and goods. Though it is a fabric manufacturer, it has ambitions to become an Original Brand Manufacturer (OBM) that produces and sells products under its own brand name.
Initially, I was not familiar with the textile industry, aside from being aware of certain consumer products and brand advertisements. I had no idea of the relationship between upstream and downstream companies in the supply chain. The production of clothing begins with yarn, which is acquired by a fabric manufacturer and transformed into fabric. This fabric is then sold to an apparel manufacturer, who turns it into a finished consumer product sold under a brand name. The brand name company may have additional requirements for the upstream manufacturers related to its corporate social responsibility goals, such as requiring suppliers to obtain audit certifications. Because of the buying power of the brand, the upstream manufacturers face the possibility of losing business and suffering losses if they cannot comply with the requirements.
During the two weeks in Taipei, I primarily followed the production supervisor and learned about the manufacturing process of the main products. The company’s factory in Taiwan employs complex procedures, with separate plants for dyeing & finishing, knitting, and logistics. I was able to gain a better understanding of factory management by taking a course on the topic with specialists of the company. The subjects covered in the course included continuous improvement, 6S, and quality control.
Land in Taiwan is scarce, so the size of factories are small. In industrial parks around the island, factories are usually tightly packed together. In contrast, the factories in Vietnam are much bigger, since there is more undeveloped land available in Vietnam. Factories in Vietnam are usually located in remote areas, which are more than 50 kilometers away from city centers and not easily accessible. The hardest thing for me to get used to was the weather, with morning temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius at times. At the Vietnam plant, my main assignment was a continuous improvement project, focusing on production and operations management and human resources management. Men-Chuen just finished building its third plant in the area, so I was assigned to work on the new facility. My mentor was the plant manager who put me in charge of the project, with assistance from a Taiwanese specialist. I learned a lot from the work, even though certain efforts were duplicated because of poor communication with my Vietnamese colleagues. But with more communications and discussions, we were able to improve the logistics route, streamlining and simplifying the movement of products in and out of the plant.
As for human resources management, the existing performance review of employees involved too much personal judgment. Key review points and evaluation standards were not applied consistently to each employee, and the results of the review varied greatly. Our department worked on quantifying the actual performance of the employees and communicating evaluation standards to all employees in order to make the review more objective. We also added the additional benefit of granting incentive awards to employees who meet certain performance targets.
The Vietnam plant was built a little over a year ago. The majority of its orders were from the home office in Taipei, so it was actively sourcing new clients and inviting different businesses to tour the facility. Operating in an area with companies from all around the world, I had to deal with companies not just from Taiwan, but from countries like Japan, Hong Kong, China, and Singapore. Communication and language skills were crucial for my internship work. Good language skills can really enrich your experience at work. Good language skills allowed me to receive guests such as certification auditors and brand clients, with my colleagues. Thanks to my language skills, I was able to make a lot of friends during my excursions around the country. I highly recommend students with the necessary language skills to intern at Men-Chuen, whose partnerships with many companies can help interns broaden their horizons.