ICS Grad (Class of 2011) Winnie's success in reviving her family company

May 26, 2015

HIDA photo 2 Winnie.jpg

Since graduating from ICS as a member of the class of 2011, Win Ei Khine (Winnie) has gone on to manage her family's company in Myanmar, Maple Garment Manufacturing, as an Executive Director, to great success.

Prior to 2012, Maple had been in very bad shape, but Winnie's unceasing endeavors and teamwork successfully revived the company, which went on to win HIDA's 'Better Manufacturing Practice Award' (HIDA is the Overseas Human Resources and Industry Development Association, a Japanese organization for human resources development in developing countries that promotes technical cooperation through training, dispatch of experts and other programs) in October 2013. In February 2015, the company beat out more than 500 competing local factories to win 'Best Achievement Award' in the UMFCCI (The Republic of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry) & HIDA Training Courses Follow up Project, which is supported by Japan's METI.

Of the 280 applications to HIDA's 2014 Success Story Contest, Winnie's entry was chosen as one of the 'top ten' success stories.

Now let's take a closer look at her story and what she did to turn her company around.

After graduating from ICS and returning to Myanmar in 2012, Winnie's parents gave her the responsibility of managing the family's factory, Maple Garment Manufacturing. Founded in 1996 and focused on the export of ladies' pants, work uniforms and jackets to the Japanese market, the factory had been hit hard by both Myanmar's political and economic situation and Japan's economic crisis. Irregular orders, lack of control of the raw material supply, a large number of customer complaints, and a high incidence of defective finished goods being returned by customers to the company all the way from Japan had not only demotivated company employees, but had also led to a huge internal crisis in the organization.

Knowing virtually nothing about manufacturing and technology know-how, Winnie was initially at a loss as to what to do. It was at this point, however, that the strength, confidence and inspiration, together with the large store of knowledge, she gained through her studies at ICS came into play. Armed with these tools, Winnie was able to fearlessly take on the challenge of turning around her family's business.

Her very first step was to find out more about the existing culture in Maple and identify weaknesses in the management system and organizational structure. Once this was done, Winnie decided to introduce wholesale organizational change by building communication bridges between people. Here, her most effective weapon was the raft of information she gained from her ICS courses, including Organizational Behavior, System Thinking, Problem Solving, Corporate Strategy, Negotiation Skills and Operation Management. The learning from these courses proved very supportive and useful in her daily work, for which she gives much gratitude to ICS.

At the same time, luck was also running her way, and she had the opportunity to attend short training programs run by HIDA. For two years she undertook training in quality control and production management both in Japan and Myanmar that not only provided her with much inspiration but also expanded her views and knowledge about manufacturing. Winnie learnt many valuable things from the HIDA experts - everything from working from the customer's viewpoint on continuous improvement (kaizen) and improving communication skills and team work to establishing a clear corporate philosophy on organizational development, TQM (Total Quality Management) basics and problem-solving methods. This training equipped Winnie with the confidence and vision to change her organization's management system.

On her first day at work, Winnie talked to managers about Maple's future plans, but all she heard from them was "It's impossible, we can't do it". In response, she formed a top management team of 20 members that included herself, the general manager, factory manager, production manager and all department supervisors, and taught them twice a week what she had learned from the training and ICS. Winnie changed Maple's organizational structure from a 'top down' approach to a whole team operation, and convinced employees of the importance of understanding the customer's viewpoint in order to secure continuous orders all year around. "If you were a customer, what kind of products would you like to buy, and from what kind of factory?" were the questions that she asked her employees in the factory every morning.

In addition, Winnie and members of the management team analyzed the root causes of the defects that were causing goods to be returned. They discovered a high incidence of individualism among leaders, lack of communication, and unclear job descriptions and responsibilities. The worst thing was that the same mistakes were being repeated, over and over. No one ever looked deeper to find the underlying sources of problems or tried to solve them properly.

As a result of improving various aspects of factory operations and working together to support and encourage each other, the rate of defect rectification required at Maple Garment Manufacturing has been reduced from 40% to 13%. While the company previously had only one buying house, today it has four. Maple Garment Manufacturing is now exporting to the Netherlands and Germany as well as to Japan and proudly manufactures garments for more than 20 different customers, including Asahi Kasei, AEON and Itochu.

Since 2013, Winnie has been encouraging staff from her team to attend HIDA training sessions and to date more than 90 employees have done so, returning to the company with fresh inspiration, new ideas and increased knowledge. She says with more than a touch of pride, "Today, Maple is full of people who can say with confidence, "It is possible" and "We can do it"".