This is the second part of the Sustainable Expansion of FUSH˚ clothing factories series. Here, we will talk about our big expansion to a facility spanning over 2000 square meters.
The original factory named ITP Gredlica was opened on 22nd February 1958 near the small village Oraovica in the south-eastern part of Serbia. During its golden days that lasted through a couple of decades, the factory was making impressive numbers of knitwear and yarn and it employed around 600 workers. Unfortunately for the people of the Jablanica district and especially for the people from Oraovica, the factory stopped working in the late 90s and it finally went bankrupt in 2011. It had a short spell of rejuvenation from 2012-2014 when textile production briefly resumed but failed due to an unfortunate turn of events. Our involvement with the former ITP Grdelica facilities started in 2017.
Ok, that was the really brief history of what is now a FUSH˚ textiles factory. Now let us tell you a story of just how much we had to do to get the factory into the 21st century.
FUSH˚ Turning Former ITP Grdelica Into a Modern Clothing Factory
As we said, after the initial brief inspection in 2017, we bid for the factory and officially acquired it. The aim was to stop outsourcing for the following services – fabric manufacturing and sewing. The ITP Grdelica project was supposed to hit the aimed targets square on. The challenges for achieving that kept on piling up, as we got more involved. One problem that comes with the literal territory of the factory is the fact that Oraovica is a remotely-located village and, as such, is often hit with water and electricity shortages. That is something that was accounted for. But a lot wasn’t. Some of such issues had to do with the fact that the facilities didn’t adhere to the current standards required by the Serbian laws, and a lot of them had to do with the already inefficiently-built factory being neglected for almost 20 years.
Here you can see the gravity of the situation we faced and just how much we fixed things around the facility
Obstacles, Obstacles, Obstacles
Here’s a list of all the issues we faced:
- No modern sewage system at the facility (relying on the existing cesspool was not an option)
- Unfit drainage channels (which flooded during heavy or frequent rains)
- Lack of watershed management solutions
- Irregularly-laid foundations that either had no framework or had an unfitting framework
- Damaged roof and supporting constructions and humidity-ridden objects caused by decades-long exposure to the elements and abandonment issues (yes, buildings get depressed too when they’re lonely)
- Unfit electrical wiring (household wires and three-phase current sensing relays instead of their industrial counterparts)
- Buildings with critically low energy efficiency even when their worn-down nature is taken out of the equation
- Damaged and/or cracked heating piping
- Lack of industry-specific lighting
And what we did was, for the most part, start from scratch. That means we’ve installed new electric wiring, modernized the electric switch boxes, changed the heating piping, installed the first plumbing piping ever in all the buildings, as well as sewage piping and a wastewater treatment plant. We’ve dug wells for both technical and drinking water so that the frequent water shortages in Oraovica can’t affect us. Those were essential. Next, we had to make the facilities on factory grounds energy efficient. In some cases that meant taking down the entire building and constructing a new one. In some cases, it meant thermally insulating the old ones and changing windows and doors on them.
The following big problem was flooding. Imagine how an unprofessionally-built facility from the 50s, abandoned in the 90s could look like. Exactly, bad. Very bad. Add to that that not every building had foundations so some of them had a higher susceptibility to letting the water in. Enter excavators, enter concrete. We’ve dug through the entire facility and poured a lot of concrete in order to eliminate the flooding issue, which we did. With all the facilities tightened up, we could finally start putting machinery in the building: Circular knitting machines, sewing machine, screen printing machines, dye sublimation printers, dye sublimation calenders, industrial ironing presses, and a folding machine.
Sustainability at Oraovica Clothing Factory
As Oraovica has no link to the municipal sewage system, the most common way of treating wastewater around here is simply chucking it into the nearby river. Which is not at all what we planned to do. That’s why we’ve installed the RotoClear 40 PE wastewater treatment plant. It’s capable of handling wastewater of our factory working at 100% capacity. It even has accreditation from the PIA.
RotoClear 40 wastewater treatment system during installation at the factory grounds in Oraovica.
To ensure we’re making the wastewater as safe as possible for the environment, we’re using a mixture of good bacteria developed by a Serbian company Bistrol. It fully decomposes any organic waste, making the water leaving our factory 100% eco friendly.
People of FUSH˚
Since people are and should be a part of any company’s sustainability efforts, here’s a word or two about the people of FUSH˚ from Oraovica and their working conditions. It’s great that most of them are people from the industry. This comes at no surprise, being that the textile trade was strong in this region and hopefully will be again.
Our sewing department during the pandemic. They work at a reduced capacity to maintain the safe working conditions.
We-ve managed to employ 80 textile professionals so far. The lowest wage at the factory is 20% higher than the national minimum wage. Also, being that there’s no public transport in rural Serbia, our workers have an option to use the company bicycles.
The Future of Our Oraovica Clothing Factory
We are in the process of installing solar panels and solar batteries so that we can operate completely independently.
As soon as the world gets over the coronavirus, we’ll open our 4 apartments located on the factory grounds to any visitors willing to learn more about the textile industry. Be it current or future clients, be it textile or fashion students. We’re capable of hosting up to 16 visitors.