How Decent Working Conditions can Boost Productivity

News | 25 September 2023

Visit by the President of Sidama Regional State
Omega Garment in Hawassa is among the few domestic factory manufacturing sport goods in Ethiopia. Located in Hawassa, this enterprise had a production capacity of 18,000 pieces of apparel products when ILO team conducted the first baseline data collection. After six months of training and coaching, the company can now produce 39,000 pieces of jerseys per month which is more than double its previous capacity. What made the difference? It is not due to the purchase of a new machine or extended working hour. The reason behind the change is a combination of tailor-made ILO Siraye Programme SCORE productivity training coupled with the enterprise commitment to translate the learning into action.

What are ILO’s SCORE interventions?

ILO SIRAYE’s work at national, regional and factory to ensure productivity improvement in tandem with decent working conditions. One of the ILO Siraye’s flagship initiative’s is the SCORE Productivity and Competitiveness Training which combines practical classroom training with in-factory consulting which is provided a minimum of 4 months. The programme Trained 167 enterprises and 120 SCORE consultants.

What changed after ILO’s intervention?

Prior to the ILO Support Omega factory was facing challenges related to inefficiency in using resources such as time, workspace and production inputs including raw materials. There were also problems related production volume, quality, marketing, communication and human resource management. There were also high number of workers absenteeism and some issues related to occupational safety and health, mainly absence of fire extinguishers and first aid kits. In addition limitation was observed in using standard operating procedures (SOPs) related to production process. According to Fitsum Bizuneh, manager at Omega Garment Enterprise, the management and the SCORE trainer were committed to making sustainable improvements in the enterprise. They appointed project champions and dynamic performance improvement teams to evaluate actions for social, financial and environmental benefits, recognize and reward achievement, encourage efforts, and accommodate diversity and be sensitive to gender differences.

Tamirat Woldesenbet is a consultant trained by the ILO as a SCORE Trainer. He now provides SCORE’s productivity trainings and advisory service for a host of enterprises in Hawassa including Omega Garment. Fisum and Tamrat are sharing their improvement journey as follows

Focus on Quality: According to his witness, Omega Garment received 66 rejections from its production in July 2022. After SCORE interventions this number fell to only 15 rejections in June 2023. But this is just one indicator – the intervention has resulted in far better gains than this. To mention a few: workplace accidents have fallen, from 5 per month to 1 minor incident in June 2023. Absenteeism has dropped dramatically. Unnecessary costs of time, space and money have collapsed. The variety of items manufactured has risen from 5 to 8.

Rethinking use of Space: With proper use of the available space, the working space at Omega is cleared from hazards like slippery floors and recklessly left materials in hallways affecting smooth movements in the factory shades. The effective utilization of space allowed OMEGA to secure 25sqm which could be used as a training centre. The training center is now providing training not only to Omega stuff but also other enterprises. This will not only help in imitating the successes by other enterprises but also is another source of income for the enterprise.

Time is money: Raw materials and work tools are now properly labelled and stored so that staff can easily identify objects they need more quickly. This has cut down search time from 30 minutes to 30 seconds.

These all contributed to an improvement in productivity resulting in securing new customers. Omega now partners with some of the top sports clubs in the country supplying them with sports kits.

Besides, the SCORE implementation has taught consultants and enterprises new ways of Business Development Service/BDS/ implementation approach. With this, the enterprises have now started setting daily targets and evaluating weekly performances.

Tamirat describes SCORE as “a wonderful, interesting, cost-effective, applicable, and sustainable approach for the improvement in any enterprise.” He now expands his service to other enterprises across Hawassa.

Gain Sharing: The success in productivity is now paying back as the staff at Omega became well paid as compared to the average pay in similar domestic garment enterprises.

All these improvements were not attained without any challenge. Less involvement of all stakeholders was the biggest challenge but “this was tackled with the establishment of Performance Improvement Consultative Committee (PICC), Natural Teams, OSH Committee and Quality Improvement Committee that helped to increase the involvement of our staff.

ILO Siraye Programme, through the SCORE intervention has built the technical capacity of individual trainers and national institutions, not only in Hawassa and Addis Ababa but also in other major cities in the country. The new trainers were able to recruit and start implementing SCORE in enterprises from a wide range of sectors.

Moreover, the establishment of gender-balanced Productivity Improvement Consultative Committees were crucial to identify improvement areas and come up with solutions through technical backstopping from Expert SCORE Trainers and engage in a continuous improvement process to sustain the gained improvements.

Fitsum says, “decent work is productive work for women and men in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. And work is considered as decent when it pays a fair income. Promoting jobs and enterprise, guaranteeing rights at work, extending social protection is a Decent Work Agenda, with gender as a cross-cutting issue”, highlighting how the two are interdependent.

“Enterprises should just open their factory doors to implement the project,” reckons Fitsum, when asked how this could be replicated in other similar Enterprises in Ethiopia.