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Singapore Work Ethnic Serves Bodynits Int’l Just Fine

“Workers here are more skilful, and they are also more motivated, more disciplined. They know what they are here for.”

Bodynits International’s active lifestyle and fitness wear lines – Bodynits and Bods – are familiar homegrown brands. But what may come as a surprise to most Singaporeans is the fact that Bodynits International actually manufactures its own garments – something most clothing lines don’t do.

And an even lesser-known fact about the company is that it engages in contract manufacturing. In fact, “it is the company’s contract manufacturing arm that contributes to more than 80 per cent of Bodynits International’s revenue”, says Bert Tan, executive director of Bodynits International.

The firm started out as a family business in 1984 by Mr Tan’s two sisters, who saw a niche in the burgeoning aerobics market. As imported aerobics outfits at that time were usually expensive and had cuts that were not suited to the smaller Asian frames, the Tan sisters decided to set up a factory to manufacture competitively priced fitness wear under the brand name Bodynits.

“But by the late 1980s, other brands started approaching us to manufacture for them and that’s how we went into contract manufacturing.” said Mr Tan. That was a move that proved lucrative. From a turn-over of $600,000 in its first year, Bodynits International’s business went past a turn-over of $76 million last year.

The company’s speciality is still in manufacturing fitness and active wear in stretch fabrics, and its contract manufacturing customers include famous international sportswear brands like Nike, Puma, and Champion. Other than its Singapore plant, Bodynits has two other factories in Shantou, China and Bintan, Indonesia. The Shantou factory was opened in 1993.

Despite the fact that the Singapore factory (“slightly bigger than the Bintan one and smaller than the Shantou one”) employs about 450 workers – the same number as at each of the other two factories – it turns out 50-60 per cent of Bodynits International’s total production.

“The manufacturing in our Singapore factory is more productive. It’s really due to a few factors,” said Mr Tan.

The facility is specially geared towards the handling of highly innovative performance fabrics. It also boasts a $750,000 conveyor system which facilitates the movement of garments across the factory and cuts production time by 40 per cent.

“Everything us pre-programmed. Problems are spotted very quickly in the early stages of production by our technical and quality assurance staff,” added Mr Tan.

But while it is true that less labour-intensive production is done here in Bodynits International’s factory here, Mr Tan contends that the Singapore workers themselves are more productive.

“The whole operational culture is different here. Workers here are indeed more skilful, but they are also more motivated, more disciplined. They know what they are here for; they know what to do.”
That explains why Bodynits International has been keen to increase its manufacturing capacity in Singapore to cater to increased demand. In April, one more floor of production space was added to the company’s Singapore facility in Changi South Lane. With this increase in manufacturing capability, Mr Tan expects to see a 20 per cent increase in revenue for this year.

Going forward, the company intends to grow both its contract manufacturing business as well as its brands, Bodynits and Bods.

“We think we are a strong contract manufacturer. There are many generalists in this field but we are a specialist because we only do fitness and active wear. We work very closely with fabric manufacturers for the special fabrics needed for the kind of apparel we manufacture. Our customers know that they can trust us.”

And these customers come from almost all corners of the globe: the US, Europe, Middle East and Asia and, most recently, Latin America.

But developing the house brands is also very important to the company. “They are very close to our hearts, because we started out as our own brand and this is something we will continue to promote.” Right now, Bodynits (which is for females) and Bods (for males) are available in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia as well as China.

The last is a market that Bodynits International is targeting for its house brands. The company already has three retail outlets in Shanghai and “we are scouting around for more cities to enter”, said Mr Tan.

Thailand and the Philippines are also two new markets that he hopes Bodynits and Bods can penetrate. Mr Tan even hopes to bring the brands to Mexico, revealing: “It is very likely because we have an interested distributor there who wants to bring our brands over.”

Source: As published in Businesstimes Magazine words by Nande Khin