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KM Knitwear – Inspirational story of Responsible Production and Consumption, a very important SDG for the textile industry

    Responsible Production and Consumption, or in other words, SDG 12, could be the target SDG for any industry. How this SDG can be meaningful in Textile Industry, only some companies have mastered the art. It is time to get inspiration from the pioneers such as KM Knitwear and learn from them the art of implementing a bold vision, that not only helps in business growth but also helps in responsible production. We spoke with Mr Vishnu, Joint Managing Director, KM Knitwear Pvt. Ltd. and Jeyavishnu Clothing Pvt. Ltd. about what steps they took to achieve their mission.

    KM Knitwear took a bold step in investing in the ‘state of the art’ technology (high capex) to reduce opex while also saving resources. Resources here mean water, energy and chemicals.

    Managing Director – Mr. K. M. Subramanian

    Joint Managing Director – Mr. Vishnuprabu K.S

    Tirupur based garment manufacturer started as a small unit in nineties and emerged as one of the leading export-house at the turn of the century. Now the footprint of the company is an integrated player with spinning, knitting, processing and fabric finishing. The ‘state of the art’ infrastructure which is perceived as high tech actually as a concept, not only is for efficiency of the manufacturing process, but also for making the process sustainable.

    There is a difference between merely focusing on production efficiency, which typically is units/day. However, the systematic measures taken over several years has paid the company well over time. Mr. Vishnu attributes this success to the vision of his father, Mr.Subramanian, whose passion towards sustainability has been their driving force.

    Holistic thinking:

    Cleaner production processes are those where inputs and outputs are measured and all efforts are made to reduce inputs, conserve inputs and recover those in a condition which helps the subsequent cycles is what helps in conservation of resources. Also, any output that is a waste can be put to use. This thinking is behind the infrastructural investments made by the company.

    Steam condensate recovery

    Steam condensate recovery helps in saving thermal energy and water as opposed to conventional way where condensate is collected in open tanks. This definitely requires closed steam loop with high efficient condensate recovery pump, which is an additional infrastructural expenditure. This realizes 10% of energy savings and fuel consumption is reduced with water savings.

    Heat recovery:

    The other remarkable use of the technology is when the hot effluent (70-90°C) is allowed to pass close to the cold-water pipes so that heat recovery happens. This helps water gain temperature by 20-25°C for the next cycle of steam and so a quantum of energy is recovered.

    ETP with Anaerobic Digestor

    This one additional step of adding an anaerobic digestor in the effluent treatment system, where bacteria digests the dye molecule, and this process although involves high capex gives ROI in terms of less frequent replacement of RO membranes. This is substantial saving for medium to long term. The sludge that is recovered has lesser chemical load. Entire flow is planned as gravity flow that reduces 50 % of pump usage.

    Optimise chemical usage in Dyeing & Printing

    Reducing the usage of chemicals is the next step. Using organic substitutes for chemicals in pre-treatment, such as enzymes helps in reducing TDS and BOD and even for neutralizing acid, Low chemical oxygen demand (COD) buffers are used, which brings down the toxic loads for the entire ETP system. Moreover the azo-free environmentally friendly dyes and chemicals are used to dye/print all types of fabrics.

    Fuel for Boilers

    While in the initial years of dyeing unit, for around 5 years firewood was used as the main source of fuel, which was switched to coal, now part of it is getting shifted to 80% to 20% biomass. The company intends to reduce this further to reduce the coal consumption even more.

    Measures to control air pollution:

    The flue gas from the boiler is passed through several dust collectors and bag filters and the clean air is let out. The ash is converted to fly-ash bricks, around 1500 bricks per day, which are used for any construction in house, and is also sold outside.

    Saving water using Air flow technique in Dyeing

    50-60 l/kg of fabric was used in the previous system but with air flow technique, only 45 l of water is used. So even a 15 litre saving per kg leads to 6 lakh litre of water saved everyday for 40 tonnes of daily production.

    Waste Management

    The sludge which is the end waste of ETP is completely dried using a sludge drier is then sent to cement factories. Salt is fully recovered for reuse. STP helps in cleaning water for landscape purposes. Food waste is converted into bio-gas through a digestor which is inturn used as a fuel for cooking.

    So, the net result is that the company has reduced its expenses by reducing water wastage at every level, by saving fuel, by reusing water to close the loop. The company has not sourced water from outside since the inception of its ETP sysytem and the water that is bought from municipal body is only for domestic water use with no consumption for process water.

    The company has Higgs, OEKO Tex and other certifications, WRAP, SEDEX, GOTS and for Green Building certification. The company was awarded in 2018 by Tamil Nadu Government a Green Award in recognition of its exceptional sustainable services.

    A long-time customer is TechnoSports who have been in business with the dyeing unit for more than 5 years. In his testimonial, the MD of TechnoSports, Mr. Sunil said that with an empowered management team which is there since inception, KM Knitwear is always willing to try new products and take risks. They are consistently nurturing and enriching the knowledge bank by knowledge sharing culture within the organisation. They have strived towards hygiene, cleanliness and good work environment with regular initiatives for retaining and rewarding efficient employees”

    On CSR front, the company has adopted 25 acres of land for plantation of saplings 20,000 trees are being planted and maintained. The company also adopted a Government School, and spent 85 lakhs on infrastructure.

    The ISO 9001:2015 certified company now is on a path to become completely digitized and become paper free industry shortly.

    As a group, KM Knitwear is making a mark in Apparel exports to US, UK and European markets with quality & sustainability as a core theme.

    Interview by Dr Shashi Kad & Sowmya Ravisandiran, Team SAGE Sustainability