Following
recommendations can be given to improve the perception of employees on
knowledge, risk and benefits of applying nanotechnology for fabric
manufacturing and gaining sustainable competitive advantage in the apparel
industry using this new technology.

6.2 Recommendations to improve
perception on knowledge level in applying nanotechnology for fabric manufacturing

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Even
though many employees have heard or read about nanotechnology most have them
know little about the meaning of nanotechnology. In comments of the
questionnaire many employees have said they need more workshops and awareness
programs on nanotechnology as it is a new technology. To improve and manage the
existing knowledge level of employees on nanotechnology, Nonaka-Takeuchi (1994)
SECI model can be utilized. Knowledge creation, knowledge sharing and knowledge
storing are key areas of a knowledge management process. Knowledge creation is
the generation of new knowledge through innovation and R & D on ways of
applying nanotechnology for fabric manufacturing. Knowledge sharing is
transferring and acquisition of knowledge through learning processes and
communication. Knowledge storing can be done through several technologies,
where information (encoded knowledge) is deposited into databases, web, etc.
and culture being the living memory of the organization.

Figure 20 – The
SECI Model (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995)

6.2.1 Socialization to improve
knowledge on Nanotechnology

When
individuals interact, and share tacit knowledge with each other, they learn and
acquire new knowledge and accordingly improve their capacity to define a
situation or problem, enabling them to apply their knowledge to problem solving
and generating new ideas   on applying
nanotechnology to manufacture fabric. The discussions between executives within
the innovation teams of respective clusters and with their managers taking place
in workshops, training programmes or meetings, and social events such as annual
gatherings, give all employees in fabric manufacturing division the chance to
share their knowledge, to help solve problems and to improve their relevant
processes and products. This also helps them to get a good view on what
different teams (technical, R & D, marketing etc.) are doing from their
respective team members and share their knowledge on different problems within
the division. The discussions between team members of each team and the
internal and external experts can provide them with the knowledge to deal with
different situations and to introduce constructive ideas to enhance the
organization’s performance on applying nanotechnology for fabric manufacturing.
Finally, their discussions with customers through daily dealings and in social
meetings will allow them to give suggestions to improve the organization’s
performance with utilizing nanotechnology. Catering to customer needs through
innovation and R & D related to fabric manufacturing utilizing
nanotechnology is the most essential factor to gain sustainable competitive
advantage. Understanding the tacit knowledge which influences the thinking and
buyer behaviour of its main customer groups and, in turn, is exploiting it in
in design and product development through nano-based innovation is a key
feature of knowledge socialization.

6.2.2 Externalization to improve
knowledge on Nanotechnology

Documenting
the findings of discussions with internal and external bodies is the basis for
generating ideas. These documents provide the necessary data and information on
which to build new ideas on nanotechnology applications. They were also
considered as valuable memory aids that enabled employees to recall anything
from the past. Documents can be used as indicators of the latest innovations
and the starting point of new nano-based fabrics. Documentation of new process
layouts and past research on product development like Lotus nano-fabric and
other patented products like Athos are crucial for new product and process
development projects. Nike innovation centre is a key conglomerate in
externalizing the knowledge of nano-fabric manufacturing as several innovators
from several countries work together mostly on a short-term basis to initiate
new product and process developments related to Nike brand nano-fabrics. When
those innovators fly back to their countries with tacit knowledge, that tacit
knowledge can be converted to explicit knowledge through externalization and be
utilized in future innovation work of MAS Fabrics (pvt) Ltd which will help
them to gain sustainable competitive advantage.

6.2.3 Combination to improve
knowledge on Nanotechnology

Updating
fabric manufacturing division continuously by relevant reports and publications
related to nanotechnology applications is necessary to complete their daily
work and to revise their knowledge. Updating knowledge is the first step as it
is difficult to generate new ideas if they depend on old reports. Explicit
knowledge can be collected from inside the organization as well as outside the
organization to form more complex and systematically processed explicit
knowledge on innovation which can be utilized for the future projects based on
nanotech fabrics by creating the best explicit knowledge platform out of all
combined. Sometimes nanotech fabrics done for Nike will be used as the
precursor for another innovative nanotech fabric for VS even though their
products are different. Therefore, it’s very important to collect existing
internal explicit knowledge regularly to gain sustainable competitive advantage
through improving the knowledge on nanotechnology to fulfil the customer needs
before the competitors. It is also necessary to collect the explicit knowledge
from outside parties. For example, explicit knowledge of the nano-fabrics done
at Nike innovation centres in other countries and perhaps innovations related
to Nano fabrics from other competitors and universities could be collected and
combined with internal processes to innovate better products. Hence the
strategy can be focused on collecting and combining those internal and external
explicit knowledge depending on the needs of employees in fabric manufacturing
division and customers to gain sustainable competitive advantage.

6.2.4 Internalization to improve
knowledge on Nanotechnology

In internalization
process, explicit knowledge created and shared throughout the organization
through combination is converted into tacit knowledge by individuals. Reading
of trainings and seminar findings or postgraduate materials based on nanotech
fabric manufacturing can be provided to employees with new knowledge and give
them the chance to be aware of scientific and professional updates. This will
help them to develop their skills and to look at problems philosophically and
with an open mind which enabled them to produce innovative solutions to the
entire value chain of manufacturing nano-fabrics. Reviewing the published
reports from competitors provide good opportunities to learn how they think and
what they produce and accordingly suggest new ideas and products. It is very
important to provide employees, easy access to the organization’s databases
which will enable them to be aware of all related issues and thus produce
valuable ideas to improve fabric qualities using Nanotechnology.

6.3 Recommendations to improve
perception on risk factor in applying nanotechnology for fabric manufacturing

Even
though this study indicates there’s no relationship between risk and perception
on applying nanotechnology in fabric manufacturing, when the knowledge factor
and technology improve, employees may consider more about various environmental
and health risks based on nanotech fabric manufacturing applications. In
addition to the general regression analysis certain risk factors have scored
higher Likert scale points in the questionnaire. These factors like safety and
health risk should be identified as more influential factors to the variability
of the perception. It is therefore important to be able to define criteria that
distinguish between non-nanotech products and nanotech products. It is also
important to inform which nanotech products are likely to present a health risk
to avoid inappropriate and possibly deleterious sweeping conclusions regarding
potential impact. For example, complementary metal-oxide coated Nano fabrics
with sub-100 nm features, or high-resolution electron microscopes, will present
a fundamentally different potential risk to human health than products
containing unbound nanostructured particles, such as nanophase fabrics. The
2004 report on nanotechnology from the Royal Society and Royal Academy of
Engineering highlighted Nano fabrics associated with unbound sub-100 nm
diameter particles as being of particular danger to human health. It is
anticipated that nanotechnology standards being developed by organizations such
as the International Standards Organization (ISO) and ASTM International will
arrive with appropriate criteria in due course. Employees must adhere to these
international standards. Quantitative risk assessment remains difficult
for engineered nanomaterials used for nano-fabric manufacturing. Therefore, the
perception of employees on risk is greatly lacking. It is reasonable to
speculate that there will be risks, and that conventional risk assessment
paradigms will not always suffice. However, specific information on hazard,
exposure, dose, response, and other elements within risk assessment frameworks
is lacking. Therefore, experts on risk mitigation of nanotechnology should
involve in this process to develop internal standards. The following model can
be used to form a framework on risk management.

Exposure
Assessment
Particle behavior, Product uses, durability,
Receptor, Routes of entry
 

Toxicity Assessment
Uptake,
distribution, metabolism, excretion, reactivity, dosimetry

Risk Characterization
Likelihood of
effects, Nature of effects, Effectiveness of controls

Figure 21 – Recommended
Risk Management Standard

Hazard
Identification
Chemical Composition, Particle size,
Structure/properties, Coatings
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.4 Recommendations to improve
perception of benefits in applying nanotechnology for fabric manufacturing

It was
apparent from the raw data collected as most of the participants had identified
the benefits of nanotechnology and therefore, there is a strong relationship
between benefits and perception on nanotechnology and it is in a much-improved
stage. Thus, when the employees get more benefits, they tend to utilize
nanotechnology for fabric manufacturing. By giving more knowledge according to
SECI model, employees will get a good understanding on what benefits they can
gain through nano-fabric manufacturing. Most of them know that they can catch
the high-end market and earn more profits through nano-fabric. Therefore,
management of MAS Fabrics (pvt) Ltd can reward employees who innovate new
mechanism to manufacture Nano fabrics. Vroom’s expectancy theory (1964) can be
taken to improve the perception on benefits (REDMOND, 2017) through motivation.

It
assumes that behaviour results from conscious choices among alternatives whose
purpose it is to maximize pleasure and individual behaviour to minimize pain.
It indicates that effort, performance and benefits are linked in a person’s
motivation to maximize their productivity. Employees believe that their efforts
on innovation mechanism to produce/market Nano fabrics will result the
acceptable performance. Then they believe that acceptable performance will
produce the desired benefits and they value those benefits. Those benefits will
motivate them on supporting more kaizen projects on nano-fabric because they
would have the feeling that they will be benefited for their efforts. This will
improve the perception of employees on benefits of utilizing nanotechnology for
fabric manufacturing and this will help the organization to catch up high-end
markets to earn more profits to gain sustainable competitive advantage.

6.5
Recommendations to improve implementation of nanotechnology in fabric manufacturing
in Sri Lanka

As discussed in the
research background, nanotechnology is already utilized for fabric
manufacturing in Sri Lanka. But with the increasing demand, the level of
nanotechnology utilization is not enough to gain sustainable competitive advantage
in the apparel industry and therefore, it is a must to improve the
implementation more and more in fabric manufacturing as well as in all other
areas of apparel industry like printing and sewing. Perception was identified
as a key issue and when it is proved correct through knowledge, risks and
benefits as recommended above, more people will be willing to apply
nanotechnology in a Sri Lankan context. There are some other technical ways to
improve the implementation process and some of those techniques are recommended
below.

In fabric
manufacturing, nanometric materials can be dispersed into the matrix of the
fibres or deposited on their surface to give new nanocomposites improved
performances and characteristics. The spectrum of nanoparticles used for
preparing nanocomposites is large. It spans from metal, such as silver (Ag), to
metal oxides, such as titanium dioxide (TiO2), to carbon nanotubes (CNT), to
clays. Wide is, the number of characteristics and performances that can be
obtained with the addition of these nanoparticles. Specific spinning processes,
such as electrospinning, can be used to produce nano-fibres, which can lead to
non-woven fabrics with improved or new characteristics having multiple
applications. Surface treatments at nanoscale, using both wet and gas phase
processes, can bring about important advantages in the finishing step. All this
can contribute to develop high performances and multi-functional textiles
products which in turn allows specialisation, new applications, customisation.
Focusing more on silver nanoparticles and ZnO nanoparticles utilized in fabric
manufacturing is very important too. Silver nanoparticles, in particular, are
emerging as one of the fastest growing product categories in the nanotechnology
industry. The ability to produce particles of silver at nanoscale is allowing
companies to leverage its known antimicrobial properties as an effective means
for microbial control in nonwoven applications. ZnO nanoparticles have been
shown to provide UV shielding and reduced static electricity of nylon fibre. An
added advantage of the use of zinc oxide is that it is approved for use in skin
contact fabrics.

Research institutes
like SLINTEC and NRC and internal innovation staff in some apparel companies in
Sri Lanka like MAS and Brandix should focus on more developments in applying
nanotechnology for fabric manufacturing aiming at two main objectives. The
first objective should be the upgrading of both present functions and
performance of textile materials. For example, fabrics prepared with fibres
added with nano-size fillers (e.g. nano-particles, nano-powders, carbon
nanotubes-CNTs) or having innovative finishing treatments, characterised by,
enhanced strength and durability, flame resistance, self-cleaning, variable
chromatic behaviour, light protection, hydrophilic or hydrophobic properties,
anti-static features. The second objective should address the development of
innovative products, in particular smart textiles with totally new features and
functions. For example, energy generation, or controlled release of drugs or
scents.  The development of new
smart/intelligent textiles (textiles with new functions through the integration
of technology into a fabric which make them responsive to inputs, to
show/modify specific properties, or with sensing and actuating capabilities) is
gaining much attention. For example, clay nanoparticles are introduced to
dye-attracting sites and used to create dye-holding space in polypropylene
fibres, which are characterised by structural compactness and lack of
dye-attracting sites. In this case, nanoparticles of montmorillonite are
modified with quaternary ammonium salt and then mixed into polypropylene before
it is extruded. As a result, the polypropylene can be coloured by acid dyes and
disperse dyes. Fibres spun from pure carbon nanotubes can be used to prepare
textile applications. These fibres are currently undergoing rapid development,
along with composite fibres containing carbon nanotubes as additive which can
be utilized to manufacture higher strength fabrics as military armouries for
soldier uniforms. These improvements in implementing nanotechnology in fabric
manufacturing combined with improved perception will surely lead Sri Lankan
apparel industry to achieve sustainable competitive advantage with much higher
sales and profits which directly impact on the development of the country since
apparel is our prime export income generation industry.