Amco manufactures everything from medical-grade gowns to winter jackets and uniforms

Amco manufactures everything from medical-grade gowns to winter jackets and uniforms

Amco eyes PPE, smart textile market

From being primarily a textile manufacturer, the UAE-based company is now planning to be a global player in personal protective equipment and focus on developing smart textile solutions, writes Pummy Kaul

August 2020

Having savoured success with its recently launched reusable face mask ViroMask, UAE’s Amco Apparels Manufacturing FZC (Amco), plans to position itself as a front runner in the global supply chain for personal protective equipment (PPE).

The global personal protective equipment (PPE) market was worth $52.7 billion in 2019 and is projected to grow to $100 billion by 2030. This number is likely to be surpassed in 2020 because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Amco, which accounts for approximately 8 per cent of the UAE textile exports, said it is now shifting its focus from being primarily a textile manufacturer to providing more effective wearables using smart textile product lines.

Anwar: expecting 100 per cent growth this year

Anwar: expecting 100 per cent growth this year

The company’s strategic shift has essentially been prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic, which it admitted has affected its core business of apparel manufacturing just like several industries across the globe have been impacted.

In 2019, Amco’s exports constituted around 89 per cent of its total sales. In the current year, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to the suspension of the international logistics industry and a drop in sales throughout the world.

In order to come out of this situation successfully, Amco, which manufactures everything from medical-grade gowns to winter jackets and uniforms, is evaluating options to launch `more effective wearables using smart textile product lines’ such as products that keep people protected using anti-viral or temperature reducing textiles.

“We are seeing a significant increase in our medical lines and a decrease in our other sectors. The post-Covid-19 world is going to be completely different and we are concentrating on smart textiles with our partners ViroMasks and HeiQ,” Hammad Anwar, CEO, Amco told Gulf Industry in an exclusive interview.

“Our focus now is to provide more effective wearables using smart textile product lines,” he added.


Manufacturing masks

The crisis arising out of Covid-19 has led to economic setbacks across the world. Manufacturing companies across the globe are adapting their production plans in an effort to combat the impact of virus. From repurposing production and R&D capabilities, to switching production lines, companies are evaluating options to produce medical devices and related products to stay afloat.

Amco, too, started doing its bit as it designed and manufactured a face mask considered to be 'the safest in the world'. According to the company, it is currently producing half a million of its reusable face masks – called ViroMasks--each month to guard against Covid-19 at its plant in the UAE. 

Pitched as a safer alternative to disposable and fabric masks, ViroMasks, the company said, comes with anti-viral protection built in, is competitively priced, offers superior infection prevention for everyday use and can be reused for up to one year, maintaining anti-bacterial effectiveness for up to 40 washes and anti-viral effectiveness for up to 20 washes.

The ViroMasks product has been manufactured with HeiQ Viroblock technology, which according to Amco is the first in the world to be proven effective against SARS-CoV-2 virus in the laboratory.

In tests carried out by the Doherty Institute, a joint venture between the University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital, fabric samples treated with HeiQ Viroblock NPJ03 had `no infective viruses left after 30 minutes’.

“ViroMasks is a breakthrough in the quest to control the spread of the virus with particulate penetration tests showing that the masks have a filter efficiency of 98.5 per cent,” boasts Anwar.

“Amco is a reputed company and our vision of sustainability led us to become a partner of choice with Viromasks. We are quite happy that these masks are now dubbed as the safest daily-use masks by international medical journals,” a delighted Anwar added.

Amco’s facility is the first ISO 9001:2008 certified apparel manufacturing unit in the UAE

Amco’s facility is the first ISO 9001:2008 certified apparel manufacturing unit in the UAE

Ramping up Production 

Buoyed by the success of ViroMasks, the company is already planning to triple the production of its face-masks. From the current production of half a million of its reusable face masks each month, Amco  plans to increase production to 1.5 million masks by August by automating some of the production process.

“We have integrated an automated packaging line for our masks and we're increasing our production capacity to manufacture 1.5 million masks per month. As we are primarily a textile manufacturer, our production lines will concentrate on developing smart textile solutions,” Anwar revealed.

When asked if the company will venture into manufacturing of N95 masks , Anwar said: “our goal is to respond to customer demand and offer safer choices to protect health and the environment. Disposables conflict with our values, especially when people use it in daily life. As such, our business is constantly evolving and we have invested significant capital into advanced technologies to enhance production efficiency and quality,” he added.


Bahrain on the map

Considering that there’s a huge demand for masks in the fight against Covid-19, it comes as no surprise that Amco, is looking to ramp up production of face masks beyond its home base and elsewhere in the region. Bahrain, to start with, is on its radar of things.

“Yes, we are keen to develop regionally and internationally to offer customers a safe and protective alternative to disposable masks. We are signing up with distributors to bring safety during Covid-19 times to every house in the region. We expect to expand into more overseas markets and we're currently considering the cost of manufacturing and various import/export regulations and how these may impact our plan,” Anwar explained and added: “As an example, Bahrain has a free trade agreement with the US, which provides it with an advantage over the rest of the region. In the not too distant future, we hope to set up another manufacturing plant with a minimum of 20 production lines which will enable us to satisfy customer demand.”

Amco’s primary facility is located at Umm Al Quwain Freezone and Port, in Dubai, UAE. With multiple production lines and ISO 9001:2015 certified production processes. The current capacity utilisation is over 100 per cent and includes working overtime and using its affiliate factories to manufacture its products. The company, directly and indirectly, is responsible for about 1000 jobs in the area.


Future projections

According to Anwar, the company has had a 15 per cent year on year growth for the past three years. While it expects 100 per cent growth this year, the future is uncertain. “This year, because of ViroMasks production we are expecting a 100 per cent growth. As the Covid situation is very fluid and uncertain, it is difficult to predict the future,” he observed.

“We understand that the post-Covid world will be very different from what we are used to. Any company failing to embrace change will plunge, no matter how big they are. We are keeping Amco very agile and this continues to fuel our growth,” Anwar said while reflecting on the company’s future prospects.

“Internally, we operate flexible project management practices to develop new concepts and products. Externally, we use third-party companies to analyse feedback from our end-users; irrespective of the brand we have produced these for. We are pro-active, cooperative, and bring value to the table, to ensure our clients remain loyal,” he said.


Cost Concerns

While Amco may have mastered the art of making masks, the biggest area of concern for the company, however, could be the constant price fluctuations and the current uncertainty in the supply chain.

“The cost of doing business is always a concern for any manufacturing unit and we monitor it quite closely with competing markets. But the cost cannot be seen as the lone pillar as there are benefits of being based in a well-connected region as well,” the CEO said. According to him Amco’s strategic location in the GCC acts as the perfect mid-point between east and west and is logistically beneficial to its suppliers and customers based throughout the world. “We source our raw materials from over 30 countries and we ensure they come from trusted and certified vendors,” Anwar said.

Established in the UAE in 1989, the company has gained recognition in the market as being the first ISO 9001:2008 certified apparel manufacturer in the UAE and in recent time has obtained many more certifications to validate its success.

However, for medical products, the manufacturer must be ISO 13485 certified. “Amco as one of the largest is not only ISO 13485 certified but also ISO 9001:2015, WRAP (Worldwide responsible apparel production), Sedex (European standard for ethical production), OCS (Organic cotton standard) and GRS (Global Recycling Standard) certified,” said a proud Anwar.  

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