Hestra found the perfect conditions in northern Vietnam for producing its premium-quality gloves. What chiefly attracted this Swedish family business to create one of the world’s most modern glove factories here was the people and the culture of craftsmanship.
Hestra found the perfect conditions in northern Vietnam for producing its premium-quality gloves. What chiefly attracted this Swedish family business to create one of the world’s most modern glove factories here was the people and the culture of craftsmanship. The family business had spent two years building this brand-new, ultra-modern glove factory in the port city of Hai Phong, twenty kilometres south east of Hanoi. The company was registered and property was purchased in an industrial area close to the all-important harbour. Investments were then made in innovative machinery and fixtures and a team of 120 qualified employees were hired with assistance from the embassy and Business Sweden, among others.
Today, Hestra Matsuoka Vietnam produces both fashion and technical sports gloves and the number of employees has increased to almost 300. The factory has become a typical example of successful interaction between Swedish business and foreign authorities, Småland entrepreneurship and the Vietnamese tradition of producing leather goods. At the same time, the factory shows how essential in-house production is to the Hestra brand.
"Glove production requires a lot of hands-on work and thus employees with the right expertise. A culture of industry and craftsmanship that is unfortunately no longer to be found in northern Europe; however, in certain parts of south-east Asia, such as here in northern Vietnam, it still exists,” says Hestra’s Managing Director Anton Magnusson.
As a trained glove maker – and great grandchild of founder Martin Magnusson – he knows how much skill goes into sewing gloves. Since 2013, Anton Magnusson has been responsible for the company's various production units overseas, including as Managing Director of Hestra’s first factory in Hungary, before heading the project to set up the brand-new facility in Vietnam. Anton considers this to have been an important and educational experience:
“The people here are so amazingly skilled and smart when it comes to finding solutions for needs we identify. We can learn a lot and are grateful to have this expertise within the company.”
The second key reason for setting up their own factory is to retain control over production. This, according to Anton, is essential with respect to quality, planning and sustainability:
“This enables us to guarantee that our gloves are produced with the level of care and in keeping with the environmental standards and working conditions that both we and our customers expect.”
Hestra Matsuoka will shortly gain its certification under the international ISO 9001 quality standard, while ISO 14001 environmental certification is planned for 2022. Hestra is already adhering to the city of Hai Phong’s strict environmental plan and has established its factory in an area with excellent infrastructure in terms of management of grey water and waste, energy supply and transport.
The company is also affiliated with BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative), an EU organisation that audits working conditions in the textile industry. Hestra’s workplace in Vietnam has gained top marks for being equipped with modern air conditioning and ventilation, plenty of natural light, a canteen where employees get free lunch, and offers fair pay and humane working hours.
Hestra Matsuoka’s MD, Terry Yamamoto from Japan, agrees that conditions for employees are a key factor.nn“It’s about being an attractive workplace. Competition for skilled labour is fierce,” he explains.
“Machines you can just buy, but you have to seek out skilled workers.”
That also applies to Terry in many ways. He has been working with gloves his entire life and has been in contact with Hestra for more than twenty years. He was Anton Magnusson’s first-choice candidate for the post of MD of the newly established Vietnamese company.
Terry reports that around forty workers from a closed-down glove factory nearby were hired six months before the factory actually opened to ensure they ended up at Hestra. This shows just how essential the human factor is. In addition to recruitment and the best working conditions, training also plays an important role:
“All our seamstresses learn to sew the entire glove, not just certain components as is common in many other specialist factories in Asia,” says Terry.
“The induction process therefore takes longer, but we believe the investment is worth it. This gives employees a better understanding of the complete product and they can then work at different stations in production, which also makes work planning more flexible.”
Hestra Matsuoka’s very first employee, on the other hand, had no link to the glove or textile industry. Pham Thi Thuan from Vietnam worked for the company that sold the property to Hestra, which is how she came into contact with Anton Magnusson. Once the deal was settled, he asked her if she would like to be his assistant (she speaks fluent English alongside her native language).
“I’m really happy she accepted,” says Anton, who continues:
“Thuan has been a huge support throughout the process and a great help in our contact with authorities, the builder and other local parties. And she arranged my first moped, so I could get to work!”
Today, Thuan works as PA to Terry Yamamoto and is also involved in production planning. During her time at Hestra, she has learned a great deal about gloves and the production process. She has also been to Sweden several times – even during the winter:
“It was really cold! And so, it was an important experience to understand where and why our gloves are needed,” says Thuan.