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Transferring knowledge in Vietnam
Gloves smelling of rubber would seem not to be an unusual phenomenon for Dutch house husbands and housewives, who peel their potatoes every day, sheathed in protective gloves. But according to Le Bach Long, director of a rubber glove factory in Vietnam, his product still smells a little strange. Something not affecting gloves from his competitors.
As Long explained, “We have problems with the smell of the gloves, and the colours keep changing. We have been trying to solve this problem for a long time now.” In response, rubber expert Jaap Meijer flew to Vietnam. “When I arrived the problem turned out to be slightly different from that described in the application; something I have often come across in other missions, too.” In this case, Jaap felt the problem of the gloves smelling was not too serious, but he did observe considerable discolouration; and in his opinion, both problems shared a common cause.
The discolouration usually occurs fourteen days following production; the average duration of a PUM advice mission. As Jaap explained, “That made it impossible for me to solve this specific problem during my mission, but I did teach them some new methods. Firstly, I focused on the production method in case I saw something that others had missed, due to a sort of tunnel vision. We also tried another method: producing a number of batches with in each case a different missing ingredient. Even if the result is that none of the ingredients is actually responsible, then you know that you need to look elsewhere, for example at water quality or other conditions related to the production process.”
Jaap set to work together with Than Ha and Vo Nang, the two female chemical engineers at the factory. They were keen to hear Jaap’s advice, despite the initial obstacle of their poor level of English. Fortunately they were rescued by modern technology: armed with Google Translate on their telephone, they worked through the entire process alongside Jaap. All the methods employed for testing the quality of the gloves and identifying the cause of the discoloration and the smell were considered in detail.
‘All the methods for testing the quality of the gloves were considered in detail’
Director Long’s expectations of the mission were high, but realistic. “The time available was limited, but we are convinced that we have now learned the right methods for tackling the problem ourselves.” In the future, Long aims to expand export of the gloves to Japan and the Czech Republic, that will then be used as a test case for the rest of Europe. Thanks to the pleasant cooperation, Jaap was able to pass on a great deal of knowledge to the factory engineers.
As Jaap concluded, “I have spent my entire working life in the rubber industry, and built up experience in the Netherlands, Europe and beyond. The company where I spent much of my career for example produced rubber mixes for other rubber factories to turn into their finished products. I was able to call upon all that experience to help solve the problems facing the Nam Long glove factory in Vietnam.”