BIG smiles on our faces – Friends TEC’s first international order heads to Europe!

The opening of Friends-International’s Training and Employment Center (TEC) in Phnom Penh in early July 2010 saw major changes in our approach to production. Founded on our experience of setting up workshop based production in Andong community, 25km outside of Phnom Penh, our new center located in the heart of Phnom Penh will be able to assist in building many more futures through its scaled-up production facilities.

Three weeks of intensive training were organized to prepare 17 participants from the Home Based Production Project for the task ahead of them… this was a BIG order from the Smiley Corporation – 1,500 pieces with a three week deadline! However, no need to panic, especially when you have the whole team behind you to help in the planning process. Sampling was done throughout July by the production team and the raw materials for the order were imported from Thailand with the help of the Friends Social Business team, who took care of transport and clearances.


Finally, in August all samples were approved and the green light was given to the production team. The first stage involved cutting the meters of vinyl needed for the project into shape. This alone took a week, with ten young and enthusiastic production agents getting the vinyl ready for the sewers. Over the remaining two weeks, the sewing machines were running at full speed, with vinyl scraps and thread covering the floors, and piles of products – messenger bags, toiletry cases and purses – filling every available corner of the factory.

Product quality was constantly checked by the production agents themselves as well as production managers, trainers and advisors who also made sure that everything was labeled and packaged nicely. The overall supervision for this order was in the hands of the skills trainer and the production manager. Due to the size of the order, the workshop in Andong community was also involved. Additional sewing models as well as pieces of the metal collection were produced here.

Team spirits were kept up by making sure the producers were all well taken care of, with transport and lunch provided for the training period and the first week of production. Then, the producers were paid by piece and received an average income of $82 per week. After the order was completed, feedback forms on the working conditions were handed out in order to develop the training even further. In the end the producers were tired but happy, but they won’t have a lot of time to rest, however, as the next big order from Courrier International is already waiting for them!


…but for now, the Smiley products have made their way to Europe, leaving a BIG smile on everyone’s face!

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