Our position in the hand protection market is based on three powerful principles:
These principles have served and continue to serve us well, enhancing our value proposition to customers, cementing our industry-leading reputation and driving business growth.
Our Firstlight integrated-supply-chain initiative, launched several years ago, makes us the world's ethical glove manufacturer (see 'Supplier' Section). Through this programme, we help do away with the exploitation of small rubber farmers, who form the first link in our supply chain. Structured on fair trade principles and including smallholder and community development, capacity-building and entrepreneurship components, Firstlight has not only built us a loyal supplier base among smallholders in poor rural areas of Sri Lanka but has also given us a unique brand discriminator that is of recognised value to consumers in many of our most profitable markets. Through Firstlight, we aim to establish global fair trade standards for natural latex gloves.
We continued to invest in efforts to reduce waste and energy consumption in our production processes, reduce our carbon footprint and fresh water use, comply or improve upon environmental and social operating norms and take a stakeholder-enrichment approach to running our factories.
Efforts to further improve our already high product quality move forward hand-in-hand with the drive for leaner manufacturing across the organisation. The latter, whose various elements have been dubbed the 'DPL Operating System' or DOS, now forms the backbone of all our manufacturing operations. An important component of DOS is the transformation of our operational culture from a hierarchical, departmental model to a cross-functional, process-orientated one.
During the year, capital expenditure was allocated to enhancing manufacturing capacity, improving flexibility and increasing plant availability, all of which collectively contribute to improved product quality. We also invested in greater cost efficiency with the conversion of the heating system at our Hanwella Factory from furnace oil to biomass, and added a third biomass heater at our medical glove manufacturing facility in Thailand in order to enhance its production throughput.
Despite the difficult economic and market conditions, it was encouraging to see demand for high-end products such as electrician's insulating gloves and ketone-resistant gloves rising rapidly. We have taken steps to increase our capacity to produce these gloves during the new financial year.