Local light engineering is producing spare parts and complete machines for the armed forces, and energy and power, agriculture, leather and footwear sectors
A bio-grade polyethylene machine produces eco-friendly biodegradable polyethylene. It is widely used in textile and readymade garment sectors around the world.
It is largely China, Taiwan, Japan and Germany which produce this machine. Bangladesh has been importing the product from these countries at a cost of Tk70 lakh to Tk1 crore for each machine.
The good news is that this machine is now being made at Lalbagh of Dhaka, each costing Tk22 lakh and providing almost the same kind of services.
Mafia Engineering, one of the pioneers in producing this bio-grade poly machine, plans to introduce it in the market in March 2020.
"I have completed making the machine. It will function the same way as the machines imported from China and Taiwan do," said Abul Kashem Titu, proprietor of Mafia Engineering.
Currently, he is awaiting an exhibition of his machine scheduled for March.
"I hope to get some orders for the machine at the exhibition. The price of the machine will be one-third of the price of the imported machines," he added.
Titu believes neighbouring countries such as India, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar could be big markets for his product if it is introduced to them properly.
This is just one example of how Bangladesh's light engineering industry is substituting imported machinery and saving foreign exchange.
Mafia Engineering also manufactures film blowing machine, double decker sealing and cutting machine with servo system, lamination and coating machine, slitting machine, plastic crusher and plastic recycling machine.
These sorts of machinery are used in the textile industry for washing and dyeing, making polyethylene and transforming polyethylene into plastic film.
Earlier, Bangladesh needed to import such machinery to meet the demands of the local textiles sector.
But now the locally made low-cost machinery is gradually replacing the imported ones.
One of the most popular machines produced by Mafia Engineering is the film blowing machine, which is used to blow plastic into polyethylene.
Polyethylene is widely used for packaging of industrial goods, food and covering farmland.
A number of reputed firms, including Ha-Meem Group, Square Pharmaceuticals, Akij Group, Bengal Group, Global Group, Devine Group, Pran-RFL, Khulna Packaging, Bangladesh Packaging Meridian Group, and Major Poly have been using Mafia Engineering's film blowing machine.
The utility and function of the machine have been appreciated by its users.
Engineer Md Fayzul Islam, assistant general manager of Meridian Group, said, "The machine does not look as good as the foreign-made ones but it serves our purpose."
He said Meridian Group had purchased the machine five years ago at a cost of Tk12 lakh. In all this time, they have not had any major problem using it.
"If I had imported the machine, it would have cost Tk45 lakh each. But I got it locally at one-fourth the price," he added.
Ha-Meem Group bought a poly machine from Mafia Engineering for Tk40 lakh. Titu said a machine of this range would have cost Tk4 crore if imported.
Major Polymer, which supplies polybags to the salt industry, has been using 10 poly machines manufactured by Mafia Engineering for the past five years.
Harunur Rashid, owner of Major Polymer, said, "Our locally produced machines are more convenient and cost effective than the imported ones."
Besides, local light engineering is producing spare parts and complete machines for the armed forces, and energy and power, agriculture, leather and footwear sectors. Earlier, these sectors were dependent on import of the needed machinery.
Stepping into new potentials
For the first time, Bangladesh's ordnance factories will be getting spare parts from the local light engineering industry.
Jigs and Fixture, one of the ordnance factories, used to import these spare parts from China.
But this time it has ordered it from Progoti Engineering, a local light engineering house on Tipu Sultan Road in the old part of Dhaka.
"The cost of the spare parts will be at least three times lower than that of import from China," said Saiful Islam, proprietor of Progoti Engineering.
"Once I deliver the order successfully, I expect to have more orders for other spare parts," he added.
In recent times, the light engineering industry has emerged as a potential cost-cutting sector by providing about 50 percent substitutes for imported items in the country.
Manufacturers in the sector claim that electrical goods such as switches, sockets, light shades, channel cables and fans, which are manufactured by local entrepreneurs, now meet 48 percent of the country's demand that earlier were met through import.
Data available from the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority and the Export Promotion Bureau reveal that the sector makes import substitute products worth Tk2,000 crore per year. Its export earnings amounted to about Tk3,000 crore in the last fiscal year.
Abdur Razzaque, president of Bangladesh Engineering Industry Owners Association, said the light engineering sector could flourish even more if the government provided financial and technical support to it.
He mentioned that around 95 percent of workshops had been set up through self-finance. The industry does not have the capacity to import high priced moulding machines.
"If the government gives us funds to purchase Computerised Numerical Control (CNC) machines, we can produce better quality products, which can be a substitute for many other imported machines as well as create an export market," he added.
For example, having some CNC lathe machines could substitute the import of auto bike axle from China, said Abdur Razzaque.
Giasuddin Mahmud, owner of Ahmed Engineering Workshop in Pabna, one of the auto bike axle importers and manufacturers, said he gets 10,000 orders for auto bike axle every week just from one upazila of Sirajganj.
But he cannot meet the demand as he does not have the production capacity.
"A worker can produce only 20 axles a day manually. But with a CNC lathe machine, 1,000 axles could be produced every day," said Giasuddin.
"At the same time, such a machine could provide a more smooth finish and result in better quality than what is being produced manually," he added.
Some CNC lathe machines from China, each worth Tk15 lakh, could help the auto axle industry, said Giasuddin.