Modern households could barely run without the range of electrical appliances which bring comfort and convenience and have helped to transform our daily lives. While serving intensely practical functions, these products also incorporate innovative design features, high levels of quality and reliability and, in many cases, aspects of the very latest technology.
To support developments in the industry, the Hong Kong Electrical Appliances Manufacturers Association (HKEAMA) was established in 1998 and has worked to promote better communication and co-operation among its more than 200 corporate members. It also liaises with government bodies, as well as local and overseas trade organisations, on behalf of the industry.
"For instance, the HKEAMA serves as a channel for enquiries about any new mainland business policies," says Steven Kwok, the association's president. He adds that promotional activities can focus on the strength of Hong Kong's electrical appliance industries and their reputation for excellent performance and competitiveness in international markets. This, he points out, is the result of companies constantly upgrading their engineering, technical, marketing, product development and management practices.
The association organises and sponsors events to keep members informed about market changes and new technology. By maintaining close contacts with similar organisations overseas, it also provides a platform for members to develop business relationships with buyers and potential joint-venture partners. In addition, there are regular visits organised to cities such as Shanghai, Hangzhou and Ningbo to keep up to date with what's happening there.
Hong Kong companies produce and export everything from kitchen and home appliances to personal care and lighting products. Most of the businesses are classified as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and have production facilities on the mainland for reasons of overall cost effectiveness. At present, though, these operations are having to contend with a number of challenges including labour shortages, higher rates for insurance and wages, and difficulties in securing land for possible expansion. The role of the Hong Kong offices is generally to handle product development, quality control, marketing, logistics and management support.
In response to growing concerns on the part of customers, it has been necessary in recent years to tighten quality assurance controls and comply with new international standards for environmental protection. For instance, regulations governing waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), restrictions of hazardous substances (RoHS), and energy-using products (EuP) have all come into force. These have led to the need to test and re-evaluate products and, inevitably, also had an impact on costs and quality control. However, by meeting these stringent standards, Hong Kong manufacturers should also be able to take advantage of new business opportunities.
"Supported by the Hong Kong Productivity Council, the HKEAMA succeeded in obtaining funding from the government's SME Development Fund, to build a database of common non-compliance materials, chemicals, production processes suppliers in compliance with RoHS, and a technical WEEE guidebook will be published in early 2007," Mr Kwok says.
Quality and innovation
He notes that SMEs have proved themselves to be particularly good at developing products and finding new niches. This has given them a competitive edge and made it possible to add value in terms of design, quality and innovation. It has created steady demand for professionals experienced management, marketing and product design, as well as for industrial, mechanical, and mould and die engineers. Young graduate engineers are also needed, but should be prepared to work in the mainland and realise that it takes up to five years to master the essentials of an industry.
"It is best to view that as a long-term investment for a highly rewarding career," says Mr Kwok. He adds that dedication, persistence, willingness to learn, integrity and enthusiasm are also key factors for success. One of the HKEAMA's future initiatives will be to set up a unit to assist young members and help in their career development.
"We are also supporting OBM (original brand manufacturing) promotional activities, and inviting industry leaders to share their experiences about how to enhance overall industry competitiveness," Mr Kwok says.
Main HKEAMA services
- Constant updates on the mainland business environment
- EU's environmental directives observed for "Green Manufacturing"
- OBM for Hong Kong's industries
- Opening up mainland's domestic markets
- Promotional activities and seminars to enhance productivity and management skills
- Site visits and tours to explore further business opportunities