27 Jan 2006
Bright Prospects(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 02,2006)
Favour Light Enterprises Ltd
Favour Light Enterprises Ltd has extended its range to include LED flashlights, lanterns, headlights and clip-on keychain lights
"We started out as Shing Fung Metal Fty, a manufacturer of items like springs and contact plates," reveals sales and marketing director Camellia Shiu. "We designed our first simple torch in the early 1980s, and started to offer traditional, tungsten bulb torches and lanterns."
The Shing Fung name was used until 1993. "We then came up with the idea of changing our name to Favour Light, and found that it made a brighter impression on buyers, especially at trade fairs," says Shiu.
Today, Favour Light estimates that it is the largest maker of LED-based illumination products in Hong Kong. There are some 500 different models, while the firm's active customer base numbers about 350.
"Expansion was rapid and comprehensive," says Shiu, "and today we have 72 CNC machines, purchased especially to facilitate production of a new aluminium series of torches."
Other machinery includes surface mount devices (SMD), bonding machines, 70 plastic injection machines, 12 pad-print machines and several laser engraving machines.
"In all, we have 18 production lines and employ 1,500 workers at our 259,000-square-foot plant in Dongguan on the Chinese mainland," says Shiu. "The monthly production capacity is 1.2 million units, comprising about 30% aluminium products and 70% plastic."
Favour Light has successfully made sports torches - for diving and camping - since the 1990s. "In addition, 2000 was a big year as we commenced production of LED lights," says Shiu. "We were probably among the first in Hong Kong to launch such models."
Inspiration for LED torches came from keychain lights first made in the US then Japan. "Although quite expensive at the time, retailing for about US$20 for a small one, these items still sold well," recalls Shiu.
"We contacted the world-renowned LED producers in Japan and started to develop a range of small lights. However, initial success was soon blunted by cheap imitations and so we decided to move on," Shiu adds.
"In 2001-2, we started making an aluminium series of LED torches - the first departure from the plastic models we had been making for almost 30 years. There was some risk involved, though, as we were unsure about how the market would respond to higher-priced torches."
Fortunately, both clients and users accepted the higher-priced aluminium torches and provided a firm foundation for further expansion by Favour Light. "Initially, we had to subcontract the aluminium models until we had purchased and installed all the necessary machinery," says Shiu. "Now, everything is done in-house."
Favour Light also began experimenting with dual-bulb flashlights, combining an LED with a Xenon bulb. "We discovered that this combination overcame the problem of the LED, which has a very wide angle beam, because the incandescent bulb is more focused and penetrates further," Shiu says.
In 2003, the company began buying a more powerful LED known as a Luxeon. "While these are more expensive and have a higher power consumption, there is no need to ever replace the lamp," says Shiu. "We offer one-, three- and five-watt models."
Despite good business for the past four years, Shiu says things are quite tough now. "The major problem is one of over-supply," says Shiu. "Most torches employ simple technology and there are price barriers to contend with."
Another important consideration is the street-level availability of different batteries. "Lithium batteries, although advantageous, are not so readily found in certain markets and the cost of replacements is also too high for many people. That's why more torches use AA and AAA batteries," Shiu adds.
Some 45% of Favour Light's exports go to the US, with Europe taking 28% and Japan 17%. "We are bringing out smaller torches, with half-watt LEDs and at lower prices," says Shiu. "We have reworked our lanterns for a smarter look, and will bring out a series of lower-priced plastic models."
Despite some gloom, Favour Light is clearly determined to continue to illuminate the market with products that really shine.
WRITTEN BY TONY HENDERSON
Favour Light Enterprises Ltd