17 June 2004
Get Up And Go!(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 06,2004)
Hong Kong Brands
Get Up And Go!
A Flash Of Inspiration
Fook Tin Technologies Ltd
Fook Tin Technologies Ltd has gained recognition as a maker of quality electronic devices such as this body fat measuring scale with remote control (right) and other innovative designs like weighing devices
When young go-getter Chai Man Chung set up a small manufacturing company in Hong Kong in 1963, he showed remarkable foresight by calling it Fook Tin (which translates in English to Rich Field). In the intervening 41 years, Fook Tin has indeed proved a rich field - locally and internationally.
The company has managed to build a firm reputation as a manufacturer and innovator of quality electronic products, specialising in weighing devices, sensors, health and lifestyle items, and has become an industry pacesetter in France and the UK.
Chai says he began his career in toolmaking as a youth, but yearned to get into business for himself despite the precarious economic conditions of the early 1960s.
Using the plastic injection process, Fook Tin began producing plastic toys and decorative items such as plants, fruits and flowers. Business prospered until, in the early 1970s, Fook Tin pioneered a world first: the development of battery-operated lanterns. This proved to be an invaluable item still in demand in the new millennium.
Today, Chai's sons (all graduates of American universities) run the company. Sunny Chai is managing director and, although the company now depends on market research and sophisticated sales techniques, the Chai brothers still adhere to their father's guiding principles: innovation, teamwork, efficiency, competitiveness and proactive thinking.
To those admirable principles one may add adaptability and dependability because Fook Tin also takes pride in keeping ahead of the market while continuing to manufacture products known for their long-lasting qualities.
Apart from top management direction, its R&D division - comprising 30 people in Hong Kong and 30 in Shenzhen on the Chinese mainland - guides the company's pace and direction.
Fook Tin has 2,800 employees, most of them at its 50,000-square-metre factory in Shenzhen. A second factory nearby will soon enable Fook Tin to add 50% to current production and boost its already formidable output of about 80 FEUs a month from the mainland's Yantian or Hong Kong's Kwai Chung container terminals.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Fook Tin expanded into mechanical and battery-operated consumer items including shavers and vacuum cleaners, but few imagined what the future might hold for the company's first set of scales: mechanical kitchen scales welcomed by housewives that lead Fook Tin into still richer fields, in France and the UK in particular.
Fook Tin also set up a strong relationship with France's biggest weighing-scales organisation, the Terraillon group, which was being stifled by rising domestic production and R&D costs.
The first hurdle to overcome was protectionist measures in the form of exceptionally high standards imposed on imported mechanical scales. Fook Tin sailed over the bar to become Terraillon's main supplier, then took over its R&D work and finally absorbed the group, including its British arm, Hanson (UK) Ltd. Scaime, a related French company, also joined the fold.
As the industry adopted electronics and computers, forward-looking Fook Tin seized on new breakthroughs and adapted them for use in current products and new designs for state-of-the-art bathroom and body-fat scales, and healthcare and lifestyle-related products.
"This has been one of our most spectacular steps forward," says Holly Au, director of sales and marketing. "In the last decade, both Americans and Europeans have become highly health-conscious, constantly keeping tabs not just on their weight but a variety of health-related subjects such as body fat and body water content.
"We not only produce cutting-edge bathroom scales to provide this information, we also have models that can give these important figures orally in a number of languages."
Equally sophisticated electronic scales are produced for use in the kitchen along with a variety of upmarket products including portable scales, scales that keep tabs on baby's progress and even a digital personal alcohol checker.
The Fook Tin Group, ISO 9001- and ISO 14001-certified, last year received its two biggest accolades: the Productivity Grand Award and the Environmental Performance Grand Award in the Hong Kong Awards for Industry, plus a Certificate of Merit in Quality from the Hong Kong Trade and Industry Department.
WRITTEN BY GEOFFREY SOMERS
Fook Tin Technologies Ltd