7 Oct 2005
Green Shoots(HKTDC Electronics, Vol 04,2005)
Alford Industries Ltd
"Eco-friendly products are the future in major markets like Japan, the US and Europe, where consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about environmental issues," claims Alford Industries Ltd managing director Rix Tsui.
"Demand for these products will soar in the next few years when markets like the Chinese mainland and Korea follow the Western trend and insist on buying electronic products that don't harm the environment."
Alford is firmly positioned at the forefront of this environmentally-friendly engineering movement, having instituted a "Green Management System" at its 200,000-square-foot mainland factory in Guangdong Province in 2002.
The firm's 1,000 staff were specially trained to reduce the use of natural resources and energy, while new surface-mount machines were installed to substantially reduce the amount of water, air and thermal pollutants emitted. "We stress engineering management skills so that our manufacturing assembly is environmentally efficient and cost-effective," Tsui explains.
As a result of this intensive investment in human and physical resources, Alford's infrared/radio frequency cordless headphones and speakers, hearing enhancers and OEM/ODM products are in keen demand in major global markets.
"We geared our production to meet new challenges in 2002, when the European Union announced its Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment [WEEE] and Restrictions on Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment [RoHS] directives to restrict the use of hazardous materials," he says.
Alford had no problem meeting the WEEE directive that came into force in August and is similarly confident about complying with the RoHS guidelines due to come into effect in July 2006.
Tsui proudly notes that Alford's commitment and efforts have already paid handsome dividends. "Early this year, one of our infrared cordless headphones received the Eco-products Award from the Business Environment Council in Hong Kong," Tsui says.
According to project manager Roger Yuen, the headphone is made of recycled materials as specified by the WEEE directive. "It saves 30% energy compared with other products, and is 12% lighter in weight," he explains. "Its cadmium, polybrominated biphenyl and polybrominated diphenyl ether content is also well within many of the hazardous substances restrictions standards."
Sony Corp recently selected the infrared cordless headphone for use in its automobile AV system, which will enable passengers in rear seats to enjoy DVDs without disturbing the driver.
This accolade proves Alford has achieved international recognition for producing high quality products at competitive prices. "Our advanced equipment enables us to handle large and sophisticated projects," says Tsui, noting that the ISO 9001- and ISO 14001-certified factory delivers orders 60 days after order confirmation.
However, manufacturing to strict environmental standards is no easy task. "The cost of manufacturing an eco-friendly wireless headphone is approximately 30% higher than a traditional product," Tsui explains.
He predicts that production costs may be reduced when more semi-finished goods suppliers participate in Alford's eco-production programme. "We are trying to work closely with our key suppliers to cut costs," Tsui says.
Alford collaborated with global quality, health, safety and environment standards certification company Bureau Veritas in June to provide free seminars to some 130 of its vendors. "Initiatives such as these will ensure our production line will be totally eco-friendly by late 2006 to early 2007," Yuen maintains.
This can only be beneficial to a company that is already the preferred supplier to international clients who have strict requirements on eco-friendly products. "Our major clients are famous brand names including Panasonic, Sony and JVC," Tsui says.
The US accounts for 30% of Alford's exports and Japan another 30%, with Europe and clients comprising the remainder. "I anticipate 30% growth in overall business this year," he adds.
WRITTEN BY SHIRLEY LOK
Alford Industries Ltd