1 Jan 2003
Musical Fun(HKTDC Electronics, Vol 01,2003)
Vol 1, 2003
Efficient Production Techniques
A-Max Technology Co Ltd
|A-Max Technology Co Ltd has flourished by creating MP3 audio on hand-held devices and developing high-end niche-market electronics|
A manufacturer that started business in 1996 as a computer peripherals maker focusing on motherboards, VGA and sound cards is now a leading maker of MP3 audio devices.
As such, A-Max Technology Co Ltd is typical of the myriad of Hong Kong companies that follow the path of innovation and market demand, leaving an overcrowded PC peripherals manufacturing sector in search of bigger sales and better profits. A-Max has flourished by creating MP3 audio on hand-held devices and developing high-end niche-market electronics, effectively catching the Internet boom at the end of the last decade.
"We found this was the best way to go," says Billy Yeung, vice-president of the sales and marketing division. "Making PC components and peripherals became too much of a small profit business so we moved into other areas, and in 1999 it was the time of the VCD MP3 players and the Internet."
Yeung says A-Max followed the market into MP3 audio for downloadable music. "Young people made it a fad thing and portability was in demand," he recalls.
But Yeung says A-Max also specialises in the design, development, manufacturing and distribution of high-end products that fast-moving business executives find very useful.
"Besides the 64MB and 128MB devices we make, we also have another with a bigger LCD display with built-in rechargeable battery that uses the voltage from a USB connection," Yeung notes.
"This MP3 player doubles as a storage device for business meetings, working like a mobile disk drive by allowing data or a presentation to be loaded from a computer into the player to transport back to the main base computer for downloading."
The computer sees the player as another peripheral tied into the machine, just like a printer or scanner, thanks to the USB feature, which became popular from Windows 98 when a standard driver seamlessly integrated any computer with the device to provide easy connection.
A-Max devices use an 8cm CD for portable storage, giving 200MB per disk as well as Flash memory, "We will soon bring out a hard disk-based MP3 player as a big capacity device to handle the larger volume storage demand now seen in the market and we will also incorporate an FM tuner as a radio," Yeung says.
He notes that it is an "expanding market," with 60-70% of A-Max's products built for OEM orders. The company has its own NAPA brand that it exports mostly to the US and Europe, with an emphasis on Germany.
Much of A-Max's success is due to a 100-strong R&D team who mainly work in software development and hardware and mechanical engineering. The company does everything in-house other than produce the plastic injection-moulded housings, though it does utilise its own ultrasonic heat-bonding unit for final assembly. Some 10 sub-contracting firms handle the injection moulding in outsourcing arrangements, further defraying costs.
A-MAX has more than 600 employees worldwide, working in several geographical locations. The company headquarters in Hong Kong handle design, sales and distribution of the products manufactured in a wholly owned ISO 9002-certified factory on the Chinese mainland. Three sales offices, one located in Shenzhen on the mainland, another in Rotterdam in the Netherlands and a third in Berlin, Germany, ensure A-Max's main markets are adequately serviced.
Innovation is the only way to stay ahead, Yeung believes. "A year ago we had few competitors but already others are making what we are making, which means we have to keep innovating," he notes. "Lead time can about a year to six months or as short as three months on any product and that helps keep us on our toes."
WRITTEN BY TONY HENDERSON
A-Max Technology Co Ltd
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