1 May 2003
Transformers in transition(HKTDC Electronics, Vol 04,2003)
Vol 4, 2003
Transformers in transition
Helms-Man Industrial Co Ltd
|One of the world's leading manufacturers of linear adaptors and chargers, Helms-Man Industrial Co Ltd produces more than 4.5 million adaptors, transformers and chargers per month|
Success in hi-tech industries depends on the ability to anticipate and manage change - something Helms-Man Industrial Co Ltd executive director Ringo Cheng never forgets.
His company began trading in 1975 and has since established itself as one of the world's leading manufacturers of linear adaptors and chargers. Its factory in Hui Yang County, Guangdong Province, employs more than 1,200 people who make in excess of 4.5 million adaptors, transformers and chargers per month.
Mechanical transformers are a core part of Helms-Man's business but Cheng believes all that will change within the next five years as electronic power supplies supersede the older technology.
"Electronic components have become very compact, and the prices have dropped very fast," Cheng explains. "Now, even for very high powered transformers, the electronic type can match the old mechanical type. Electronic transformers now cover both the high and low end."
Although electronic transformers have been around since the 1980s, it is only with the worldwide popularity of micro-electronic personal devices in the last few years, that they have come to the fore. "Designers of consumer electronics can enjoy more flexibility because of the size of electronic transformers," Cheng notes.
Moreover traditional transformers cannot cope with a global input of power. A mechanical transformer for use in Hong Kong will not work in the US, explains Cheng, but an electronic transformer can operate anywhere because the input can range from 90-240 volts.
Cheng believes there are defined market and technology trends in the transformer sector. "I won't say that demand for traditional transformers will drop to zero, but their market share will be totally different," Cheng predicts. "Because of the gradual reduction in component costs, electronic transformers sooner or later will have the greatest market share."
Helms-Man is already a major producer of electronic transformers and is currently implementing plans to move most of its factory production in this direction, in step with market demand.
The BABT, UL and BSI-certified, ISO 9001 facility has long represented the cutting edge of transformer technology on the mainland and supplies transformers to some of the world's best-known consumer brands.
It has, for example, manufactured power supplies for Alba, Hitachi, Kenwood, Matsui, Sanyo and Sharp, among others. "Most of our customers have factories on the mainland, and most of them are making consumer products such as audiovisual equipment," he says.
Cheng adds that Helms-Man also sells a small proportion of its products to industrial companies, but 90% of its business is consumer electronics.
"We work on an OEM and ODM basis," he says. "We do a design proposal and build a prototype for them to test, and then we negotiate the price."
Some of Helms-Man's transformers are built into the products while others are sold as accessories, and where possible the company likes to stamp its units with the Helms-Man brand. The company has, however, had "some success" in building its brand name as a manufacturer of battery chargers.
Helms-Man's major market is still the US. "It's about 60% the US, 30% Europe and 10% Japan and the rest of the world, but we are trying to expand in those other markets," adds Cheng.
That expansion depends, as ever, on staying one step ahead of the game, and even as the company builds its charger business Cheng is keeping his eye on new technology trends that could ultimately render batteries obsolete.
Before that time comes, of course, Helms-Man will undoubtedly have moved on - still in the power business but riding the crest of the latest technological wave.
WRITTEN BY ROBERT PIERCE
Helms-Man Industrial Co Ltd
|Hong Kong Buyers Request Form||Overseas Buyers Request Form||More Publications|