1 March 2004
Small Is Beautiful(HKTDC Fashion - Fabrics & Accessories, Vol 01,2004)
Vol 1, 2004
Tiong Lee Co Ltd
Tiong Lee Co Ltd has stood the test of time thanks to its prefence for quality not quantity
Zippers may be small in size but the market for them is huge, says Wong Tai Chi, chairman of Tiong Lee Co Ltd, a well-established supplier to the US and Europe.
Wong puts the company's longevity and success down to producing high-quality products at competitive prices and keeping customers satisfied. "We are not one of the largest manufacturers, producing about 100 million zips a month, because we prefer to pay attention to quality not quantity," he says.
Established in 1974 with about 20 staff, Tiong Lee Co Ltd today employs 500-600 people at its Hong Kong headquarters and two Chinese mainland factories.
According to Wong, the company has seen big changes in the market over the past 30 years. "In the 1970s, no manufacturers of zips produced them entirely from start to finish," he says. "We and other manufacturers simply took semi-finished zips and completed the process. Today, though, we do the whole process in-house starting with the basic raw materials."
The other major change has been in the style of the product. "In the past," he recalls, "there was not such a wide variety of fashion zippers. For example, there would only be one or two different colours available in a range of 100,000 zips. Today, with the big increase in demand for fashion garments, there might be as many as 100-200 colours."
It is not just the zipper market that has changed in a generation but also the approach to business, and Tiong Lee has prospered by paying attention to such developments. "In the late 1980s," says Wong, "when many factories in Hong Kong were still family-run businesses, Western and Japanese management standards such as ISO and TQM were just beginning to be recognised. In 1987, we started to implement various quality systems, upgrading them regularly, in order to better manage our factories and our production."
This dedication has enabled the company to better deal with increased competition and focus more on the customer. "Customer care is a very important factor," says Wong. "We definitely pay full attention to clients' needs, from raw materials to the finished article, everything is strictly supervised and undergoes a rigorous quality control system. We also apply a tracking system so, while the chances are very small, if ever a mistake did occur it could be traced and corrected immediately."
The quality of the zippers is further guaranteed by internationally recognised standards such as the Hong Kong Q-Mark and ISO 9001 Quality Assurance, certified and audited by TUV Management Service. "We were the first zipper manufacturer in Hong Kong and the mainland to achieve these standards," says Wong.
Tiong Lee also pays special attention to any standards set by individual markets, especially the US and Europe, where regulations are particularly rigorous. All of the company's products are free of azo dyes, for example.
As well as taking care of customers, this company also believes in looking after its employees, most of whom have been retained for five years or more. "People are the reason for our success, and we provide proper training, especially for new machinery and advanced technology," says Wong.
Keeping up with new technology is another factor in the company's success formula. "The market is very competitive so we have to keep an eye on progress and strive to improve the quality of our products and services," he stresses.
The US and Europe are the major markets for Tiong Lee's products, while exploration of new markets is ongoing. "In recent years, for example, the mainland market has grown. So much so that we now partner interests there producing OEM products. The mainland will eventually become the centre of manufacturing on a global basis, so the market share there will further increase. Also, as living standards continue increasing, people on the mainland will buy more new clothes which in turn will increase our business," says Wong.
Tiong Lee still cherishes the thought of becoming a leader in terms of production output. "We would like to increase our monthly volume by two or three times without any loss of quality," he says. "We also have plans to compete with other top manufacturers in the market and to supply high-end, prestigious fashion brands."
WRITTEN BY ANN WILLIAMS
Tiong Lee Co Ltd
Hong Man Ind Centre,
2 Hong Man St,
Chai Wan, Hong Kong
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