15 April 2008
Bottoms Up!(HKTDC Gifts, Premium & Stationery, Vol 02,2008)
A long-time commitment to good pay and attractive working conditions is paying handsome dividends for leading gifts and premiums manufacturer 3Plus1 Creation Co Ltd.
Large numbers of factories in southern China may be closing down following China's introduction of higher wages and far more stringent conditions for workers, but the five factories in Panyu County operated by 3Plus1 Creation's parent Dongsu Metal and Plastic Group are humming with activity.
"One of our main competitors has been forced to close and others are really feeling the pinch, but our order books have seldom looked healthier," says 3Plus1 Creation Project Manager Kenneth Chong.
Mr Chong explains that the company's chairman is a senior official of the Chinese government who has always insisted that pay and conditions for the 1,000 factory staff fully abide by the regulations.
"Plus he is a perfectionist when it comes to top-quality products," Mr Chong adds. "He lives virtually next door to the factories and is always on the spot to see for himself that operations are going smoothly and that nothing faintly suspect gets past QC."
A star-studded OEM/ODM clientele utilises 3plus1 Creation's stainless steel vacuum flasks, plastic thermal mugs, aluminium bottles, stainless steel cups, shakers and other types of drink containers.
They include Walt Disney, China Mobile, Nike and Puma sports shoes, French fashion house agnms b, Smirnoff vodka, Coca-Cola, Caltex, Michelin tyres, Aviva insurance company and Spiderman comics.
In addition to drink containers, these clients also snap up 3Plus1 Creation's other innovative gifts and premiums lines, which include paper, EVA and PU coasters, heat pads, mousepads, PVC photo frames, pens, clips, telephone cords and luggage tags.
Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore/Malaysia are the company's main markets, and Mr Chong strongly believes Japan is the most promising area for future sales growth.
"Many manufacturers don't like dealing direct with Japanese buyers because they have highly experienced staff based in China who insist on coming to a bidder's factory and seeing the working conditions for themselves - especially its QC methods," he explains.
"However, we welcome them since we have nothing to hide, and are proud of the quality of our products."
Another complication with Japanese customers, he says, is that they want the bidder to supply attractively designed packaging with Japanese text plus promotional posters and other material, so that everything is done at source.
"At first this seemed too much to ask, but we found that most of the China-based Japanese representatives spoke Mandarin, which made things much simpler," Mr Chong explains.
"We were also able to finalise designs through a rapid exchange of emails with the client companies in Japan, and now we see promising signs for further expansion."
Five-year-old 3Plus1 Creation's products are ISO 9001-certified and comply with American FDA and German LFGB standards, which helps sales in European markets such as the UK and Germany.
However, Mr Chong says US sales are "relatively minor" because the big American chains aren't interested in quality. "All they want is to source products at the lowest possible prices so they can make bigger profits - and cheap stuff is not our style," he insists.
This quality-first approach is entirely in keeping with the steady development of 3Plus1 Creations' parent, the Dongsu Metal and Plastic Group, which started operations 50 years ago and gradually expanded its product lines to some 250 types of vacuum, thermal and other types of drink-related products.
The latest addition to the group, 3plus1 Creation has initiated several breakthroughs for outdoor use, such as collapsible ice buckets that fold down to the size of the head of a tennis racquet. "They proved so popular for weekend picnics and outdoor excursions that we patented the design," Mr Chong adds.
He explains that the material that forms the sides of the 3.5, 9, 11, 13 and 15 litre buckets is polyester with a PVC coating, which is safe from a health point of view. "However, the copycats have duplicated it - except they're not too fussy about the safety of the material they use."
Clearly, 3Plus1 Creation and its team of young and energetic designers are committed to designing, sourcing and manufacturing creative, quality gifts and premiums.
"We believe in providing superior quality and quantity, innovative design, reasonable price, excellent services and prompt delivery, and consider the customer supreme," Mr Chong concludes.
TEXT BY GEOFFREY SOMERS