1 April 2005
Forever Forward(HKTDC Gifts, Premium & Stationery, Vol 02,2005)
Tonzex has invested US$30m in plant and machinery and today operates three factories, with an aggregate floor space of some 90,000 square metres, working three shifts daily to produce a large variety of export items.
"Our four major lines," says marketing manager Shina Suen, "are electronics goods, stitching and fibre products, PP stationery and printed paper stationery."
Suen says that important electronics products in the gifts and premiums sector include calculators, clocks and radios, while stitching and fibre represents mass-produced backpacks, schoolbags, trolley bags, other luggage items, organisers and portfolio holders.
"Recycled plastic is used to make soft, PP notebooks, binders, expanding files and CD cases, while the printing division makes paper notebooks and catalogues, plus gift boxes and sundry packaging materials," Suen adds.
"Our operation is virtually a one-stop-shop as we make, pack and ship everything under one roof," says Suen. "Having our own printing department enables us to save time and cut costs as we can produce our own catalogues and instruction pamphlets, tailor-make the internal packaging and also produce exactly the right-sized boxes for shipment overseas. This saves lots of time and money."
Another money-saver is the three-shift working system. "For example, while power outages are common across the Dongguan factory belt, factories can obtain constant supplies at reduced rates when everybody is sleeping," says Suen.
In another move to shave costs, Tonzex now prefers to ship its containers through Yantian port in Shenzhen. "Our biggest export market is the US, followed by Europe - mainly Germany, France and Italy - and Asia," says Suen. "We would like a foothold on the Chinese mainland, but we find it hard to break into the market there because of protective regulations."
Suen says Tonzex is also trying to expand in Europe, and is now taking part in trade fairs in Frankfurt to attract more buyers. "We are justifiably proud of our quality and reliability," she asserts. "We look upon ourselves as a pacesetter in our respective fields because we have a forward-looking and innovative 200-person R&D team in Dongguan that constantly envisions all sorts of exciting new products."
One new product is a palm-sized air-freshener for cars, offices and homes that "blots up" stale air (especially tobacco fumes) and restores a hygienic atmosphere.
Another new item is a hand-held torch that includes a siren and a compass. "This is very handy for finding your way home after a party," says Suen, "or for scaring off intruders who may be lurking near your home."
Tonzex now aims to strike "bonding" agreements with its main buyers so that, rather than moving from one individual deal to another, it will have a regular flow of orders, leading to more stable production.
"Bonding is a win-win situation for the buyer and manufacturer," Suen says. "We would benefit from the certainty of orders, be able to mass-produce items and possibly trim prices. Another important plus from bonding is that we would get better feedback from end-users and be able to react faster with after-sales service."
A growing problem is keeping the workforce up to strength. "About 10 years ago, unskilled labourers left their homes and flooded into the southern mainland's factory belt practically begging for jobs," says Suen.
"Today, the mainland is much more prosperous and most of the migrant workers have long since returned home. In addition, the PRC government now encourages people to stay home and build up the prosperity of their own provinces. In turn, this leads to more machines over manpower."
To counter labour shortages and speed up production in all four divisions, the firm's managing director purchased another batch of modern machinery in Taiwan.
"Another factor," says Suen, "is that many would-be customers, especially from the US, are sensitive about labour conditions and like to audit a supplier to assess the working conditions before signing contracts. These buyers, naturally, tend to favour mechanisation over manual labour."
Among Tonzex's biggest deals, says Suen, was an order for 60 million flip-top desk calculators in 2002 for a big mail-order customer. "That particular deal took us a whole year to complete. On the other hand, our World Time Calculator Clock remains in heavy demand, and at least 50 million have been sold during the past three years."
Clearly, Tonzex is right up to the challenges that face the modern business enterprise.
WRITTEN BY GEOFFREY SOMERS
Tonzex Technology Stationery (HK) Ltd