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Hot Pots(HKTDC Houseware, Vol 01,2008)



Belgium-Hong Kong joint venture AXA Int'l Ltd pays great attention to detail and uses only the best stainless steel, aluminium or copper as raw materials
Kitchen pots and pans might generally lack unusual design elements, but this does not stop housewives examining all the options. Fully cognizant of this, Belgium-Hong Kong joint venture AXA Int'l Ltd pays great attention to detail and uses only the best stainless steel, aluminium or copper as raw materials.

"Our key strategies are to pioneer, invent and innovate, encourage product development, seek material breakthroughs and ever-improve related technologies," says General Manager David Wong.

"We were probably the first firm on the Chinese mainland to really get into the high-end pots and pans line at the export- standard level," he adds. "We now offer everything from saucepans to frying pans and casseroles, all of which target the medium- to high-end of the market. We develop ODM products and manufacture huge quantities under OEM terms, servicing several famous brands."

He notes that stainless steel is extremely durable and easy to clean. Usually dent- and scratch-resistant, it is also easy to maintain the metal's mirror finish.

"However, aluminium is added to the base, and sometimes around the sides, such as in clad metal pots, to achieve better heat conductivity," he says. "We also do copper-clad designs that look very attractive. Copper is an excellent heat conductor, leading to reduced cooking times."

AXA started producing hard anodized aluminium lines in 2005. "As a medium- to high-end specialist," says Mr Wong, "we had little interest in aluminium cooking pots and pans as they are very price-driven."

Noting that changes in technology led the firm to amend its point of view, he says that today's aluminium has a much better reputation. "There are now hard, anodized aluminium pans that are very durable. In fact, when treated this way aluminium is two times harder than stainless steel, has better heating properties, and greater anti-corrosion and abrasion resistance."

R&D is handled by Chief Creative Officer Harry Yeung. "In addition to the regular range of quality pots and pans we also offer specialty lines," he says. "These include items such as tea kettles, chef's pans, roasting pans and various sets. Buzz words such as 'multilayer bottom' also help at the point of sale, while non-stick coatings are very popular in the market."

A lot of innovation goes into differentiating the company's designs from other goods on the shelves. "Smart design and appearance, copper colouring, rims and trims in various colours other than the silver look of steel, and our unique 'stay cool' handle all feature in the marketing effort," Mr Yeung remarks. "We give customers more choice and help them to have more fun in the kitchen."

Mr Wong also reveals that AXA was the first Chinese mainland-based producer to be awarded a DuPont licence in the stainless steel industry."If a supplier wants to spray Teflon, and use the Teflon label, then certain high standards of manufacturing are required. DuPont is very keen on retaining the prestigious image of the material and carefully regulates licensees."

AXA is also aware of the problems related to PTFE, a synthetic fluoropolymer, at high temperatures. "Our R&D department is actively looking into other non-stick coatings that exclude PTFEs," says Mr Wong. "Compared with a few years ago, it may not be such a hot topic. However, while our priority is to offer environmentally friendly options, we still do receive orders for PTFE coatings."

AXA is highly active on the international stage, and fully 97% of the firm's manufactured goods are exported. "We do business to the extent of some US$70m-80m a year," says Mr Wong, adding that domestic sales commenced in 2006 only. "Our major markets include North and South America, Eastern and Western Europe, East and Southeast Asia."

The production capacity stands at 7-8 million pieces per annum, achieved with a workforce of 2,000 and a high degree of automation. AXA's computerised engineering system, for example, is capable of making all-new tooling at short notice.

"We are among the few companies that have fully-automatic production lines," comments Mr Wong. "We invested in the necessary technology because it is no longer enough to try and depend upon low-cost land and labour. We now have a reliable competitive edge that we can manage fully in-house."

With a clear handle on how best to meet market demand, AXA Int'l Ltd looks to have all the ingredients for a successful future.


AXA Int'l Ltd
Suite 502
Fortis Bank Tower
77 Gloucester Rd
Hong Kong
Tel: 852-2544-0796 Fax: 852-2851-9075
Web: www.axa-steel.com
Year Established: 1996
Major Product Categories: cookware
Brands & Certificates: ISO 9001
Minimum Order: 1,000 per item
Monthly Production Capacity: one million
Delivery Time: 45-55 days
Workforce: 2,000