19 April 2006
House Proud(HKTDC Houseware, Vol 02,2006)
Pro-Tent Mfg Co Ltd
|Pro-Tent Mfg Co Ltd offers sets of wooden-handled cutlery and kitchen knives, kitchen tools, woodware and promotional items|
Despite the inference in its name, Pro-Tent Mfg Co Ltd does not manufacture camping equipment of any kind. The firm's main lines comprise items of houseware, including wooden-handled cutlery sets, kitchen knife sets, kitchen tools, various woodware and promotional items.
With more than 10 years in the business, Pro-Tent continues to insist on using high quality stainless steel in all products - cutlery, kitchen tools or houseware items.
Products are usually finished, according to their use, in a variety of woods, including decorative rosewood, practical hardwoods and the presently fashionable bamboo. The firm enjoys a lot of success selling items in sets.
"We combine stainless steel and carefully selected woods in all our main products, while everything else counts as a sideline," says director Eva Chan. "We manufacture or process almost everything at our own factory in order to maintain the necessary control over the final quality and to facilitate meeting production deadlines and delivery dates."
Pro-Tent's manufacturing facilities are in Zhongshan on the Chinese mainland and comprise a 70,000-square-foot plant that employs 350 people. The production lines turn out at least 200 different items, all for use in and around the home and kitchen, which are exported worldwide. Main markets are in Europe, Germany in particular.
"The ratio of own-designed work to OEM business is 50-50," says Chan. "OEM orders are very welcome, and lots of customers send us drawings of the items they want us to make. That said, we are also very proud of what we produce from the ground up, from our own original ideas."
The firm uses pakkawood and rubberwood, imported from Thailand and Taiwan. Chan says rubberwood has the qualities of a traditional hardwood.
"Rubberwood is actually processed from old rubber trees that no longer produce sufficient quantities of sap. This makes rubberwood a most ecologically-friendly material, and it is frequently used by the furniture industry. Apart from that, we also use hemlock," she advises.
Chan also claims that Pro-Tent was among the first in Hong Kong to use laminated wood in smart cutlery sets and good-looking steak knives. "The near-natural wood grain effect that we achieved also helped prove our product viability and appeal in European markets."
She adds that the high-end, rosewood and plywood laminated, boxed cutlery sets also make ideal gift sets. "These sets form a major business for us," she says.
About five years ago, according to Chan, Pro-Tent embarked on an expansion programme and set out to create the lines that today form the firm's wide selection of items for the home. "We are always looking at the market and new ways to expand," she says. "For example, recently we started to produce items of furniture such as small trolleys and kitchen storage units."
The trolleys include portable wine bars and snack servers with bottle racks below and chopping and cheese boards on top. "We have both wheeled and lifting types," Chan says.
Among the promotional items offered by Pro-Tent are graters, clocks and photo frames. There are also barbecue accessories, including trays, wooden bowls and cutting boards, while other items include cheese knife sets, salt and pepper mill sets and wine racks.
"Unlike some other firms," says Chan, "we are able to manage quite easily when working in wood and stainless steel. Many companies have problems handling both materials at one time, but we have all the necessary machinery and skills to get on with the job. However, when the order calls for adding other materials, say glass or marble, then we usually subcontract that part of the work."
Chan informs that at start-up, in 1995, a talented uncle gave her the inspiration to join the industry. "He had very interesting ideas and was very good at designing fashionable items for the home and kitchen," she recalls.
The rest, as they say, is history, and the results are evident today in Pro-Tent's wide range of fine products made from a minimum of materials - steel and wood - demonstrating once again that Hong Kong can place original, well-designed goods of taste and value on the market.
Pro-Tent is clearly geared up to provide quality and attractive kitchenware for a long time to come. "We take pride in our business," says Chan, "and build lasting relationships with our customers."
WRITTEN BY TONY HENDERSON
Pro-Tent Mfg Co Ltd