19 April 2006
Making A Global Mark(HKTDC Gifts, Premium & Stationery, Vol 02,2006)
Fulon Development Ltd
|Most of the 100-plus marker pens manufactured by Fulon Development Ltd meet key US and EU safety standards such as ASTM and EN71|
Marker-pen manufacturer Fulon Development Ltd has splashed the world with colour since establishing a factory in Shenzhen on the Chinese mainland in 1991.
"I believe we were the first factory in the world to offer 100 different colours," says general manager Peter Hung, adding that the company later added 14 more, including such "exotics" as amethyst purple, baby pink, mango yellow and azure green. "We owe our ongoing success to never compromising on our high quality, safety, dependability and reliability."
For example, he says Fulon ensures high quality, long-lasting, safe colours by importing dyes from Japan, the US and Europe as they are harmless if a child puts a pen in his or her mouth.
The company also specialises in "ventilator caps" for its pens. "These are perforated with tiny holes so that if a cap is accidentally swallowed and gets caught in a child's throat, the victim can still breathe instead of choking," Hung explains, adding that they are compulsory under the UK's BS 7272 standard, while customers in the US and many other countries also request them.
Safety has long been a major concern of Fulon's customers. "Most of our products have obtained safety licences from major markets, like ASTM from the US and EN71 from the EU," Hung advises.
He says Fulon currently markets its products in Europe, the US and Japan and notes that customers in Japan are among the "most demanding", but says Fulon pens have a strong market there thanks to their quality and reliability.
"Japanese buyers seem to be perfectionists and request long-lasting, well-designed ink pens and markers," Hung observes. "Big European and American buyers know a company like Fulon has the capability to offer the best quality."
However, he takes no chances and always copyrights every new product to keep the copycats at arm's length. "We sometimes lose regular customers - but they come back to us within a few months," Hung adds.
Schoolchildren throughout the world are the biggest customers for markers and highlighters, especially before the start of a new term when their parents are kitting them out with classroom necessities.
Fulon's ongoing success is largely based on the introduction in the mid-1990s of a trendy transparent plastic carrying case containing 120 pens: 114 markers and six highlighters.
"All over the world children insisted on getting their case of pens - it quickly became a sort of cult necessity," Hung recalls. "The demand was absolutely phenomenal and we shipped off seemingly countless container loads."
Riding on its success, Fulon then built a second ISO 9001-certified factory in Shenzhen, concentrating pen production at the original plant and using the new facility to produce different stationery and office product lines.
That took its joint workforce to 1,200 and the combined factory floor space to 40,000 square metres, enabling Fulon to produce more than a million items a day.
The company manufactures an exhaustive range of writing instruments, encompassing standard fine and broad washable colour markers, brush markers, twin-headed markers, stampers, colour-changing markers, erasable markers, scented markers, permanent markers, white board markers, ball pens, highlighters, sign pens, gel pens and other school stationery including erasers, rulers, pencil cases and pencil sharpeners.
Current kids' favourites include another play-for-fun series for kids: black light markers which can be used to write "secret" messages that can only be read under a UV light. "This product is particularly popular among American kids," Hung notes.
DIY enthusiasts will also have fun with Fulon's T-shirt marker, which is filled with water-based pigment ink and can draw permanent patterns on any fabric. "Ironing is needed for permanent patterns and clothes can be laundered in a washing machine at a temperature of up to 60," Hung says reassuringly.
Manufacturing and other production processes are fully integrated so that manpower is kept to a minimum, and Fulon constantly upgrades its equipment, importing state-of-the-art automatic moulding machines from overseas. "Anything that is faster and better," says Hung.
WRITTEN BY GEOFFREY SOMERS
Fulon Development Ltd