1 April 2003
Safety First(HKTDC Gifts, Premium & Stationery, Vol 02,2003)
Uni-Lockey Mfg Co Ltd
|Personal alarms and identity card holders from Uni-Lockey Mfg Co Ltd are in demand in an era of enhanced awareness and safety|
The upsurge in international terrorism has brought a corresponding surge in business for makers of security products such as Uni-Lockey Mfg Co Ltd, which supplies badge- and ID-card-holders on retractable reels and lanyards and straps.
"We have a regular flow of orders from airports and large corporations all over the US, plus Switzerland and other European countries, Japan and Australia," says managing director Albert Choi. "Soon after 9/11 we had to airfreight some consignments to meet the urgent demand."
The tough plastic thread in the reels can last 30,000 "pulls", or the working lifetime of the user. Is he sure? "Yes. In fact we tested them by machine over several days," replies Choi.
What if an attacker seizes the wearer's lanyard and tries to throttle him? Choi demonstrates the safety plug that enables the wearer to quickly disconnect the neck-endangering loop. "We try to think of everything," he smiles.
Other safety-related products are key chains with safety alarms or whistles for women and schoolchildren. One of the safety alarms is a big seller in Japan, where school-ground bullies have killed or injured a growing number of victims. "It looks like a cute little toy carp, but lets out a piercing noise to scare off attackers," he explains.
Choi says he launched Uni-Lockey in 1979, making key chains in a small factory in Hong Kong. "The workforce required basic training and close supervision but in the early 1980s, just as production began to flow smoothly, orders slumped because of the international oil crisis," he recalls.
He has never forgotten the lesson of those grim days. "I never rush into things. I think plans through very carefully and cautiously," he says.
Gradually, business picked up and the company expanded into novelty key chains, women's compacts and mirrors, small metal boxes and memo-holders. In 1987, Uni-Lockey tested the neighbouring waters by opening a factory in the Bao'an district of Shenzhen on the Chinese mainland.
"This time we had to train a much bigger workforce, but the cheap rent and labour meant we could reduce our prices and expand our sales base, adding greater value to our customers," says Choi.
Business was so good that in 1993 he took a 50-year lease on 20,000 square metres of land and built his own factory, which now has five blocks and more than 1,000 workers.
Today's output ranges from 4.5-5 million items monthly, many of them promotional handouts for multinationals such as Coca-Cola, Max Factor, MasterCard, McDonald's and Marlboro, plus several brands of beer, magazines and newspapers (The Times of London has twice ordered batches of 100,000), football clubs and many other organisations wanting to publicise their logos.
Very much a hands-on businessman, Choi runs the Hong Kong sales office with a staff of 10, and drives to the factory at least twice a week, always staying overnight. "I never take gambles - I make sensible and practical products," Choi concludes.
WRITTEN BY GEOFFREY SOMERS
Uni-Lockey Mfg Co Ltd
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