6 Sept 2006
A Clear Future(HKTDC Optical,2007)
See Kiang Optical Mfy Co Ltd
|See Kiang Optical Mfy Co Ltd provides upmarket frames and sunglasses|
Setting its sights on a future as clearly successful as its past, See Kiang Optical Mfy Co Ltd fully intends to provide international buyers with upmarket frames and sunglasses of distinction.
See Kiang started out in the optical business in 1979, quickly making inroads into the US market, mainly with attractively-priced, plastic ophthalmic spectacle frames. Metal-frames production commenced in 1990.
In 2004, the entire focus was revamped - and the production lines began generating more high-end products. At the same time, the predominantly OEM operations were converted to original design manufacturing (ODM).
"This move was motivated by some excellent business in metal frames and consequently we decided to upgrade the overall quality required to gain entrance to the high-end market for both frames and sunglasses," says managing director Winston Lai. "We have a highly- organised R&D team comprising 200 designers, draftsmen and sample makers."
Production is highly automated, using computer numerical control (CNC) processes. "CNC control and precision tooling are totally necessary for high-accuracy cutting of frame circumferences, which in turn must match any lenses that are fitted by retailers in shops around the world," Lai explains.
"When we manufacture ophthalmic frames," he adds, "we also include a demonstration lens for display purposes. In the case of sunglasses, we buy suitably-coated lenses and cut and fit them to match our frames."
See Kiang is starting to do more business in Europe, mainly in France and Italy. "Sales of sunglasses are strong and the prospects look good as there are many boutique outlets also selling handbags, watches and shoes," says Lai.
See Kiang is also investigating new materials, such as TR90 - a type of nylon that is suitable for sunglasses as it is light and strong. "We also have the machining capability to produce plastic injection or moulded frames in two different materials and colours," says Lai.
Colour is important in the market, especially two-tone or dual-colour modes, and at the design stage, he believes. "We can produce frames in two different materials - such as nylon and rubber - and in two colours."
"Shape is another consideration and we can produce some really distinctive designs," he adds. "In Europe, retail buyers appear ready for anything really striking, especially when presented by the better-known brands."
Despite this, the firm has thus far not chosen to market under its own brand name. "We supply frames to some well-known brands that must sell well because we see repeat orders for the products. Our own research also indicates that people go for recognised brands, especially when the economy is better and they can afford high-end products," Lai observes.
"Our best-selling models are metal frame designs with acetate temples or an acetate front with metal temples, while laser-cut decoration or rhinestone inserts on the hinge joints and temples are also very popular," he points out.
"However," he adds, "the demand for memory metal frames and nylon (TR-90) sunglasses is very strong. These models call for some advanced techniques, but they are well within our capabilities."
The best-selling category is the unisex line, followed by women's, men's and children's frames. Demand for frames suitable for teenagers is on the increase.
Unit prices for plastic injection frames start at about US$1.50, while those for metal or acetate frames range from US$4-8 depending on the design and materials.
See Kiang established its manufacturing operations in Shenzhen on the Chinese mainland in 1988, where today a streamlined 10,000-square-metre facility employs about 1,500 skilled workers. Production capacity is about 300,000 frames per month, and delivery time is 60-90 days after order confirmation.
See Kiang, says Lai, is a progressive manufacturer looking to not only upgrade but also reach the pinnacle in frames and sunglasses manufacturing. "We have the will, we have the capability and we have the direction," he asserts.
WRITTEN BY TONY HENDERSON
See Kiang Optical Mfy Co Ltd