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Hong Kong Optical 1998 - Editorial

Industry Overview

Association Update

Combination Frames


Reading Glasses

Safety Eyewear

Well Framed
Optical Parts

Industry Overview

Harvey Fung, vice-president of HKOMA, believes mainland China will become a vital optical product market for Hong Kong.

HONG Kong's optical industry is in a buoyant mood. Not content with being the largest exporter of optical frames in Asia, and the second in the world after Italy, manufacturers are pulling together to achieve even better results. Their goal is to become known for quality and originality, a reputation held by many European and Japanese producers.

"Hong Kong's optical products are already widely recognised for quality and competitive prices, and the industry is attracting more buyers for higher-end products," says Tony Chow, president of the Hong Kong Optical Mfrs Assn (HKOMA) and owner of Mandarin Optical Mfy. "Brand-name promotion and greater productivity are key to improving our competitiveness."

Design is also a crucial factor, as Michael Ng, director of Arts Optical Mfy Ltd, explains: "Eyewear has been more or less transformed into a trendy item. Thus design has become an increasingly important element, as eyewear must fit well with fashion accessories in terms of style."

The application of advanced manufacturing techniques and a number of initiatives being carried out by HKOMA should ensure that the local industry enters the new millennium in excellent shape.

Three trends have radically changed the industry's profile in recent years. First is the relocation of labour- and space-intensive manufacturing to southern China, leaving Hong Kong-based operations to concentrate on marketing, design and development, mould-making and quality control. Second is the increasing number of Hong Kong-made optical products carrying their own brand names. Third is the growing use of the latest information technology to improve production efficiency and product design.

Total exports in 1996 totalled HK$5.08bn [US$655m], an increase of 18% over the previous year. Re-exports, which make up about 77% of the total, posted a rise of 23%. Corrective and protective eyewear constitute 54% of Hong Kong's optical goods exports, with frames and mountings accounting for another 27%. Other categories include binoculars, monoculars and other telescopes and astronomy instruments, spectacle lenses, and parts for frames and mountings.

Metal frames, particularly nickel-silver and titanium, are increasing in popularity around the globe. Part of the reason for this, says Cary Ma, managing director of Moulin Int'l Holdings and vice-president of HKOMA, is that big changes have been taking place in production technology and techniques.

"Technology has been brought in from other sectors, including the jewellery and metallurgy industries. For example, computerisation has enabled mould-making to become far more precise. Overall, quality is higher and we can cope with more complicated designs," says Ma.

"Also, we now understand more about the handling of metals. For example, some materials were previously too hard to be processed, but after heating or cooling they can now be used. Soldering has also become more precise. Superficially fragile designs have a strong structure."

After their success in producing for world-famous brand names, Hong Kong manufacturers are beginning to promote their own brands.

Colourisation has also improved by leaps and bounds, says Ma. A wide range of colours and finishes, including antique and rust, is now available. Transfer-pattern technology has also resulted in more variety.

LW Hui, chairman of Elegance Int'l Holdings, remarks that titanium will be used "more and more". HKOMA is working on a project in conjunction with the Hong Kong Productivity Council on the development of surface-treatment technology for titanium alloy for frame manufacture.

Chow notes that demand for plastic "hit the bottom two or three years ago, but is now on the rebound". A new trend, however, is the combination of metal and plastic in a single design. "We are seeing plastic frames with metallic decoration and plastic components added to metallic frames," he says.

Plastic frames come in either handmade acetate or injection-moulded plastic. As far as the acetate frames are concerned, Chow says that the biggest advances have been made in tooling, which is now more efficient and flexible.

When it comes to frame shape, most manufacturers agree that ovals are still in favour. "They are still popular, but the range will expand to include more interesting oval-based shapes, such as twisted shapes," says Ma. Chow notes that there are more rectangular shapes on the market today, while Hui expects the demand for 3D design features, such as patterns stamped or cast on the temple of frames, to increase.

Hong Kong's ability to produce spectacle and sunglass frames that fit in with fashion trends has brought orders from world-famous brand names and designer houses. However, savvy manufacturers are now beginning to promote their own brands as well, especially for Southeast Asian markets.

"Manufacturers in Hong Kong are inclined to develop their own brands and reduce reliance on OEM and ODM business," explains Ng of Arts Optical. He notes, however, that this does need a high level of R&D, and production and sales capabilities. His own company has developed three brands of frames, each targeted at a particular market segment and sold in countries across Asia.

Hui's Elegance is another company taking this route. Hui remarks that Southeast Asia, where the market is less mature than the US and Europe but where spending power and awareness of brands is increasing, is the logical place to go.

One of the most exciting developments geared to keeping Hong Kong ahead of the game is HKOMA's recently completed CAD/CAM database project. Measurements taken by laser have been collected from people around the world and put into a database connected to an AutoCAD system, enabling companies to design frames for specific markets.

"If we are designing frames for the American market, or an Asian market, we can verify whether they will be suitable for the dominant skull structures of that area," explains Moulin's Ma. "It is difficult to improve somebody's design capabilities in the artistic sense, but by using the database we can demonstrate to buyers our strong capabilities."

Big improvements in production technology and techniques,, have been responsible for the growing populariry of metal frames, says Cary Ma, vice-president of HKOMA.

HKOMA has also been working with the Q-Mark Council on a certification scheme. Applications from about 10 manufacturers have been accepted and approval should start to come through before the end of the year. "If manufacturers are ready to go one step further and apply for ISO 9000, we will liaise with the Productivity Council to prepare the handbook," says Ma. "We already have government funding."

There is more to Hong Kong's optical industry than just frames. Max Cheung is general manager of Swank Int'l Mfg Co Ltd's lens division. "Business is good. Our factory is working 24 hours a day," he says.

"The Chinese government has set up a national standard for lenses. There are now regulations to inspect optical shops and to randomly check lens quality and testing machines, though there are still no registered optometrists." Cheung says that Hong Kong lens manufacturers are ideally placed to expand into this market.

Swank was the first manufacturer in Hong Kong and China to produce "progressive" lenses, adds Cheung. These "no-line" multifocal lenses are an alternative to traditional bifocals. "The advantage is that nobody can tell you are wearing them," he says. "As it is mainly middle-aged people who need them, they are very popular with women who don't want people to know how old they are!"

Harvey Fung, managing director of VIP Optical Int'l Ltd and vice-president of HKOMA, emphasises the importance of the relationship between the optical industries in Hong Kong and mainland China. "Not only is the SAR an international port, providing a trading bridge between the mainland and the Western world, but it also has a sound foundation in respect of optical equipment in Asia."

He also cites Hong Kong's expertise in design, its efficient information network and sophisticated financial markets as other factors.

Fung is confident that the mainland will become a vital optical product market, and Hong Kong's recent export figures certainly bear that out. By far the largest export market is the US, accounting for 45% of total exports. but though the mainland takes just 8%, it is in second place and did post a 58% increase in 1996 over the previous year. Other major markets include Germany (7%), Japan (7%) and the UK (6%).

Elegance's Hui explains how Hong Kong manufacturers have been able to respond to changing market needs. "Products are becoming more fashion-oriented, so the stocking period is shorter, distribution must be quicker, smaller quantities of one style are required. Manufacturers have to work faster.

"Hong Kong industry as a whole is able to do this, so there is no problem for us. As demand grows, we will be faster than the competition and can take advantage of the operational difficulties of European suppliers in terms of costs and flexibility."

In looking to the future, Arts Optical's Ng quotes this sensitivity to market needs as just one factor that will ensure Hong Kong remains at the forefront of the global optical industry. The others he lists are "superb management skills, high-quality inexpensive labour from China, and advanced technology". Hong Kong must, however, continue to build on this solid foundation, says Moulin's Ma. "Manufacturers must keep focused on product design, product quality and technology."

Written by Ann Williams

Association Update

Hong Kong's optical manufacturers realise the need to invest in new

THE Hong Kong Optical Mfrs Assn (HKOMA) celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. What started as a gathering of local optical manufacturers has developed into a full-fledged association that works to advance the industry.

"In 1982 a group of local optical manufacturers gathered together and had the idea of forming a force in the industry that would have the power to explore new markets and share information about the industry in terms of technology and markets," says Tony Chow, president of HKOMA and one of the association's founders.

"Today, our activities have grown. We organise business visits to look at new markets and new technology, and we work closely with TDC and the Productivity Council on a variety of projects."

HKOMA's mission is to promote the manufacturing of Hong Kong optical and related products; to open new export markets; to bring in the latest in advanced technologies; to foster co-operation between manufacturers in the field and bring them closer together for their mutual benefit; and to enhance the strength of the industry's global competitiveness.

In May 1996 HKOMA and the Hong Kong Q-Mark Council launched a Q-Mark scheme, the result of a two-year drafting and consultation process undertaken by the two bodies. The standards are applicable to manufacturers engaged in OEM work as well as those developing and producing products to their own designs. A number of applications have already been received, and the first approvals are expected towards the end of 1997.

HKOMA is collaborating with the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC) on a number of projects, with funding from the Hong Kong Government. They include the development of a CAD/CAM database, containing details of the facial structures of peoples around the world. "The data has been gathered and a report will be issued later this year," says Chow.

Others cover a project to improve product-design quality and to reduce product development cycles, through the development of a knowledge-base design system and NC (numerically controlled) production technology for frames; and the development of surface-treatment technology for titanium alloy for spectacle frames.

Hong Kong-run factories have the advantage of better communications with buyers, they understand what the market needs and they know about design, packaging and advertising. - Tony Chow, president of the HKOMA

HKOMA is also involved in CAD- integrated training courses for spectacle design technique, being implemented by HKPC with a subsidy from the Government's New Technology Training Scheme. Chow, who was also HKOMA's first president from 1982-83, is ideally placed to give a run-down on the history of optical manufacturing in Hong Kong.

"Before World War Two there was no optical industry in Hong Kong," says Chow, who is also chairman of Mandarin Optical Mfy. His father was among the first to set up in Hong Kong in 1947, one of a group who shifted their bases from Shanghai.

"The boom started in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when new technology came in," says Chow. "Mass production started and companies began to export their goods. Before then very little had gone for export because the volumes were so low." Quality was not up to international standards, however, as demanded by Europeans, Americans and Japanese, so the main markets were in Southeast Asia.

In the 1970s, manufacturers, including Chow, began travelling to other countries, visiting suppliers, learning about more advanced technology and understanding the needs of new markets. "We introduced a lot of new suppliers to Hong Kong, and optical manufacturers realised that to upgrade they had to invest in these technologies and machinery.

"Today there are more than 200 manufacturers of optical products in Hong Kong, so the quality varies from low to high. But in general, the quality is medium, though the output of the top 5-10% of companies compare with the Europeans and Japanese. Some have different divisions, making high-end products in one and low in another."

Chow is optimistic about the future, though he anticipates that the mass-production companies at the lower end of the scale are likely to face competition from manufacturers in China. He does not see any major problems ahead, however, as long as producers continue to invest in the latest technologies and upgrade their products.

"Compared with those in [mainland] China, Hong Kong-run factories have the advantage of better communications with buyers, they understand what the market needs and they know about design, packaging and advertising," he says. And HKOMA will be behind them all the way, giving them all the help they need to ensure an even rosier future for the Hong Kong optical industry.

Written by Ann Williams

Combination Frames

Elegance Optical Mfy Ltd imports Monel wire and acetate sheets from Japan and Europe to produce its range of combination frames.

TRADITIONALLY glasses were seen as a practical necessity to be tolerated by people with ailing eyesight. Modern times, however, have brought about a consumer explosion in the world of eyewear and it is now common to own multiple pairs to keep pace with fashion. Combination frames are a key to contemporary eyewear, and Hong Kong companies are racing to ensure new-look glasses appear hot on the heels of emerging trends.

"The market is becoming more fashion-conscious when it comes to combination frames," says Ina Bongrain, manager at New Shun Tat Optical Mfg Co Ltd. The company has been operating in Hong Kong since 1988 and manufactures a whole range of frames at its factory in Dongguan, mainland China.

"We bring out new styles every two months and sell to lots of places, including Europe, the US and South America. We find that markets in countries such as Germany, Italy and France accept new ideas more easily than others," says Bongrain. New Shun Tat's combination frames are available in a host of different styles, from slim metal frames combined with discreet plastic, to jazzy multicoloured eyewear.

FOB Hong Kong prices range from US$6.50 to US$7 and the minimum order is 300 pairs. Delivery takes 3-5 months.

Moulin Optical Mfy Ltd is a subsidiary of Moulin Int'l Holdings Ltd and is responsible for the group's OEM manufacturing business. Katie Kan, executive secretary at Moulin, explains: "OEM business constitutes about 65% of the group's business, and 80% of our production is regular glasses and 20% sunglasses."

The company produces 400,000 frames on a monthly basis, sold under prominent brand names the world over. In 1996 Moulin won a consumer product design award from the Hong Kong Federation of Industries for its Cyber Space collection of sunglasses. "Fashion is a crucial factor accounting for demand in sunglasses. Customers are looking for more innovative designs and higher quality," says Kan.

Explaining Moulin's ability to keep up with emerging trends in eyewear, Kan says: "It normally takes us one-and-a-half months to have a prototype of a new style. We produce new styles very frequently and we were one of the first manufacturers in Hong Kong to establish, in 1975, an in-house design and research and development department. It is staffed by 30 full-time designers, engineers and technicians, and uses CAD system to design optical frames."

Moulin has a library of 6,000 sample frames and introduces 500 new styles per year. The minimum order is 500 pairs per model.

Winntics Optical Ind Co Ltd manufactures combination frames to sell to the US, Canada, South America, Europe and Asia. FOB Hong Kong prices range from HK$38.50 to HK$77.

Materials such as cellulose acetate, Monel and nickel silver come from Europe, Japan, South Korea and the mainland. Manufacturing takes place on the mainland. The company sells under its own brand name Winntics but is also an OEM manufacturer.

"People are definitely beginning to own more than one pair of spectacles these days," explains manager Cecilia Wong. "To keep up with demand, we bring out new collections almost every month and there are about five to six styles in each collection.

"Different spectacles are popular in different countries and we tend to find markets in Canada and eastern Europe more conservative than others."

The minimum order for Winntics' combination frames is 300 pairs per model, and delivery takes place within 90 days of order confirmation.

Lenny Chow, manager at Mandarin Optical Mfy, agrees that spectacles are fast becoming fashion accessories. "We find [that] customers buying from us are requesting more styles and less quantity of each style.

"Our monthly production is 80,000 frames and we bring out 30-40 styles each month for customers to choose from. As well as this, we can make their designs. Some give us their designs and we follow these 100%, but with most, they work with us and we build the model together."

Although the time it takes to make a pre-production sample depends on the design, it usually takes between three and six weeks, says Chow. Mandarin's combination frames range in price from US$8 to US$10 and most are destined for markets in the US, Europe, Japan, Taiwan and Australia.

Elegance Optical Mfy Ltd has been operating in Hong Kong since 1975 and now produces 450,000 frames per month. Its factory in Shenzhen on the mainland employs 1,500 workers. It makes combination frames from materials such as Monel wire and acetate sheets from Japan and Europe. Designs span from dainty to chunky and trendy.

"We keep track of changes in fashion from market intelligence and overseas contacts," says marketing manager Irene Pun. "We have four in-house designers and can respond to emerging trends within a short time."

The company sells its combination frames to the US, Europe and Asia. FOB Hong Kong prices range from US$5 to US$6. The minimum order is 400 pairs of frames and delivery takes about 90 days.

Another company with substantial experience in frame manufacturing is Wah Ming Optical Mfy Ltd. Established in 1968, it employs 2,500 workers at its Shenzhen factory on the mainland, and turns out 500,000 frames a month. Wah Ming is both an OEM and own-brand manufacturer. Most of its labels go to markets in the US and Europe.

Combination frames sell from US$7 to US$12 and the minimum order is 800 pairs of each model. Styles vary a great deal. "We have between 30 and 40 new designs each month for our customers to choose from," says assistant director Daisy Cheung.

Combination frames are destined to become both prescription glasses and sunglasses. Referring to the latter, Cheung says, "Sunglasses are definitely more than just a sunblock. They are a fashion accessory and are popular in all markets."

With a wealth of experience and systems in place to respond rapidly to emerging trends in combination frames, Hong Kong companies are anything but short-sighted.

Written by Julia Grimes


Innovision Eyewear (HK) Ltd sells its fashionably designed sunglasses primarily to Asia.

SUNGLASSES may shield your eyes from the sun, but everyone knows they are as much about form as function. Hong Kong's sunglasses manufacturers are on top of today's styles, offering the latest looks in metal or plastic frames and lenses.

The unisex look is big at Eye Workshop Ltd, a subsidiary of Mazen Ind Ltd. Sunglasses with small oval-shaped lenses are the company's strongest sellers in Asia, which represents 90% of the five-year-old company's export market.

"For frames, people like a metallic look in gold, silver and antique colours. Grey, blue and green lenses are popular," says Joanne Kee, marketing executive at Eye Workshop, which produces up to 50,000 pairs of sunglasses per month.

The company sells under two brand names Ä Exit and OBOE. The slimmer, lighter-weight Exit sunglasses sell for US$16.50 FOB Hong Kong; the heavier, more masculine OBOE models sell for US$15.50 FOB Hong Kong.

"Over 50% of what we produce have metal frames, but we may make more plastic frames in the future. Customers are always looking for something different," Kee says.

Clip-ons, which sell for US$23.60 FOB Hong Kong (including the optical frame), account for about 30% of OBOE-model sales. Minimum order is 500 pairs, with shipments in 90-105 days after order confirmation.

Omyl Optical Mfy Ltd specialises in sunglasses with metal frames, mostly for men. "We also do combination metal-and-plastic frames with metal fronts and plastic sides," says Stephen Lo, manager at the 12-year-old firm. Average production totals 8,000-10,000 pairs per month.

Prices of the gold-plated frames range from US$8 to US$14 FOB Hong Kong; 14K gold-filled models, priced at US$30 FOB Hong Kong, will be available at the end of 1997.

As for style, Omyl dabbles in a "little bit of everything Ä sporty, dressy and high-tech", says Lo. One unusual foldaway pair with joints on the nose bridge and at the mid-point of the frame sides allows the sunglasses to be compactly folded into a special carrying case. They cost US$12 FOB Hong Kong, including the case.

The firm sells under its own Omyl brand name, and also does private-label and OEM work. Minimum order is 400 pairs per model, with deliveries three months after order confirmation.

At Sky Vision Concept Ltd, subdued gun-metal-coloured nickel-silver frames still rule, but brighter plastic and combination plastic-and-metal frames are gaining ground. Plastic frames are making a comeback and the company plans to increase production of these because of the greater variation in shapes and colours available.

"People are getting more interested in bright colours, even in Asia," maintains marketing manager Lysanna Chan. The four-year-old firm manufactures 36,000 pairs of sunglasses monthly and exports them to Asia, Europe and the US. Prices range from US$4 to US$10 FOB Hong Kong.

Designs, mainly in unisex styles, run the gamut from retro 1960s mock tortoiseshell plastic models, to frames with intricate designs and eyebrow shields. "We do a lot of original designs," says Chan.

Laminated plastic frames, which show different layers of colours and sell at US$0.50-1 more than non-laminated models, have been in demand from women and younger buyers, she says.

Lenses tend to be smaller and rounder than last year's models. "Mirror lenses are getting more popular," Chan notes, adding that Sky Vision has 1,000 lens shapes in its inventory. It produces either private-label or OEM work.

Minimum order is 500 pairs per model per size. Deliveries take about three months.

The goggle look Ä brightly coloured transparent plastic around the eyes overlaid by gold- or silver-coloured metal frames Ä is new at Arts Optical Mfy Ltd. "It's unisex, trendy and it looks to be a big hit," says sales executive May Hoong. Acetate sheets are used for the colourless, blue or purple eye frames. These models sell for US$15-20 FOB Hong Kong.

Established in 1979, Arts Optical is primarily an OEM producer selling mainly to the US and Europe. A small percentage of its sunglasses sell under the company's Cindy and Cardinal brand names. It also holds the licence for the brand Theme. "We mostly use plastic and the style of our products tends to be high-tech," says Hoong. Overall, prices range from US$8 to US$20 FOB Hong Kong."

"Although black is a standard finish for sunglass frames, demand for vibrant colours, both in frames and lenses, is growing. "We get a lot of requests for yellow, pink and purple lenses," she adds.

Minimum order is 300 pairs per model, with deliveries made in three months.

Retro styles and the goggle look are both doing well at Swank Int'l Optical Co Ltd, according to Jimmy Lam, chief executive officer at the 24-year-old firm. After 10 years of popularity, he says, metal frames are beginning to wane. Prices range from US$12 to US$25 FOB Hong Kong.

Smaller lenses are popular these days, with grey and green colours, along with mirrors, selling the best. In a bow to traditionalism, wraparound frames are being replaced by models with flat fronts, says Lam.

Of the 1.4 million pairs of sunglasses the company produces monthly, a little over one half are exported to the US. Another 35% are bound for Europe and the rest go to East Asia, China and the Middle East, says Lam.

OEM accounts for 90% of orders, with the rest sold under Swank's Bruno Banani, Shanghai 1930 and Noto brand names. Minimum order is 2,000 pairs per style and deliveries go out in 60 days.

Lam says the company has developed a new type of plastic frame that pops back into shape after being bent, to be launched next year. "The material is very strong and elastic," he says. Last year, Swank introduced a longer-lasting, lighter-weight and impact-resistant plastic to the market.

Written by Andrea Pawlyna

Reading Glasses

Heyro Optical Co Ltd offers spectacles with fashionable designs

AS we get older our eyes also start to feel their age, often resulting in an inability to see clearly the smaller print sizes we have to deal with everyday. This problem can be corrected very easily with a pair of "off the shelf" reading spectacles. Hong Kong manufacturers produce large numbers of these with an excellent range of frames and a wide variety of lens strengths.

Asia Optical Mfy Ltd is one of the more established optical companies in Hong Kong, having produced optical frames for more than 30 years. "We are a family-run business with a loyal customer base, some of which we have retained for more than 25 years," says general manager Gordon Lee. "Our largest markets are the US, Germany, France, the UK and South America. We are regularly represented at trade fairs in Europe and the US."

Asia Optical manufactures more than 150,000 pairs of frames per month at its factory in mainland China, with sales and marketing services carried out from the Hong Kong office. "Nickel silver is the most popular material for our metal frames, with Monel, stainless steel and titanium becoming increasingly common. The market for reading glasses tends to be made up of more mature people and they tend to prefer traditional styles rather than the more modern frames," says Lee.

The company supplies a full range of lenses with magnification from +1 to +4, including the 0117, 505, 217, 278 and A-407S, all handmade with Italian acetate. Prices range from HK$40 to HK$55 FOB Hong Kong. Asia Optical manufactures to customers' specifications and has a minimum order of 800 pairs per model. Delivery takes 75 days.

Royal Lenti Co was established in 1990 and produces more than 250,000 pairs of reading glasses, sunglasses and combination frames per month. It uses a selection of materials, including nickel silver from Japan and cellulose propionate from the US. "Plastic frames are presently more popular than metal ones. We have customers based all over the world but Italy is one of our biggest markets and we are authorised to produce frames for the Italian NIKKO brand," says manager Terry Liu.

The Royal Lenti range includes the plastic-framed reading glasses 9602, 9766, 8701 and 9751, priced respectively at US$2.50, US$1.30, US$1.20 and US$1.20, FOB Hong Kong. "Our quality, service and prices are all very competitive and our reaction time to orders is very fast. We manufacture to our customers' requests and hope to increase our European OEM business in the future," says Liu.

Royal Lenti manufactures at its 3,100-square-foot factory on the mainland and employs 180 workers. Minimum order is 300 dozen pairs per style and delivery takes 45-60 days.

Not all companies manufacture their frames in a wide range of materials, and Shine Wood Optical Mfy Ltd has chosen to specialise in metal frames. "Our company has always put quality over quantity. We achieve a very high standard by using the best imported materials and a system of strict quality control," says manager Alison Su.

Shine Wood uses Monel, nickel silver, stainless steel and bronze from Japan and Europe, and manufactures on the mainland using machinery from Italy and Germany. "We have a very wide customer base including many countries in Europe, Japan, [South] Korea, Taiwan and increasingly in Argentina. We currently manufacture in excess of 40,000 pieces each month," says Su.

The extensive range of reading glasses includes the S1135, S1117, S1122 and L341, priced at US$9.70, US$7.60, US$6.50 and US$13 respectively. Shine Wood has a minimum order of 400 pairs per model and a delivery time of 30-60 days, depending on parts and individual requirements.

Chungsin Kau Optical Mfy Co Ltd is another long-established Hong Kong company. Founded in 1968, it now manufactures 500,000 pieces of metal, injection moulded and handmade spectacle frames, including an extensive range of reading glasses with lenses ranging in magnification from +1 to +4.

The firm has no minimum order and will deliver in 45-60 days following confirmation of order. "Metal and plastic frames are equally popular with our customers, who are primarily based in the US, UK and Germany. We regularly attend trade exhibitions in Hong Kong and Europe and are always on the lookout for new markets," says business manager Antoinette Ho.

"We produce a wide range of styles and shapes using top quality materials mainly from Germany. Our customers come back to us because of the competitive pricing, high quality and very good service," concludes Ho.

Micron Eyewear Mfy Co Ltd was established in 1993 to produce optical frames, reading glasses and sunglasses. Reading glasses make up the main product line, with metal frames as the speciality. "Our major market for reading glasses is the UK, and approximately 80% of that market is for metal frames," says assistant sales manager Lam Yip Tsz.

"The high quality materials used in the manufacture of the frames are sourced from Hong Kong and the lenses from Taiwan," continues Lam. Micron operates a factory on the mainland but carries out sales and marketing services from the Hong Kong office. Minimum order is 300 pairs per model. Delivery time and prices depend on customers' requirements.

Written by Simon Saunders

Safety Eyewear

Chaplin Ind Co Ltd sources PVC and polycarbonate from Japan to product its range of safety eyewear.

S more governments ensure industrial safety standards are in place, with the onus on companies to make sure these standards are met, the global market for safety goggles has broadened. Injuries in the workplace are costly and unproductive, and Hong Kong suppliers offer a range of goggles to meet all needs.

Chaplin Ind Co Ltd personal assistant Winnie Ku says the company's industrial safety products "comply with the ANSI standards in the US and the CE standard in Europe. This means the goods are tested at appointed laboratories in the US and Europe before certification is given".

Chaplin was established in 1978 and opened a 1,700-square-metre factory in Shenzhen, mainland China, in 1988. Goggles 325-1PC are designed for use in grinding, building work and general safety, according to Ku. They feature high-impact polycarbonate lenses and PVC frames. The sides and top of the frames are perforated to eliminate fogging. A strong adjustable elasticated strap ensures that the goggles stay in place when in use.

The lightweight frames are transparent and the lenses broad to enhance vision and, therefore, safety. Because the lenses can be scratched or broken in work situations, Chaplin will supply "replacement lenses and lenses hardened with a silicon-solution coating at the customer's request", says Ku.

Polycarbonate and PVC are imported from Japan while the elasticated strap is sourced on the mainland or Taiwan. The company has a quality control office at its factory and every shipment is carefully checked.

Markets are Europe, the US and Japan. Minimum order for model 325-1PC is US$5,000, and delivery takes 30-45 days. Prices are available on request.

Ming Yuen Ind Co Ltd's model 102-3PC safety goggles have four adjustable vents in white PVC, allowing the control of airflow. The goggles are therefore suitable for use in dusty environments in conjunction with a mask, for such jobs as demolition work, plastering, agricultural spraying and feed mixing.

Manager Louis Law says, "The goggles are only one of many different sorts that we make. These ones are especially good for dust."

Recognising the value of certification in the marketplace, the company is seeking ANSI and CE accreditation.

PVC for the frames and polycarbonate for the lenses are bought through agents in Hong Kong. "Most of the raw materials are from Japan," says Law. The elasticated strap is made on the mainland.

Ming Yuen, formed in 1977, opened a 20,000-square-foot factory in Dongguan, on the mainland, in 1989. The company employs 300 workers, turning out about 72,000 pairs of model 102-3PC per month. These goggles sell for US$5.13 per pair FOB Hong Kong.

The minimum order is 600 dozen pairs, with delivery to the major markets of Europe, the US and Japan taking up to 45 days.

Traco Agencies (H.K.) Ltd has a joint venture with a manufacturer in Guangdong, on the mainland, to produce dark green welding glasses (model SD-98830).

"The green tint in the polycarbonate used for both the lenses and the frames is designed to filter off some of the bright light generated during welding," says managing director William Leung. The glasses are also available with clear lenses. The model also features an elasticated safety strap. "The strap can be printed with the customer's trademark," says Leung.

Polycarbonate was imported from Japan, but now "Singaporean producers have become more competitive and we use them", says Leung.

Singapore and Indonesia are expanding markets. Exports also go to other parts of Asia and Europe. Leung says his wholesale customers "apply for CE certification before selling on to retailers and merchants" in Europe.

Traco designs the glasses and produces the tooling in Hong Kong. Output is 60,000 pairs of glasses per month. The minimum order for model SD-98830 is US$5,000, with delivery taking up to 30 days after order confirmation. The price is about US$10 FOB Hong Kong per dozen with dark green lenses; clear lenses are priced lower.

Top Plas Enterprise Co Ltd, established in 1992, manufactures high-quality safety spectacles at its 17,000-square-foot factory in Hong Kong. It has 100 workers producing 50,000 pairs of safety glasses per month for export to Canada, the US, UK, Germany, France, Australia and Japan.

The company's stylish welding glasses, model 9898, feature matt black polycarbonate frames, green lenses, an elasticated safety strap and are designed for comfort. Price is US$2 FOB Hong Kong per pair.

Rigorous testing takes place at the company's factory. "We have a machine that fires steel balls at the frames and the lenses to test durability," marketing manager Roger Hui says, adding: "Our glasses meet ANSI, CE and CSA [Canadian] specifications."

The minimum order for the 9898 model is 1,200 pairs, with delivery taking up to 60 days.

See Kiang Optical Mfy Co Ltd also manufactures safety glasses for the upper end of the market. Glasses model SF-7167, which look like reading glasses with side blinkers, are functional and feature glossy black polycarbonate frames, the arms of which are reinforced with nickel-silver wire. The hinges are made of the same metal. "Lenses in polycarbonate and acrylic can be fitted in any colour the customer requests," general manager Pasha Lu says. Model 7167 sells for US$1 FOB Hong Kong per pair.

Materials are imported from South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. See Kiang has operated a 100,000-square-foot factory in Shenzhen, on the mainland, for eight years. A workforce of 1,200 makes 400,000 metal and 200,000 plastic frame models per month.

Main markets are Europe, especially the UK. Minimum order size is 300 pieces and delivery takes 60 days for metal frame models; 30 days for plastic.

Written by Roger Cave

Optical Parts

Fu Hoo Int'l Ltd specialises in metal temples and trims for spectacles.

THOSE lenses that sit on your nose do not stay there by themselves Ä spectacle frames need arms to connect them to your ears, and the arms need hinges to attach them to the frames. Fortunately, Hong Kong's manufacturers of optical parts supply spectacle manufacturers with the pieces they need to construct durable but fashionable eyewear.

B.M. Optical Mfy Ltd is a Hong Kong manufacturer of spectacle hinges. General manager Dicky Tong points out that the company specialises in metal accessories and parts for optical wear. "We make everything from very standard hinges right up to decorative tailor-made items. We work from customers' drawings and our own designs too."

The firm sources high-grade nickel silver from Japan and Switzerland. Its factory in Zhongshan, mainland China, produces two million pairs of hinges a month, and operates under US-FDA "GMP" (Good Manufacturing Practice) standards. Minimum orders of 1,000 pairs can be delivered almost immediately when there is stock in hand.

Lenses for spectacles come from Soc Enterprise (H.K.) Co. "Our ophthalmic lenses are hard-coated, multi-coated, aspheric or high-index, or a combination of all of these," says company president YS Shin.

The CR-39 monomer plastic used in the injection-moulding process comes from Japan and the US. After moulding, the lenses are ground at Soc's factories in Suzhou and Tianjin on the mainland, before being shipped to principal customers in the US, Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

Prices range from US$3 to US$14 per pair of lenses FOB Hong Kong, and a minimum of 5,000 pieces can be delivered one month after order confirmation.

Some hinges are more decorative than others. Classic Optical Mfy Ltd produces fancy trims by die-casting. "This allows us to create three-dimensional designs that are not possible with the usual pressing method of manufacture," says sales manager Cass Chan. She points out that die-casting is the method used by jewellers and that all Classic products are cast from top-quality beryllium/copper alloy from Germany and Italy.

Classic is happy to work with customers' designs but can also supply its own. Fancy castings are priced at about US$1.50 per pair FOB Hong Kong. From its monthly production of 20,000 frames and parts, the company can deliver 30 days after order confirmation. It requires a minimum order of 500 pieces per model.

Fu Hoo Int'l Ltd also makes metal trims for spectacles. Four hundred employees at its factory in Huizhou on the mainland manufacture 70,000 pairs of trims each month. Prices range from US$1.04 to US$1.66 per pair FOB Hong Kong, and delivery of a minimum order of 500 pairs is 40-50 days after order confirmation.

"Our principal clients are in the US, Germany, France and Italy. Just recently we have started shipping orders to new customers in Russia," says sales manager Sandy Lau. She says that while part of Fu Hoo's business is done on an OEM basis, the company also produces trims under its own brand names: Butterfly, Leopard and Fu Hoo. The designs are created in-house, as well as to customers' specifications.

Yee Fat Optical Mfy Ltd began business in 1973. "My father started the company, and now our factory in Shilong employs 700 people," says general manager James Wong.

The company produces 80,000 pieces of spectacle frames and frame parts each month, priced from US$7 FOB Hong Kong per pair for the decorative trim on the hinge, to US$8.50 per pair for nickel-silver temples. "All manufacturers' components are pretty much the same: a hinge is a hinge. Design is the thing that sets one company out from another. That and the ability to deliver efficiently on time and to order," Wong says.

"Our major market is the US, and we can deliver just 60 days after confirmation of order. We supply direct to several well-known brand names, both to their specifications and from our own catalogue of designs," he adds.

Gallant Trading Co is another manufacturer of spectacle frames. Its factory in Jakarta produces nickel-silver components, and two plants on the mainland, in Weihai and Jilin, make glass lenses.

"Apart from Europe and North America, we have substantial markets in Singapore and Indonesia," says manager Johnny Wong. "Because we make all the different parts of the frame, and the lenses too, we have good control over the quality of the finished product. Our frames are top-quality designs made from top-quality components."

Gallant's products sell for US$6-8 per piece FOB Hong Kong. "We assure all our customers of our very best service," adds Wong.

Clearly, when it comes to spectacles and their components, buyers need look no further than Hong Kong.

Written by Suzanne Rayment

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