• Home
  • Introduction
  • Advantage
  • Investing Process
  • Service
  • News
  • Contact Us
  • Communication
  • Facebook
  • Linkedin
  • China@tanikawa.com
  • 0086-21-68911976
  • Home > News > Details
    Dynamic designs for a shifting world

    Automation, innovation and branding are in focus as Starlite Holdings remains committed to being rooted in the Chinese mainland. Sophie He reports.

    Innovation, intelligent automation and self-owned brands are the key requirements for traditional Hong Kong manufacturers to survive and thrive, believes Lam Kwong-yu, founder, chairman and chief executive of Starlite Holdings Ltd.

    "Actually we've been trying to revive the company by being more creative since seven or eight years back," Lam told China Daily.

    Starlite, a Hong Kong-headquartered multinational group that designs and manufactures cutting-edge printed packaging, as well as children's and novelty books and paper products, was listed on the local stock exchange in 1993, in a public float that raised about HK$50 million($6.44 million).

    The process of becoming creative and developing new business was not easy, as the company had to consider a lot of issues amid a manufacturing industry hit by recession and with the company feeling the heat.

    Moreover, developing new business required fresh investment, Lam explained.

    "We eventually managed to put in all the resources needed, and finally the company is back on the right track."

    According to a statement filed with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on May 3, Starlite is expected to record a significant increase in annual profit for the year ended March 31, 2016. Annual results are due out in June.

    The company attributed the expected increase in profit mainly to a deeper focus on lean management by its southern China operation, which resulted in significant cuts in the labor costs, as well as cost efficiency gains from the use of automation and intelligent robot systems.

    For the year ended March 31, 2015, Starlite's net profit plunged 82 percent to HK$2.65 million.

    Starlite's core business includes providing packaging and design services to global top-tier IT (information technology) companies, as well as traditional printing and packaging. The company also prints children books and greeting cards, Lam noted.

    In response to the central government's call for industrial upgrading and transformation, Starlite is also developing its own eco-friendly design products brand - Team Green.

    Lam said the company received a large volume of orders at last year's China (Shenzhen) International Gift and Home Product Fair, held in April.

    And this year, it also won a license to make products related to Hollywood, when Warner Bros and Disney engaged the company to manufacture 3D puzzles in paper or wood.

    "The company has put a lot of resources into product development, we want to be innovative, we want to develop our own brand, which would expand our profit margin and boost our profit," Lam emphasized.

    To boost its traditional printing and packaging business, Starlite must increase the level of automation in its plants, Lam explained.

    "We found that it is hard to get the right automatic machines for our packaging and deep processing work, which is why we are committed to developing intelligent robots."

    Costs conundrum

    Besides, the industry is changing very fast and youngsters these days are not interested in repetitive, assembly line work, so the company uses robotic arms instead, he said.

    Product innovation and equipment innovation are crucial too, Lam said, adding that cutting-edge equipment will help support the growth of Starlite's manufacturing business.

    Lam admitted that like every other Hong Kong manufacturer, he too faced challenges such as rising costs on the Chinese mainland and labor shortages.

    But he never believed that moving manufacturing plants to other countries is a good solution.

    "It was not easy to enter the Chinese mainland 20 to 30 years ago, and it was not easy to get the funds and build the plants. We can't just throw all that away and just move the plants to other countries."

    Besides, the mainland, as the world's second largest economy, also needs the manufacturing industry. So it is crucial that the manufacturers stay in the country. "Meanwhile, some of the overcapacity in the industry has already been eliminated, and now we want to continue to grow. We can no longer rely on labor, as the costs are high now and the quality not so stable - so using intelligent automation is the best solution," he added.

    Lam said currently Starlite has four factories on the Chinese mainland, including one in Shenzhen, which mainly produces packaging and develops intelligent robots and products under its own brand.

    Its factory in Guangzhou produces packages for cosmetics and toys; while the major function of the one in Shaoguan, also in Guangdong province, is to print books.

    The fourth factory is in Suzhou and provides packaging to IT companies.

    Starlite also owns factories in Malaysia and Singapore, to produce packaging products for local IT companies.

    The majority of its customers are in Europe and the US, with about 90 percent of the produce from its four mainland factories shipped to large companies on either side of the Atlantic.

    Intelligent plan

    "I think the allocation of our factories is quite optimum right now. We may open factories in the country's western or northeastern regions in the future. But currently our priority is to expand and improve the efficiency of existing plants."

    Lam said the company will continue to invest in innovation, as it wants to become better and stronger, and also plans to recruit and train more talents from universities.

    "We will continue to work on equipment manufacture and develop intelligent robotics, in order to help us lower costs and improve quality, and enhance our competitiveness."

    He revealed that the target is to have one intelligent robot for every four workers by the year 2020.

    But the pace of progress is such that Lam feels they may reach the target even earlier.

    From 12,000 staff in 2013, Starlite came down to 8,000 employees in 2015.

    However, those staff will not be replaced amid a push toward increased automation in the company.

    This year, Lam estimates that the number of employees may drop to less than 7,000, as young workers increasingly leave the manufacturing industry for the service sector.

    Contact the writer at sophiehe@chinadailyhk.com

    (HK Edition 05/30/2016 page8)

    © Copyright 2017 Invest in Shaoguan
  • facebook
  • linkedin
  • email
  • tel
  • more
  • Share