Consignment was a common mode of production in Hong Kong's garment, watch and clock, electronics, and plastics industries. When the larger factories were too busy, they would consign some of their orders to home-based workshops or cottage factories. There were types of consignment:
1) Subcontracting, whereby the subcontractors are only responsible for one specific production process, and
2) Outsourcing, whereby the whole production was consigned. This mode of production enhanced competitiveness of Hong Kong industry by allowing them to become more responsive and flexible towards global market changes.
Hong, Chong Hau and Mo Lo Hong
A "Hong", also known as exporter or trading company, is an intermediate between local manufacturers and European/American clients. The Hongs are concentrated in Tsim Sha Tsui and Central. The more famous Hongs include Li & Fung, Wah Hing, and Yick Sing. In the 1950s and 1960s, most local manufacturers did not have the ability to contact European/American clients in a direct way, so they relied on the Hongs to take clients’ orders. When the Hongs had obtained the details of clients' purchasing orders, they would pass them on to the manufacturers. When production was finished, the persons-in-charge of the factories would sell the products to the Hongs for export. “Chong Hau” and “Mo Lo Hong” shared a similar role as the Hongs. The former, also known as “Ban Chong”, were mostly run by Chinese businessmen. They helped the manufacturers export their goods to Southeast Asia, and some would even make financial loans out to the manufactures. The “Mo Lo Hongs” were run by Indians or Pakistani, focusing on Middle-Eastern and African markets.
A mould is a frame or model used to shape metal or plastic products. The shape of the mould determines that of the end product. Likewise, the quality of the product depends on the fineness of the mould itself. Mould making is a technology-intensive process normally carried out by master mould-makers. Moulds can be made of plastic or metal. The late type comes in different variations, including casting mould, forging mould, die-casting mould, stamping mould, etc.
OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturing. OEM used to be a business model seen in Hong Kong's middle-to-large factories producing garment, electronic, plastics goods as well as clocks and watches during the 1970s and 1980s. The workflow of OEM is as follows:
1) Hong Kong manufacturers make contact with European/American clients such as brand companies and top retailers;
2) The clients provide product specifications and descriptions;
3) The manufacturers proceed to work and then sell the finished products back to the clients (as factories were not involved in retail) Alternative business models to OEM were ODM (Own Designing & Manufacturing) and OBM (Own Branding & Manufacturing).
San Lai Yi Bu
"San Lai Yi Bu" refers to material processing, sample processing, the assembling of parts, as well as compensation trade. It was an investment model designed for foreign investors during the early period of Mainland China's economic reform. It was first seen in Dongguan in 1978. Following this model, a lot of Hong Kong traders and manufacturers set up their factories across the Mainland. The workflow of San Lai Yi Bu is as follows:
1) Hong Kong manufacturers supply the materials, machinery, and technology, and take care of management, while the local authorities (such as township governments) supply the factory buildings and labour force;
2) The manufactures pay processing fees to the local authorities, and ship the finished products back to Hong Kong for export to other countries.
San Zi Entreprise
"San Zi Qi Ye" refers to three types of business operation models for foreign enterprises in Mainland China stipulated by Chinese law. They include:
1) Ventures jointly funded by Chinese and foreign bodies;
2) Ventures co-run by Chinese and foreign bodies, and
3) Ventures wholly funded by foreign firms San Zi Qi Ye must pre-pay custom duties for raw materials imported from abroad before they could produce any products. In the 1990s, Hong Kong factories wanting to sell their goods in Mainland China must be registered as a San Zi Qi Ye.
"First seen in the USA in the 1970s, the electric watch is a kind of electrically powered watch that displays time in a digital format. It typically uses Light Emitting Display (LED) or Liquid Crystal Display to show the time, so they are generally referred to as LED watches or LCD watches."
Mechanical Watch, Roskopf Watch, Fully Jewelled Watch
The mechanical watch, which was prevalent before the 1970s, is the earliest watch type ever produced. A mechanical watch runs when the clockwork inside the movement drives the wheels and the hands. To ensure the smooth working of the wheels, the movement often contains some jewel bearings (sometimes called “drill holes”). The number of jewel bearings indicates the quality of the movement. One can find just one jewel bearing in a Roskopf watch and up to 17 of such in a fully jewelled watch. The more bearings a watch has, the more valuable it is.
A movement is the core of a watch. Since its invention in the 19th century, mechanical movement has been used in wrist watches. The 1970s saw the rise of electronic movement and quartz movement, both suitable for mass production. The traditional mechanical movement thence started to phase out. Production of movement was dominated by Swiss, German and American watch makers since it requires high-level technology.
A quartz watch is a watch that keeps time with an electronic oscillator regulated by a quartz crystal. It was developed in Japan and Switzerland in 1967 and 1968 respectively. As an electrically powered watch, it is highly accurate with only less than 2 seconds of error per year. It has become the dominant kind of watch around the world since the 1980s.
A “street walker” refers to a travelling salesman who is employed by a local watch factory or assembling workshop in Hong Kong. This person is responsible for promoting his/her factory’s watches to retail shops. When making a deal, the watch factories would allow the retailers to buy on credit. The retailers must eventually pay for the watches in full, even if certain ones were not saleable. Although returning the unsold watches was not possible, the retailers might still negotiate a discount from the watch factories.
Electronics components, also called electronics elements, are the internal parts of electric consumer goods such as radio, television and computer. They can be either active or passive. Active components are the ones capable of producing active functions like amplifying and shocking when energy passes through the circuit. Examples are vacuum tube and semi-conductor. A transistor is the kind of semi-conductor most widely used today. Passive components are those under the influence of external power source and are incapable of carrying out active functions in a circuit. Examples are resistor, capacitor, and transformer.
Magnetic Core Memory
Magnetic Core Memory is an early-stage computer memory. It is made of magnetic materials. The process of threading magnetic toroids is called “threading the beads” in Chinese. The wires are arranged to enable an individual core to be set to either a "one" or a "zero". Magnetic Core Memory was a form of Random Access Memory that functions as main memory inside a computer.
Printed circult board (PCB)
A printed circuit board (PCB) supports the different components inside electronic goods. It was developed during the 1930s. As time goes by, the number of board layers within an PCB has increased while the size has shrunk. Key techniques required to producing a PCB include electroplating, through-hole technique and etching. Copper-clad laminates and copper foil are the main materials that make up a PCB.
A semiconductor is a material having electrical conductivity between that of a conductor and an insulator. Nowadays, it has become the core component of most electronic consumer goods. Common semiconductors include silicon, germanium, and gallium arsenide. Silicon, in particular, is the most broadly used semiconductor for commercial purposes.
Total Quality Management
Total Quality Management (TQM) is a management model adopted by large corporations around the world today, the objectives of which are to build team spirit and raise productivity. The two corporate goals TQM can achieve are Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Just-In-Time (JIT). Successful implementation of ERP is hinged upon the presence of a central computer, which allows the company’s management to operation production lines on the spot and on screen.
A transistor is a solid semiconductor device that can switch electronic signals and electrical power in a circuit. It can control the current flowing in through one terminal and out through another. It is a crucial technological invention in the 20th century, and has become the key component for most electronic appliances. It facilitates the mass production of electronic consumer goods. When it was first invented, it was used on radios and calculators.
"Ah Jie" referred to a female supervisor or instructor in Hong Kong garment factories. Her job was to assign work, manage human resources, arrange work consignments, and give instruction with regard to the workflow, etc. Ah Jie was the intermediate between workers and their department head/ factory chief. Thus, she must be someone with good management skills and who had the trust of both the workers and the boss.
Export and Local Sale Factory
After WWII, Hong Kong’s garment factories either focused on export or domestic sale. The exporting factories were usually properly licenced ones that strictly followed labour laws and the fire safety ordinance. The making procedures of exported garments were usually split among workers in different department. On the other hand, factories for domestic sale (known as ‘shanzhai’ factories) were small-sized ones located in old residential buildings. These smaller factories employed a lesser number of workers and machines. The division of labour was less specific such that every worker often took charge of multiple production procedures.
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was a multilateral agreement signed by 23 countries in 1947 to regulate international free trade and to settle trade disputes by way of negotiation. In the 1970s and 1980s, the countries held a series of talks on the topic of textile quota. The longest talk with the largest number of participating countries took place in Uruguay between 1986 and 1994. This talk spurred the birth of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the gradual demise of trade quotas.
"Heijiaochou" is a common fabric for making women’s clothings in Guangdong. It originated from areas such as Guangzhou, Nanhai and Shunde. Before the Second World War, it was sold in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. Local Cantonese raw silk was the material used for making Heijiaochou. Once the silk has been weaved into fabric, it will be sun-dried, dyed, laminated and then sold.
A quota is a limit on the quantity of imported goods that can be sold in a country. It was imposed by developed countries in Europe and America on developing countries or regions. From the 1960s, European and American countries began to limit the quantity of good that can be traded and brought in from Hong Kong as well as other developing regions in the attempt to protect their own domestic textile industries. The quota was based on the amount of goods coming from each exporting country/region. Hong Kong’s quota, which was transferrable, used to be distributed by exporters and textile industry owners. The restriction on good only applied on pure cotton products at first, but was later extended to polyester staple fibre and chemical fibre products.
Textile Advisory Board (TAB) was the first advisory body in Hong Kong’s industrial sector. It greatly influenced Hong Kong’s government policies during the 1960s and 1970s. TAB members came from the industrial and trade sectors, and were appointed by the government. The industrial sector members included large garment and textile manufacturers, whereas the trade sector members included representatives from large trading firms or Hongs. When Hong Kong’s Trade and Industry Department took part in international talks on textile quota, the TAB members also went along and provided instant advice.
Che Pao Luo
"Che Pao Luo" is the Chinese acronym for the combination of cutting board, planer and milling machine. Used for cutting, planing and milling metals, these three types of equipment are commonly seen in metal hardware factories or machinery factories. Che Pao Luo may also refer the skills required for operating the cutting board, planer and milling machine. It was the main learning content of an apprenticeship at a metal hardware factory.
Layer-built battery was first introduced in Germany. It was brought into Hong Kong in the 1950s by battery factory owners for use on electric lighters and transistor radios. Layer-built battery is manufactured in a similar way as the traditional round battery. It can be sorted into two main categories: 9W and 12W, which have six and eight layers respectively. Each layer has 1.5W of power.
Pressing is a main technique used in the metal-making industry. It is done by exerting pressure on metals with a pressing board or moulds to making products of different shapes. Pressing and die-casting were two major techniques seen in Hong Kong’s metal-making industry. The former is suitable for processing harder metals like stainless steel, while the latter is for metals with a higher resistance to heat.
Stainless steel is a steel alloy with a minimum of 12% chromium content by mass. It is good looking, easy to process and does not readily corrode, rust or stain, In Hong Kong, during the 1960s, stainless steel was a newly developed metal and was mainly applied in hospitals. Compared with copper or aluminium, stainless steel is harder but requires more complex techniques to cut or mould. The main procedures for producing stainless steel include preparing raw material, pressing, welding, polishing, etc.
Artificial leather, also called imitation leather or synthetic leather, is a type of raw industrial material that has the appetence and texture of natural leather. It is made by mounting plastic and other additives over flat fabric, canvas, knitting fabric, and brushed fabric. It is typically used to make clothes, shoes, hats, luggage cases, and furniture.
High Frequency Plastic Welding Machine
The High Frequency Plastic Welding Machine was invented by a British engineer. In the beginning, it was primarily used in telecommunications. Then, it became the machine used specifically in welding thin plastic films. During the welding process, the plastic materials are cut into thin sheets, and then placed on the welding machine where the sheets were welded by high-frequency shocks. This machine can be used to make pencil cases, wallets, card holders and folders, etc.
An “injection press” is an alternative name for Injection Moulding Machine. Injection is a common method of shaping plastics. The size of an Injection Moulding Machine is measured by the weight (in ounce) of the plastic material injected in it. The larger the machine, the heavy the plastic products it can make. The machine can be operated manually or automatically. In the early post-WWII years, most Hong Kong start-up factories simply used smaller machines (model no.75) which were able to make products up to the weight of 3/4 ounce.
Plastic film is a type of raw industrial material. Often nicknamed as “Atomic Leather” in Chinese, it is made by pressing oil-like and powder-like plastic materials together. A typical production line is made up of a roller machine, a printer machine, a colour sprayer and a cutting machine. Both rubber and plastic can be made into plastic films, which can be processed further to make inflatable products, furniture surface, handbags, and toys.
PVC is the short form of Polyvinylchloride. Since it is cheap and easy to process, it is the second most massively produced plastic behind PS, and is extensively used in daily contexts. Among the five most widely used plastics (i.e. PE, PVC, PP, PS, ABS), PVC is the only one that contains chlorine, and one that can gain softness by mixing with plasticiser. PVC can be further classified into Soft PVC and Hard PVC. PVC can be made into thin plastic films or artificial leather, and then processed into different consumer products.
Rubber is a kind of elastic compound. There are natural rubber and synthetic rubber. The former was refined from latex drawn from trees, while the latter is a highly elastic, artificially made compound of coal, oil and natural gas. Synthetic rubber was first developed in Britain in the 1860s. Rubber is an important industrial material used extensively in the production of tyres, washers and toys.