Background of chemical engineering. His career in China Dyeing Works. Qualification and career prospect of engineers in dyeing and printing industry.

Chan Kin Keung's qualifications. Chan King Keung was born in Hong Kong. He studied chemical engineering in Taiwan. He also picked up some dyeing knowledge as dyeing and printing were among subjects he had studied. At that time Hong Kong Polytechnics had already had a textile department. But nowadays the syllabus put more emphasis on merchandising instead of the technical craft. Vocational Training Council and Clothing Industry Training Authority also provided textile courses for the training of elementary workers in quality control. Most of them would want to work in mainland China after graduation.

Technical background of dyeing factory workers in the earlier days. At that time not many university graduates were willing to work in a dyeing factory. Those with a secondary school education could start work at China Dyeing Works as apprentices.They were provided with living quarters and possibility of promotion.Those apprentices were now supervisors who were major workforce of production department. Undergraduates from Hong Kong Polytechnics studying textile and merchandising would work at China Dyeing Works.Although they would become supervisors in various departments, they would not stay on for too long. Most of them would seek other opportunities such as testing and merchandising jobs.Working in a dyeing factory was not an attractive prospect for them because it was very hot in a dyeing factory. Long working hours was also required. China Dyeing Works was like the Shaolin Temple of the industry. People who come here to earn a good foundation and afterward it would be easier for them to look for other jobs outside.

When Chan Kin Keung joined China Dyeing Works, his seniors were from Hong Kong Polytechnics and universities in Taiwan. There were no graduates from The University of Hong Kong. When he started working there, both the plant manager and canteen supervisor were from Shanghai. In the earlier days most of the supervisors of the plant were from Shanghai. It took them no time to be assimilated to the Hong Kong society.

Since time had changed, local dyeing industry has shaken off the influence from older generation of Shanghainese. It was not difficult to find information on dyes as there was a saying that the six major dyes manufacturers would come to the dock to look for business. Larger dyes manufacturers such as ICI, Hoechst, Ciba, Bayer, BASF and Sandoz would introduce paints to their customers with samples as well as provide technical support. Since getting hold of paints was easy, so the industry grew fast. When one company could grasp a special usage of a certain paint, this would become a selling point and the company could monopolize the market.

Application of Chemical knowledge in the dyeing business. Chan Kin Keung has been applying his chemical knowledge into dyeing work. He knew that different paints need to be mixed with different chemical ingredients before they can be used. He believed that there was not that much knowledge of chemistry that can be applied to dyeing. But knowing some bio-chemistry would definitely help. He said dyeing knowledge can be picked up from books, and then apply it at work. Through trial and errors one can improve his/her skill.

Chan did not choose to study at the Hong Kong Polytechnics because at that time the Polytechnic was a vocational institute, not a university. He chose to study in Taiwan and applied Cheng Kung University because it has a good engineering faculty.

China Dyeing Works' research and development. When Chan Kin Keung joined the business, China Dyeing Works had no research and development department. When the company established its factory in Tsuen Wan, there was a lab where research would be done. For instance, printing quality was examined. If results were satisfactory, the fabric sample would be taken to the production line.Chan said he did not know very well of the research being done at the company when he first joined it, but he was sure that the plant manager and supervisors constantly had new ideas.He recalled that in 1972 when he joined the company, there were a few employees who had degrees in chemistry, including graduates from colleges inTaiwan and Hong Kong Baptist College.

The reason why Chan Kin Keung decided to join China Dyeing Works. When Chan joined China Dyeing Works, the company was already running at a substantial scale. It had developed a trainee programme, and Chan wanted to put his textbook knowledge into practice. So he wrote a letter to the company looking for a job, and after an interview he was accepted. He took great interest of his work all along. In 1979 to the end of 1986, he was sent to West Africa to work amongst the management team to oversee production. From 1987 to 1992, he left the company and migrated to Australia. During that time he was working at a printing factory there. In 1992, China Dyeing Works was planning to move to a new factory, and asked Chan to rejoin the company.

For Hong Kong students who would like to study in Taiwan, they should sit a joint examination for admission to tertiary institutions. Chan was graduated from Pui Ying Secondary School (at Babington Road). His grades at school were good and he was nominated to National Cheng Kung University(NCKU) in Taiwan.He was accepted without taking the joint examination. During the first year he was awarded a scholarship. NCKU was located in Tainan where the living cost was very low.

Chan Kin Keung's career development at China Dyeing Works. When Chan first joined China Dyeing Works, he was placed at the printing department. He was responsible for the preparation of printing paste. After three months, he was promoted to supervisor of the printing department, responsible for printing technique and production. At that time the factory was running with two 8-hour shifts. Living quarters were provided to the workers. In 1975, Chan was promoted to assistant manager of the printing department. And in early 1979, he was sent to work in Nigeria, West Africa. At that time, the company had 10 factories in Nigeria. Chan was responsible for the management of UNTL plant's printing department which focused on wax printing production. In 1986, he migrated to Australia. In 1992, Chan came back to Hong Kong. He then worked as assistant plant manager at the company's factory in Tsuen Wan. He was responsible for production which covered technical issues, prioritizing orders and machine repairs, etc. Later on he also took up sales mission, including visits to clients, price negotiation, getting orders and arranging production schedule, etc. In 2006 he was promoted to Assistant General Manager. The Managing Director was at the Central office. The company established close relationship with its clients. An agent and sales representatives were employed in London and New York respectively.

When Chan joined the company in 1972, the owner, Cha Chi Ming was working at the Central office in the Swire Building. At that time, the office was in Central while the factory was in Tsuen Wan. Cha was an entrepreneur and he regarded himself as a textile industrialist. He was very keen in finding new technologies. He established two foundations in the mainland. Qiu Shi Science and Technologies Foundation concentrated on technologies. Sang Ma Trust emphasized on the advancement of textile technology and it had a great impact on China's textile industry.

Company China Dyeing Holdings, Ltd.
Subject Industry
Duration 25m23s
Language Cantonese
Material Type
Source Hong Kong Memory Project Oral History Interview
Repository Hong Kong Memory Project
Note to Copyright Copyright owned by Hong Kong Memory Project
Accession No. AY-CKK-SEG-003
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