5 July 2016
Test of Time
Trace the passage of goods through their supply chains and, invariably, there will be a process or component that has origins on the Chinese mainland. And while “Made in China” increasingly implies precision engineering and high-quality manufacturing, it is not yet considered guarantee in increasingly sophisticated industries.
Hong Kong’s testing and certification industry has carved a niche in handling the specific requirements of international brands sourcing products from the mainland. The intellectual property built over the past three decades across the city’s electrical and electronics products (EEP) testing industry has created an impartial force with a sound global reputation for monitoring manufacturing processes.
Constantly evolving connected consumer electronic products, and in particular the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), are reshaping design and manufacturing. “We believe IT hardware such as smartphones, tablets, smart watches and wearables, smart home and building control devices, and storage and networking products will be the core for a future smarter world by IoT,” says Basil Wai, Chief Executive of the industry lobby group Hong Kong Electronic Industries Association.
“The future demand for electronic components, smart home and building products, e-commerce, as well as cloud-related services will all be integrated, with software featuring better interfaces and algorithms. Drones, robots, 3D printers, IoT, smart home and LED lighting require secure monitoring and control solutions,” says Mr Wai.
As a result, Hong Kong’s testing industry is also adapting to changes brought on by the IoT revolution. The industry is working to extend its reputation as a trusted testing and certification hub to supply the Asia-Pacific region. The scope of services offered is also being extended.
Trends and Markets
Mr Wai says product safety, electromagnetic compatibility compliance and performance are at the core of any testing programme. With the growth in the wearable electronics sector – including items such as heart rate and activity monitors – it is increasingly important to test materials for skin sensitivity and allergic reactions.
Amid the changes sweeping electronics manufacturing, another challenge is identifying and adapting to emerging trends. “We have a team of experts who keep abreast of the latest standards development and market trends so that we can respond quickly to develop new services to meet ever-changing needs,” says Harry Yeung, Chief Operating Officer of the Hong Kong Standards and Testing Centre.
Founded in 1963, the standards and testing centre was the city’s first independent, not-for-profit testing centre. Its services include third-party testing, specialising in electromagnetic capability testing, energy-efficiency testing, low-voltage directive testing, and fitness-for-use testing. The centre cites its independence and multiple test laboratories on the mainland, in Britain and in the United States as being among its advantages.
Unlike its mainland counterparts, Hong Kong’s testing industry has a solid reputation in providing companies with quality assurance of China-sourced products and the manufacturing processes used.
“Everyone understands the importance of Hong Kong’s location,” says Raymond Chan, Chief Operating Officer of electrical testing world-leader TÜV Rheinland. “We are the gateway to mainland China and other countries. We have plenty of professional expertise located in Hong Kong. I won’t say in Taiwan or China they have no expertise, but I would say that comparatively, we have more expertise and many high-quality people located in Hong Kong.”
TÜV Rheinland is a world-leader in EEP testing, with more than 140 years’ experience and offices across the globe. It prides itself on working with clients from the research and development stage right through to the marketing stage, and is among Hong Kong’s service providers that help global businesses meet high standards in Europe and North America.
“Many people look for the European or German market, and we are very experienced in providing this kind of testing and certification,” Mr Chan says. “You need to have a high-quality vendor who is familiar with the market so you have the latest updates. I would suggest that if you are a customer, you should let a whole-service company work for you. What is critical is that they offer a diversified service for you.”
With the fast speed of innovation, Mr Yeung says keeping on top of developments on the mainland is an ongoing battle for Hong Kong-based companies. Industry-wide certification and standards help. “We have launched certification programmes, such as the Hong Kong Safety Mark to help ensure the quality of certified products,” he says. “This will help consumers to easily identity safe products in the market.”