EVERY year a large number of experts volunteer to sit on the six judges' panels that select the award winners. Each organiser chooses its own panel from academic and industrial experts in the appropriate field and submits the names to be approved by the organising committee of the Hong Kong Awards for Industry. Dr Lee Tat Yue, director of the Industrial Centre at the University of Hong Kong, was one of the judges for last year's Quality Award. 'It was quite time-consuming because we had to visit companies and sites for discussions,' he said. 'All the companies were of a very good standard. Although the winner was obvious, the others were very close. 'The companies we visited were either ISO certified or preparing for it.' Dr Lee said the Quality Award gave added recognition to a company but he believed if the award could be extended to organisations of other types, such as restaurants, the impact would be greater. The judges generally select winners from a short list prepared for the organisers by independent assessors, such as the Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency. The assessors for last year's Export Marketing Award were a team from Coopers & Lybrand, led by Robert Cochrane, who has acted in this role several times. 'I find every year is different and interesting,' he said. 'I am impressed with the improvement over the years and with the different strategies which have been evolved and put into practice to meet the needs of different companies. 'The award has helped improve export marketing: companies now think harder about what they do. 'Some companies are original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and some manufacture their own brand-name products, but it was interesting to see how one particular company that did both was able to find a market for its own brand-name product without damaging its OEM market.'