Obtaining ISO certification is no longer the sole domain of manufacturing companies. More service industries are realising the importance of accreditation. And as Hong Kong expands as a service industry base, the trend will continue. 'About four or five years ago, all European freight forwarders became concerned about ISO 9000 and now even customers and factories in China are going for ISO, so we decided we ought to obtain certification,' said U-Freight's general manager, Shiu Chi-kwong. 'This is especially important to us because we deal with electronic companies and computer products and, if we didn't get ISO, we would find it hard to bid [for contracts].' Simon Lee, assistant general manager, said most of the firm's customers wanted their vendors to have ISO 9002. 'It is a standard condition in some tenders and the number of such tenders is increasing,' he said. ISO 9002 will give U-Freight a short-term competitive edge. Mr Lee said only four or five competitors had ISO certification but the number would grow this year. The over-supply of vendors has been affecting the freight-forwarding industry for a about three years. 'Costs are going up and prices are going down because of over-capacity, especially traffic on the transPacific route,' Mr Shiu said. He said that U-Freight was trying to minimise its operating costs by using technology, including an in-house-designed computer system, AFSA. The company is also steadily increasing its customer base through aggressive marketing and improving the quality of its service. 'We are introducing a package to our customers which includes logistics and warehousing. We already have our own warehouses in Hong Kong, Melbourne, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Manila and Singapore and our long-term plan is to continue expanding in this field.' In 1985, U-Freight became one of the first freight-forwarding companies to enter China and it is targeting the mainland as one of its major sources of customers. Its joint-venture company on the mainland, China Express International, is taking advantage of China's growing economy. But as the Chinese economy grows and the quantity of goods that need shipping increases so will the number of forwarders.