The installation of $15 million of state-of-the-art equipment has marked a significant shift for DHL away from traditional document express services. Consistently strong growth in the packaging sector of DHL operations prompted this year's move to expand freight handling facilities, according to the general manager of DHL International (H K) W T Lee. Mr Lee said so far this year the company had recorded a 40 per cent increase in Package Express business, compared with a 10 per cent increase for its Document Express service. Overall, the company had recorded 20 per cent growth to May 31. 'We were pleased with our half-year checkpoint and I think we will maintain a similar growth rate in the second half; perhaps a little more positive,' he said. 'It was in line with our expectations. Our future is with the packaging business. 'In Hong Kong the business environment has changed from a manufacturing base to mostly services such as wholesaling, transport industry, financial services, imports and exports, and so on. If these areas are growing, our business will grow, especially with increased activity in southern China, where Hong Kong has an important role to play in re-exports. 'In the coming years I see similar strong growth in the packaging area.' Mr Lee said the company's recent equipment and space expansions were primarily geared towards catering for the massive growth in the express packaging sector. 'The investment is a reflection of our commitment to cope with the growing demand for air-expressing heavier and multiple-piece shipments in Hong Kong. 'Last year DHL recorded double digit growth in Document Express, more than 50 per cent growth in Express Freight and a 40 per cent increase in its Package Express services. 'That's why we have taken the opportunity to develop one of the most sophisticated air freight handling systems in the industry, capable of meeting our needs until the turn of the century.' Foremost in the range of state-of-the-art equipment adopted in the expansion is a 350-metre conveyor belt system costing $5 million. The system's three-dimensional design combines optimum space efficiency with the speed to handle 4,000 items an hour - four times faster than the previous manual system. DHL International (HK) was established in March 1972 at Tokwawan in Kowloon. Today it employs about 1,000 staff and operates 160 vehicles in the territory, servicing 17 express centres located in major business districts and in MTR stations. In addition, 17 corner couriers, similar to post boxes, are located in the lobbies of major commercial and industrial buildings and about 46 hotels have signed agreements with DHL to provide guests with the express company's services. The company offers five express services to Hong Kong customers: Worldwide Document Express - desk-to-desk delivery for documents. Worldwide Package Express - delivery of non-document items (like spare parts, artwork, diskettes) weighing up to 29.5 kilograms. DHL Express Freight - for moving multiple pieces of heavyweight goods, weighing no less than 30 kg. DHL Jumbo Box - for goods which fit the dimensions of 45 cm by 35 cm by 48 cm, a flat rate is charged for shipments up to 25 kg. Air Cargo and Distribution - for moving heavy items weighing 200 kg and more, with no maximum weight restriction. DHL Worldwide operates to 220 countries and claims to be the world's most extensive air cargo network. It employs more than 40,000 people. EXPANSION Investments in advanced equipment are aimed at supporting further growth of DHL's package express business Document Express grows at double digit rate; 50 per cent rise in Express Freight; 40 per cent increase in Package Express.