Sun shines within the field of good design

This year's Customer Product Design Grand Award winner is nothing if not ambitious, despite its humble origins. Founded in 1967 by Kwok Kang-sang as a locally based sole proprietorship, and carried on by his sons Jimi and Daniel, Golden Sun Housewares Manufacturing started off making machine parts and then ventured into stainless steel kitchen items.

With about 2,500 employees and three mainland factories, the company is highly regarded as a manufacturer of quality stainless steel and plastic houseware.

Golden Sun is one of the largest local houseware manufacturers and exporters, with average sales of more than US$28 million a year. It exports mainly to clients in Europe, North America, Japan, the Middle East and the mainland.

Jimi Kwok, Golden Sun's managing director and design department manager, still regards the company as a small and medium-sized enterprise and attributes his family's success to its drive to make the best stainless steel kitchen utensils and gadgets for a reasonable price.

He lauds his staff for being experts in their fields.

He says it is their distinguished professionalism - visible in the quality of Golden Sun's products and design quality - that he especially appreciates.

While Kwok concedes that Golden Sun's prices are not necessarily the lowest, he believes his company's greatest strengths are its vertical integration from design to production, and its stable output quality and distinctive design.

'We are a full service firm in every sense. We do everything in-house, design, research and development, sampling prototypes tooling, production, packaging, shipping and our own quality assurance department to do product inspections and lab tests,' says Kwok.

Kwok also regards Golden Sun as having an edge over the competition because as he sees it, maintaining quality is sacrosanct. He says it is not about undercutting competitors in an ever-descending race to the bottom that characterises much of manufacturing.

'Our strength is stable quality. How we compete in the market is by manufacturing good and stable quality products. Good materials usage is also mandatory; we will not sacrifice our quality for price. In that way, customers will only go from one cheap manufacturer to another that's even cheaper,' he says.

To be outstanding in a huge market like the mainland's, where cheap wares are abundant, requires marketing skills and Golden Sun says it can still market its products in 30 different locations in major mainland cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Tianjin to sell its branded products.

However, Golden Sun is not just an efficient manufacturer of top-tier stainless steel kitchen utensils and houseware - it designs them, too. 'We started to design our own products a few years ago,' says Kwok, who adds that there has been a positive reception from customers regarding Golden Sun's internally designed wares.

The company also makes original equipment manufacturer products. 'We believe in giving customers what they want in terms of new designs and new ideas,' he says.

In turn, Golden Sun's clientele appreciate designs and products customised for their own and their customers' needs. 'We make it a point to not copy others' designs because we have a reputation to preserve,' he says.

Despite the recession, the company produces three million pieces of kitchen utensils monthly.

According to Kwok, the company has experienced double-digit growth since 2004, although '2009 was a tough year and we were down 20 per cent, but through our internal efficient improvement we still managed to make a small profit', he says.

As for Golden Sun's candidacy at this year's awards, Kwok is glad the company was considered and believes that the award should go to those products with designs that are both 'innovative and functional' because at the end of the day - 'the best design gets the prize'.