LEASING a dedicated circuit from Hongkong Telecom can be a costly option for manufacturers. Wary of costs involved, small-to medium-sized companies explore alternatives. For bigger companies, a leased line from Hongkong Telecom is the best choice. The two speeds available are 64 kilobits per second and 9.6 Kbps. The line that is faster could take a far greater information load, while the slower line often requires scheduling of transmissions. Ricky Leung, managing director of Integrated Solutions Ltd (ISL), recommended the faster line, if a company's size and communication load justified it. To use the line, a company would need to buy a multiplexer to share the line between various data, voice and fax inputs. To use the slower line, the only hardware requirements are signalling equipment at each end. Many companies are content to use the existing IDD service for voice and fax to China, but need some help in data transmission. For these companies, ISL has developed a software program called X-CONNECT which selects new data from the companies' databases in Hong Kong and China, allowing it to be transported via disc or tape. ISL said the system was ''a viable solution from a short-to-medium-term perspective. Companies can adopt it while in the process of organising a leased line, or while they wait for telecoms facilities in China to improve''. Mr Leung said: ''Compared with Hong Kong's efficient and hi-tech telecommunications system, China's system can only be described as primitive. ''For manufacturers, this type of inefficient communication results in a number of specific problems. ''The first of these is a lack of knowledge about the status of resources.'' Another result of poor communications is a tendency towards crisis-management rather than full control of operations. Management might also find it may not be informed of certain matters that need attention. These include outstanding purchases, production backlogs or problem accounts. ''Advance warning in such cases can often save the company from losing money or customers,'' Mr Leung said. ''Poor communication can also result in the inability to make projections of future needs, which, as any manufacturer knows, is an important factor in efficient day-to-day operation.''