Business

China-made mannequins combat rising costs

Facing the increase of labour and raw material costs and the demand of customers on higher quality products, a mannequin factory in Dongguan is developing new materials, and is transforming to automation

Labour cost is increasing at the pace of 15 to 20 percent every year, said Mr Jerry Yang, General Manager of Guangzhou Panyu Kariyo Mannequin Co., Ltd. "When I started the business in 2002, the salary was about $1,000 per worker per month. Now I pay them $2,000 to $3,000 per month,"Yang said.

China's cheap labour market is shrinking, he said, especially in coastal cities with prosperous industries, because the cheap labour is mainly from mountain areas, but now they would rather work in newly founded factories in their hometowns.

"Every year some of my workers go home for the Spring Festival and never come back. It's very hard to hire new employees now," he said.

The company has built a new factory with automated assembly line in Dongguan with 70 people working in it. Its production is two to three times as that of the old factory, where 50 workers were hired.

The mannequins are hand-made in the old factory. The workers daub the liquid fibreglass inside the molds and wait until it's dry and form a mannequin, of which a worker can make tens each day.

The molds of the head, arms, legs and the body are separate, and divided into the front and the back piece. When the fibreglass is dry, the workers need to paste the front and the back piece of the mannequin together, but different parts of the body are easy to assemble or disassemble.

"New material invented by the company itself is used in the new factory," Yang said. "The mannequins made from the new material are durable and not liable to warp."

"Foreign consumers always demanded high quality, and Chinese consumers are also aiming at products with higher quality every year," he said.

The price for a mannequin can range from 600 yuan(HK$730) to thousands of yuan. "Chinese consumers are willing to pay more for higher quality,"Yang added.

Fibreglass is the most widely used material for mannequin production, but it's environmentally unfriendly and Europe has banned it for industrial use to protect the environment, according to Yang.

"The new material our company invented is environmentally friendly. I think it will become the trend for the industry to use it,"he said.

About 70 per cent of the products from the company are sold in China, mainly in Guangdong Province. But with GDP of China decreased by 0.5 per cent last year, the orders the company received has decreased by 20 per cent.

But foreign orders from Europe are increasing in recent years. "Europe has bad economics, so they have to purchase cheap Chinese products to cut the cost,"Yang said.

The mannequins are sometimes made after pictures of real people. Pictures of models from the front, the back, and the side are needed to make a clay sculpture. Molds are made according to the clay sculpture.

The copyrights of mannequins are also well protected. If the pictures are provided by the consumer, the manufacturer is not allowed to sell the mannequins made after the pictures to other consumers,Yang said.

 

Reported by Lavinia Mo

Edited by Corie Lynch

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