In an era of advancing medical technology and rising standard of living, the average life expectancy of humans had been extending yet the birthrate had been declining. This has further aggravated the existing aging problem, and how to cope with it has currently become an issue concerning governments and societies. According to the results of the 2021 Population By-census conducted by the Hong Kong government, the proportion of Hong Kong elderly to the whole will rise to 36% in 2046. In other words, elderly people aged over 65 will make up one-third of the population of Hong Kong. One’s self-care ability is weakened along with their growing age. Hence, the responsibility to care for the elderly daily eventually falls on their children. But their children are aging as well. When they reach their middle-age or even elderly, the families of elderly doubletons will inevitably emerge. As one of the pioneers of local gerontechnology development, FH Rehabilitation Products Manufacturing Co. Ltd. has gradually shifted its focus to gerontechnology development since 2007. We are delighted to have Mr. Alan Tam Ming-tak, the company director, to share his tips for running his business with us.
|FH Rehabilitation Products Manufacturing Company Limited (FH), established in 2007, provides medical and health products. It supplies products including medical devices, personal care accessories and dietary supplements. FH has been devoted to researching and developing high-quality products, and these products have received international accreditations, such as ISO, CE, and FDA. The company aspires to provide rehabilitation products that are safe to use, practical and diverse, and professional service with excellent quality to satisfy the various demands of Hong Kong.
There are approximately 30 full-time employees on board at the time being, and the company has its factory in mainland China. Their operation model centered on employing these United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: Goal 3 “Good Health and Well-being”, Goal 8 “Decent work and economic growth”, Goal 9 “Industry, innovation and infrastructure”, Goal 10 “Reduced inequalities” and Goal 12 “Responsible consumption and production”.
FH, formerly known as FH Technical Solution (HK) Limited was established early in 1978. It focused on the manufacturing and selling of electronics. The comparison between their previous business and their current manufacturing of rehabilitation products is like comparing apples and oranges. The turning point for the company to transform its business was quite interesting. As the local industry of manufacturing and selling electronics had been gradually declining since the 90s, the business of FH Technical Solution (HK) Limited did not go on smoothly. Meanwhile, a chance encounter envisioned the potential of a business reform. The story starts with Alan’s voluntary service in his leisure time. At one particular service, he got to hear the needs of physically disabled peers by chance. He gleefully declared this was all a coincidence, “During the service I heard my peers complaining that the plastic base of walking aids were too slippery and not that durable. Then they turned to me for help.” He eventually came up with the idea of manufacturing the plastic base of walking aids and saw the potential of rehabilitation technology. The company came across its turning point ever since.
While continuing to run his regular business, Alan requested engineers from the research department of the company to spare some work time for researching the technology needed for rehabilitation products. It was out of the management’s expectation that a plastic product’s evaluation and modification process took a whole year before it could be launched in the market. Later he also learned from his physically disabled peers that their wheelchairs were originally from Europe. It was bothersome when the parts were out of order and required repair since they had to be shipped overseas for replacement. Hence Alan started his research on manufacturing wheelchairs. The intention of helping others is absolutely out of goodwill. However, ever since then, leading a company through business transformation was never easy. At the very beginning, everyone was worried that the company did not possess the relevant knowledge and experience and that manufacturing rehabilitation products was so much different from that of electronics. Such a decision seemed rather risky.
Expanding the new business of a company does not happen overnight. However, compared to larger-scale companies, SMEs have a relatively higher level of flexibility. Alan explained that FH TECH, which has always focused on manufacturing electronics, had already set up its independent product research and development department and had their engineers on board. After meticulous calculations by the management, they realized that their electronic business remained financially stable, thus the expense of developing their new stream of business was affordable. With these low-cost resources, the company finally managed to turn the table. Their business steadily went on track and had come to today’s success step by step.
【Workplace culture】 【Customer supplier relationship】
What differentiates gerontechnology from typical high-end technology is, prioritizing human-centric designs that cater to the specific needs of customers. FH recognizes the importance of inclusion for both physically handicapped and able-bodied individuals and has integrated this value into its core operations.
Over 70% of employees of the FH team are either physically handicapped or belong to middle-aged or elderly groups. Such practice not only creates more jobs for those in need, their experience is also extremely beneficial in enhancing product quality. FH has its retail sales stores, where some of the front-end staff are physically disabled. Compared to others, they can provide precise explanations about product properties and offer tailored suggestions based on customer needs. All in all, the target customers of the company are mostly physically disabled after surgeries or have experienced sickness, or are innately physically handicapped. The obstacles and challenges they face are something ordinary people find difficult to relate to.
In Alan’s opinion, the employment of physically handicapped colleagues is mutually beneficial for both the employees and the company. The experience and knowledge of their employees enable the company to provide professional and reliable services; meanwhile, employees have a steady and decent job to support their living. The employee with the least experience has already dedicated 5 years in FH, and the one with the most has worked 10 years here. Employees’ sense of belonging to the company is strong. The company has also been attentive to employees’ needs and devoted to offering a comfortable and inclusive work environment. Accessible bathrooms are built in their office, warehouses, and retail stores. In terms of interior furnishing, the company also ensures there is enough space for employees to move around comfortably. Moreover, the company has a mentorship programme for senior employees to guide newcomers through their work so that their employees can quickly get themselves familiarized with their job duties. A briefing session is provided for newcomers to get accustomed to the company culture and direction. Such decentralised and flat organisation fosters communication and benefits employees in understanding customers’ needs better.
As for external aspects, FH is attentive to customers’ needs and provides comprehensive pre- and after-sales support. Alan set out on his connections and sought opinions from his friend working as a professor in the engineering department of a university. He invited NGOs to allow their physically handicapped beneficiaries to try the products to meet their demands starting in the research and development phase. Apart from that, the company launched a Stay Healthy project in which employees would visit clients’ homes to provide consultation services. For example, when a client had just been discharged from the hospital, they would provide suggestions on how to refurbish their home interior for the comfort of physically handicapped family members. As for after-sale service, customers could gain a further understanding of the product properties and usage through seminars held by the company and communication with the company. If customers need to send the products for repair, the company would lend temporary substitute articles for free to minimize their inconvenience. Besides, FH provides recycling services as a contribution to environmental protection. The company has a non-profit organisation under its umbrella – Hope HK to repair old wheelchairs and other rehabilitation products. These products are then donated to those in need through various NGOs.
Alan saw the aging population as a global issue, and SMEs should hold on to their authentic privileges and opportunities. By effectively utilizing their resources and fostering a culture of innovation, SMEs could open up new markets. Besides, gerontechnology development is an industry with great potential in his opinion. Enterprises in this industry have to lay emphasis on the morals and values of their employees in particular, let employees put their feet in the shoes of those physically handicapped people and product users, and understand their needs with care. Alan believed that SMEs, by working across different ranks and functions, would lead to outstanding accomplishments.
FH Rehabilitation Products Manufacturing Company Limited. received the Bronze Award for Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being and the Silver Award for Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure at the HSBC Living Business SDGs Awards in 2022. The Living Business Awards was established in 2004 and organized by HSBC. Partner organizations include The Hong Kong Council of Social Service, Business Environment Council Limited, and Policy for Sustainability Lab (under the Centre for Civil Society and Governance at The University of Hong Kong). The Living Business Awards aims to promote and encourage local SMEs to integrate ESGs and the SDGs into their daily operations, thereby enhancing their competitiveness and productivity.
 “Hong Kong Population Projections for 2022 to 2046”, Census and Statistics Department, The HKSAR Government [link]
 The plastic base serves as an accessory that is affixed to the bottom of a walking aid, enhancing its traction and providing a stable support surface, thereby enabling users to walk with increased safety.