FEATURE: HK car-wrapping firm focuses on quality

HONG KONG (China Daily/ANN) - Paterson Lam has become the first and only Hong Kong person to pass the car-wrapping industry’s most-recognized examination.

Quantity seems to have a higher priority than quality nowadays. Yet Paterson Lam, co-founder of Wrap Workz, has become the first and only Hong Kong person to pass the car-wrapping industry’s most-recognized examination, showing his determination to pursue the high-quality craft of car-wrapping.

But just what is car-wrapping, and what does the examination involve?

What is Car-Wrapping?

Unlike traditional car-painting, car-wrappers put protective screens on vehicle bodies using adhesives; the designs are removable.

Noting the large second-hand market for vehicles and potential demand for car-wrapping, Lam founded a car-wrapping company in Hong Kong.

 “Car-wrapping brings so many benefits to a car,” Lam said. Car-wrap is similar to a protective film placed on the screen of a smartphone. The car-wrap serves as a protective layer for mobile vehicles. “It is common that pebbles on highway may bring a certain level of damage to the car-front. However, with the protection of car-wrap, it will only damage the protection layer but not the paint of the car. It still looks new when you remove the wrap.”

Another advantage is that car-wrapping is reversible. “Car-owners can boldly try different colors as they want. If you have longed for a red sports car, then you can have a try,” Lam said.

Car-wrapping makes color-switching as easy as changing our clothes and lets owners decorate cars with detailed patterns, delicate signs and symbols.

The advent of car-wrap put a spotlight on some problems with car-painting. The quality of car-painting is variable as it requires a sophisticated multi-step process. Even if quality is good, it will definitely be expensive.

Moreover, many people believe fresh paint on a car indicates problems, hence depreciating its value.

Examination Organised by Avery Dennison

Lam had had been running his car-wrapping company for more than six years but he hoped to learn more about the industry so participated in an examination organized by Avery Dennison, a worldwide graphic solution company. “Hong Kong has started falling behind in the industry,” Lam frankly claimed. “Sitting for the examination is a way to ensure I am in line with trends.”

He first participated the intermediate-level examination. With his outstanding performance, he was ranked first in that examination and received sponsorship for the advanced level examination. “The advanced examination is divided into five sections, you will be screened out immediately if you fail one of the stages,” Lam said.
The examination is supervised by a Japanese tutor. To Lam, the most remarkable experience is the high level of discipline. “One of the candidates failed because he smoked in the venue.” Paterson said it may seem a little bit harsh but the reason is well-founded. “It is dangerous to smoke in the garage and the clients may not want their car to have an unpleasant smell.” The sense of self-discipline is further consolidated through the examination.

Avery Dennison told Lam the pass rate is extremely low every year. There may be only one or two students who can pass the examination directly. There were 18 people took part in the examination and five of them were from Hong Kong. Fortunately, with sufficient practice, Lam became the first and only Hong Kong entrant to pass the examination.

He strongly encourages those in the same industry to attend the examination. “To some, car-wrapping is just like putting stickers on the car so they always miss out some important techniques of handicraft. For instance, heat from the sun may make the wrap shrink. Unsatisfactory craftsmen may miscalculate the measurement of the wrap.” 

Tough Competition Boosts Competence 

Lam hopes for a competitive market. As more competitors entered the car-wrapping industry, more and more people would see the benefit of car-wrapping. He is disappointed that some competitors use low prices and give their clients a low-quality service. 

“This may weaken car-owners’ confidence in car-wrapping and topple the whole industry,” Lam said.

Devil in the Details

Lam said the strength of Wrap Workz had to be in the quality of his work. “Every finished product is a piece of work representing myself.”

The company took on just one to two cars per week to maintain the level of performance.

“We also provide auxiliary services to customers so as to boost their satisfaction,” Lam added. “Just like the Tesla charger here; it costs me another HK$20,000.”

He has introduced automation, installing a machine which can produce stickers with a software program. 

“Though we can do it manually, but it is rather fine and detailed with the use of machines,” Lam said. But most of the work still relies on the use of manual labor. “Most of the work cannot be automated. So, it is important for [staff] to attend courses and training.”
Wrap Work has a twin shop in Vancouver.  Lam said weather conditions there meant the shop will be closed for one month. Staff in Vancouver will visit Hong Kong and share their experience. Lam said it is interesting that customer requirements and wrapping techniques really differ in the two places. He said this allows him to learn more from the diverse industry culture.

All Vehicles are Valuable 

Lam does not think only high-end vehicles should be his target. 

“There’s no discrimination. The value of a car in the second-hand market is one thing but its value to the car-owner would be definitely another thing.” But he said that in some cases, it is true that certain parts of an old car will be suitable for painting rather than wrapping.

Past And Future Plans 

Considering the enormous number of vehicles in the Chinese mainland, Lam said he did once think of entering the market in the mainland. “We did think of operating another garage in Shanghai or Beijing but the wrapping industry there is even a step farther than Hong Kong,” Lam said. “The labor-intensive and cost-oriented operation is one reason why we did not execute our plan.”

In future, Lam hopes to expand his team. He thinks most of the work can be further sub-divided. “With each staff member responsible for a finer part of the production, he thinks they can provide more satisfactory products to customers.”