Jewellery industry faces ‘disruptive’ digital technology

Economy March 08, 2018 01:00


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NEARLY 350 exhibitors from Thailand showcased their products at the recent Hong Kong International Jewellery Show and Hong Kong International Diamond, Gem and Pearl Show 2018.

The twin shows, which started on February 27 and ended on March 5, are regarded as the world’s largest events of its kind, with more than 4,500 exhibitors, according to Lawrence Ma, chairman of the organising committee.

A total of 87,000 buyers from 145 countries attended the shows.

Thailand’s Department of International Trade Promotion also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Hong Kong Trade and Development Council.

Chantira Vivatrat, director-general of the department, said the latest MoU will boost the strategic partnership between the two agencies with a focus on e-commerce, data and other trade service cooperation.

This will benefit Thai small and mediaum enterprises (SMEs) for jewellery and other sectors as Hong Kong also serves as a gateway for exports to the vast Chinese market.

According to Hong Kong authorities, jewellery exports have enjoyed a 6 per cent increase in the past year due to the global economic recovery, especially in the US, European Union, and China, which are major markets for Hong Kong products.

Regarding Thailand, the country’s 349 exhibitors were the largest from a single country, reflecting the scale of the Thai jewellery industry which sees the twin Hong Kong shows as a crucial platform to tap into global markets, both online and offline.

Meanwhile, the Thai jewellery industry, one of the country’s biggest foreign exchange earners, is also undergoing a crucial digital transformation process to meet new requirements of the global supply chain.

According to Dominic Hill, founder of Atelier Technology, a jewellery tech firm, which took part in the Hong Kong shows, the global jewellery industry is worth an estimated US$315 billion per year with an annual growth rate of 7 per cent.

Thailand, China, and India are among the major jewellery exporting countries.

However, the jewellery business in most countries are based on personal trust and long-established traditions so changes to meet the new technology requirements are relatively slow.

According to Hill, the industry has been disrupted by technology, but it is still one of the slowest to adapt and go digital, as evidenced by the fact that many in the business still rely on a lot of emails as their main communication channel in the overall business process.

Yet, some manufacturers have also embraced the use of robotics in their manufacturing process for casting as well as the 3D printing technology for making quick prototypes.

In addition, the industry has faced the challenges in managing real-time pricing of raw materials such as gold and other precious metals as well as exchange rate volatility in their overall production process.

To boost efficiency in the jewellery sector, Atelier Technology has introduced a digital platform for B2B supply chain management using the cloud computing services.

Changes in the industry have been driven by new requirements of the global supply chain. For example, QVC of the UK has turned to the digital platform requiring suppliers and component makers for the industry around the world to adopt digital and hybrid solutions for more effective management.

The changes have affected retail and brand management as well as wholesalers, buyers and other stakeholders in manufacturing, product development and design.