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January 17, 2023

IPL Perspectives: Crystal Mao & Phillip Hao

How does Chinese New Year impact you, your role at IPL Packaging and, of course, the company itself?

Crystal Mao

Finance & HR Director CN

With Chinese New Year being our biggest traditional festival, it is really something we all look forward to and we really begin to feel excited when it comes around.

From an office perspective, we normally utilise this time to clean up our areas prior to leaving on holiday and to clear various project samples from our offices and warehouse in order to create more efficient workspaces. Fortunately, as the finance/accounting department is normally busier at both the end and the beginning of the month (we need to prepare the cash flow or closing accounts etc), the dates of this year’s CNY do not affect my role or department significantly.

It is important to note though that, whilst those staff that contracted Covid recently are now almost all back in the office, China’s Covid restrictions really impacted us a lot. We could not go anywhere without presenting our health code, especially in public/commercial areas such as shopping malls or metro stations. We are also required to do Antigen Rapid Tests (ART) frequently to ensure that our health code is in the green. The government recently scrapped nearly all zero-Covid restrictions but, sadly, the risk remains that infections may increase even further as so many people begin to make use of travel options over the lunar new year.

Needless to say, we always ensure that our workers are happy and fulfilled in their roles. This is part of my job and it’s a critical one. This is because sometimes when factories reopen after the Chinese holiday, workers may not come back at the same time, and sometimes not at all. When workers don’t come back, factories must replace them quickly, which leads to lower quality and untrained staff working on production lines. As expected, when new workers are on the line, many products will not be produced properly.

At IPL our tagline “We take packaging personally” emphasises our belief that people and powerful partnerships are at the very core of our success and that our personal approach to all our business operations is what set us apart.

We therefore always ensure that our processes run as smoothly as possible and staff are satisfied in their roles and with agreed holiday arrangements. This helps to ensure processes run smoothly and that we are fully prepared for this important time that can significantly impact global brands and businesses if not efficiently managed.

Phillip Hao

Procurement Director CN

It is well known that Chinese New Year is the most important festival in China. It is also celebrated in other countries and manufacturing hubs such as Indonesia, Malaysia, North Korea, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, and Brunei.

Factories typically close for about 3-4 weeks over this time to enable workers to travel back and forth between work and their hometowns.

I usually leave about one week earlier than the actual holiday. This helps to avoid peak travel times and the huge congestion, but I do keep monitoring work during the days when away from the office, so my work is not affected.

Chinese New Year’s Eve celebrations begin on January 21, 2023, so suppliers begin slowing down or stopping production a week or so before. Below is a rule of thumb schedule for the Chinese New Year holiday:

  • Early-mid January: Suppliers begin to stop production.
  • Mid-January: Employees begin leaving factories.
  • January 21: All employees have left the factory.
  • January 22: Chinese New Year.
  • End of January/early February: Employees begin arriving back at the factories.
  • February 11: Most employees have returned.
  • February 18: Operations are almost back to normal

Since the Chinese New Year shutdown happens every year, most businesses do their best to prepare for the factories’ time-out by increasing their production before the holiday.

This time can often lead to an overload of shipments that need to be made right before the holiday begins. As suppliers, we need to factor in the chance that many workers may wish to leave early to get a head start on their holiday, meaning fewer employees are present in the workplace in the weeks leading up to the Chinese New Year.

CNY usually puts some pressure on production with the factories, but I’ve found that they always plan ahead of the game. There are also some reward systems that certain factories adopt by awarding bonuses to the workers who are staying late or up to the last minute to the holiday and the ones who resume work early after CNY, so many of these manufacturers are able to find a way to release the pressure eventually.

Of course, Covid restrictions have changed people’s lives significantly. I have not travelled with my family for almost 3 years, nor could I travel to the factory freely any time when needed. On the plus side, the pandemic and its consequential global logistical challenges have, in fact, led to packaging suppliers such as IPL building greater supply chain resilience into their operations, from developing contingency plans to doing much earlier planning, so this is of benefit to us.

Thankfully, from 27 December 2022, all the restrictions were removed, allowing people to travel in and out of China once again. It’s exciting that 2023 is a brand new year and we all look forward to the new opportunities and challenges the Year of the Rabbit brings with it.

Crystal Mao

  1. What does your role at IPL entail?
    • I head up Finance & HR in the China office. My job is to ensure the cash flow is sufficient to run the business and employees are happy and fulfilled in their roles.
  2. How do you start your work day?
    • I look to deal with urgent or high-priority things first, then check emails etc.
  3. If you could learn one new skill, what would it be?
    • Painting. When I paint I find it helps to relieve pressure and makes me more relaxed.

Phillip Hao

  1. What does your role at IPL entail?
    • I am in charge of buying at IPL. This entails negotiating with suppliers for the best prices and products they can provide. It also involves close collaboration with top management and, of course, ensuring that our production processes are running smoothly.
  2. How do you start your work day?
    • I filter emails and messages to see where my assistance is needed. I also have important conversations with heads of the factories on issues such as costing, delivery timelines or any changes to payment terms, etc.
  3. If you could learn one new skill, what would it be?
    • Speaking Spanish. I just find it very interesting indeed.


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