A Day In The Life: Number Plate Maker

Sep 02, 2012 5 Min Video

As a child, it never occurred to Chiang Chen Seng that he would choose number plate making as his profession. Born in Ipoh, Chiang obtained his primary and secondary education at ACS Ipoh. He loves to listen to music, mostly oldies and sentimental tunes.

“It wasn’t out of passion that I first started this business. I got into number plate-making because I got tired of the pressure I went through working for other people. It came to a point where being an employee did not appeal to me anymore and I wanted out. Furthermore, my brother was already in this profession, so even though I had no knowledge about this business, I decided to give it a try. I was jobless anyway,” reminisces Chiang.

Number plate making is Chiang’s first and only business and he has been at it for a long time. The reason he has been doing this for more than two decades is because of the satisfaction he gets when he sees his customers pleased and satisfied with his work. What started off as a trial venture bloomed into a passion. He works about 12 hours a day, six days in a week. He says that the number of plates he makes is quite limited. A typical day in Chiang’s life as a number plate-maker goes like this.

The incessant beeping of an alarm clock echoes around the bedroom. It is 7am, and the start of new day for Chiang. He has his own shop – Honsen Trading – in Ipoh which he opens for business promptly at 8.30am every day. The roller door opens to reveal his shop which is packed with tools, number plates, saws and other cutting equipment. It seems full to overflowing. To Chiang though, this is his passion, and he knows where everything is.

“My job is to meet my customers’ needs,” says Chiang. “I help them to decide on what type of number plates they want, and assist in the choosing of the various fonts and styles that I think will make them happy.” There are essentially three different types of number plates:

Ready-made: These are the most common plates. The letters and numbers are all white and they are ready for application to the black plate surface.

Stickers: These number plates are only for motor cycles. They also comprise of white lettering and numerals but they are all stickers. These stickers are then affixed to a larger black sticker, which in turn is stuck on to the motorbike.

Customised plates: These are unique plates that Chiang has on offer, and they are very popular with his customers. Some people may have their own ideas, or they may choose from the many designs on display. Once the choice is made, he sets about cutting each letter and number according to the design and fonts chosen.

The possibility of injuries is very real in this working environment
The possibility of injuries is very real in this working environment
“Of course my job also has its challenges”, Chiang contends. “The first of these is undoubtedly the weather. When it rains, customers, especially motorcyclists, don’t come to the shop.” The second obstacle that he has to deal with are small injuries. He works with cutters and saws all day long, and has to be very careful not to hurt himself. The last of the challenges that he faces is the growing number of competitors. He has to constantly check that his prices are competitive, and that he treats his loyal customers well.

Ipoh is a small town, and maintaining relationships with his customers is of utmost importance. Judging from his interpersonal skills and the warm relationships that he has developed over time with his customers, it is doubtful that this will pose much of a threat. Nevertheless, Chiang is aware of the competition and of the issues that are posed in terms of his business, and works tirelessly to ensure that he maintains a competitive advantage.

Chiang believes that number plate-making is slowly becoming a dying art. This is due to the fact that this skill will soon be replaced by machines, in this technology-infused era. He further explains that currently there are not many people doing this, especially custom-made numbers. This is probably because it is time consuming and does not generate quick income. The current generation is more into businesses that produce instant money.

This hardworking man advises those who want to venture into this business to be ready to make sacrifices when it comes to their time. This is after all, a time consuming job. He also adds that this profession is not a number one money making business, but if you have the passion to do this, then you will enjoy your work.

Number plate-making does generate a relative amount of income besides being fulfilling. If you are one who places importance on job satisfaction and want to be happy with what you do, then you could give this profession a try.

“All you need are sawing skills and a passion and interest for the job,” says Chiang. He enjoys seeing the satisfied expressions on the faces of his customers. But more than this, he is proud of his two children who have both completed their tertiary education, thanks to the dedication and hard work of this honest, humble man. He has provided for his customers and family for over 21 years, and it seems that he is on track for 21 more. Honsen Trading and this unassuming, diligent man is surely one of the prides of Ipoh.

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