Since the shift of the Thai economy, from agriculture to industry, in the 1960's, Original Equipment Manufacturing (O.E.M) seemed to be the only direction for the country's industrialists. In the early years of O.E.M manufacturing, design and technology development was never integrated into the production process or as a business strategy. Most manufacturers just bought used machineries from abroad and added only labor into the finished product even though craftology has always been an intergral part of the thai way of life. It was, historically, used in the design and production of everyday home use products, but it virtually disappeared from urban life amidst the thai industrial revolution. In any case, OEM manufacturers were content to just be part of the production process for foreign businesses who owned the technologies, the designs, and the brands.
With this attitude in business management, the meaning of design was distorted from its true essence of "research and development" to the superficial "styling". This model of OEM operation gained much popularity among Thai manufacturers, and gradually, became the only direction for Thai industry since 1960's. During that period, copying and restyling seemed to be the most that manufacturers could offer.
Without design being integrated into the manufacturing process, labor intensive manufacturing was challenged when foreign businesses withdrew their production base to other countries that offer cheaper labor cost.
AT PRESENT, THE PURELY OEM MANUFACTURERS ARE STRUGGLING TO COMPETE IN A GLOBALIZED MARKET.
Even though, the Thai government has tried to promote design as the only key to competitiveness, to shift the whole industrial complex from Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) to Original Design Manufacturing (ODM) is still considered far fetched for most manufacturers. The fact is that it requires time to inject design content into each individual process of production. But importantly, to survive in the present competitive market, one must take design seriously and must be willing to invest in design. Design solutions may not be seen clearly in the beginning, but towards the long process of experimentation and development, it will gradually appear and finally create a concrete infra-structure for each individual production.
PIONEERING DESIGN AFTER THE NEW MILLENNIUM
The turning point of design in Thailand occurred during the economic crisis in1997. Many businesses had gone bankrupt, and design-related businesses went the same way. Many architectural, advertising and interior design firms had to lay off all their staffs. Architects, graphic designers, interior designers had to struggled hard just to survive. But, when times are tough, the tough sees opportunities. Many designers started their own business with originally designed products and brands, although, they lacked the marketing skills for the export market. Many new design ideas were born through many local technologies. As a result, the new blending between local crafts and modern technologies have created a new process of design and production and even made a statement among global exporters due to its strong impact that reflects a new characteristic of Thai design identity.
Design Excellence Award (DEmark) was established in 2008 in order to give recognition to outstanding product design. It is in conjunction with the Prime Minister's Export Award (PM Export Award) which is presented annually by the Prime Minister under the auspices of Thailand Office of Innovation and Value Creation, Department of International Trade Promotion, Ministry of Commerce, Royal Thai Government. The selected products receives the DEmark logo for outstanding design, which can be used to promote well-designed Thai products and services in the international market. It is hoped that this award will help promote development of domestic products, which will in turn better the quality of life of both domestic and international consumers.
The Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP) receives cooperation from The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and the Japan Institute of Design Promotion (JDP) in determining the judging criteria for DEmark Award of Thailand, inviting experts to be judges in this contest and also help promote the DEmark Award to be widely accepted in the international arena.
This year, there are 443 outstanding design works across the country that participated in the contest. Representatives from both governmental and private sectors, as well as the media were invited as members of judging committee. A total of 98 products and services from 69 companies were awarded the DEmark this year.