The procurement manager of one of our long-time customers called us regarding the availability of a few hundred pieces of a small footprint high performance axial cooling fan that they had previously purchased by the thousands on each order.
We naturally were curious to find out what was going on because until just the last six months or, so they had been extremely consistent in ordering this part. Although we gently prodded them for information, they chose to remain mum.
Then, a few months later our inside sales team received an inquiry from their engineering manager asking for a fan that was identical to what they had been purchasing except that it needed to provide almost twice as much airflow. Because the fan that we provided was already an industry leader in terms of performance it was very hard to see how such as a drastic increase in performance could be achieved.
our engineering team took a deep dive into what it would take to achieve this objective. When we told our customer that we would need to manufacture a new fan for them using special bearings, magnets, etc. and that it would take thousands of dollars in tooling and months to develop, they were shocked. They then told us that a competing manufacturer was now supplying them with a fan with the specifications they were asking us about.
Now it was our turn to be shocked. We knew from decades of experience that small fans around 20mm to 30mm square and 10mm to 15mm thick would need very high shaft speeds, typically 10,000 RPM or higher would be needed to produce airflows of 4 to 6 CFM. To produce twice as much airflow, the shaft speed would need to increase to 20,000 RPM or more. At these speeds, it is virtually impossible to produce a fan that will operate reliably without using expensive specialty materials and a great deal of engineering to get it right. We could not believe that we were getting undercut on both price and performance. So, after explaining this to them we asked them if their inquiry was being driven by reliability issues with the new vendor’s fan.
They admitted they were seeing a drastic increase in the in-field failure rates of their inverters due to cooling fan problems.
As a courtesy to them we tested some of the competing fans and found that not only were they showing very poor results in accelerated ageing tests but even more shocking , they were producing nothing near the amount of airflow listed in their specification, in fact, these fans produced significantly less than our fan.
They, of course, stopped buying fans from our competition and resumed buying from Y.S. Tech U.S.A. however; they still had to suffer through disposing thousands of fans in inventory that could not be used for the projects they were intended for going through the painful process of providing replacement fans to their customer affected by those fans that didn’t meet spec.