''Partnership in distribution: A tail wind to Europe'', Elektronik ''distribution 2019'', 3 July 2019
''Producing and marketing equipment fans takes a great deal of expertise. To make it on the German market as an Asian manufacturer, Sunon has been relying on Schukat for more than 35 years. Now, the two companies are planning their entry into the electric motor market.
By Alexander Lange, Line Manager Sunon, Schukat electronic
More than 35 years ago, the Taiwanese manufacturer of AC and DC fans, cooling modules and system solutions made the decision to enter the German market. Sunon's goal was to become the market leader in a technically demanding field and, instead of concentrating on only a few large industrial clients, to focus on a broad range of customers and applications – without direct sales. This was not a simple step to take, because many well-known companies in the industry already had research and development centres in Germany. For a foreign company, however, opening a branch here was complicated. Factors like the language, local laws, building up business relationships, logistics and local market know-how all needed to be taken into account.
Sunon therefore decided to continue their focus on the fan and motor sectors and to concentrate on development and production, and to look for a sales partner for Germany. Schukat had not only been working in the sector since 1964 and had a broad market presence but was also known for its logistics know-how and outstanding customer loyalty, making the German distributor was the ideal business partner.
Schukat as partner
At that time, the fan manufacturer from Taiwan was new to the German market and had little market experience. For Schukat, therefore, the partnership with Sunon brought with it a number of challenges. At first, the goal was to support Sunon with statutory and logistics requirements, and to build up the brand. After 35 years, Schukat has no doubt at all that the efforts of the past have been worthwhile.
From AC equipment fans to customised developments
At the start of their collaboration, Schukat introduduced a few of Sunon's AC fans to its product range. The selection grew, with the 1986 catalogue offering a dozen models, including the first DC fans. Two years later, the range was once again broadened. In the field of DC fans especially, Sunon’s strength in the motor and bearing technology areas proved decisive. With the rapidly growing number of fans, particulary those for industrial applications, Schukat's core range in this area also deepened.
In the years that followed, Schukat's standard range grew with the addition of series for specific requirements, e.g. the power-motor series for applications with high-volume throughput, the IP68 series for harsh environments, and the ATEX-certified EC fans. Today, Sunon's standard range alone includes more than 1500 different models and designs, and a good third of those are currently available from Schukat ex stock. The considerably larger part of the distributor's stocks, however, are made up of customer-specific adaptations and purely customised developments.
Miniaturisation and reduced power consumption
Apart from the high quality level, two trends in fans are currently observable: increasing efficiency and noise reduction. The efficiency and flexibility of AC fans can be considerably improved, for example with EC technology. Rapid development and a correspondingly wide range of available models, similar to what has been seen in DC fans in recent years, is anticipated. In addition, demand for specialised fans and cooling equipment is constantly increasing. Figure 1 compares the power consumption for the existing DP series with that of the new CF series.
In developing its cooling equipment, Sunon is pursuing the dual trends of miniaturisation and reduction of power consumption. Sunon dedicated itself early to this approach to the development of its products, and was thus able to establish itself as a specialist in the area of compact equipment fans. It now mass produces its Mighty Mini series of very small thin fans, just 3mm deep and measuring 9 x 9mm. Currently in planning is a low-profile fan just 2.5mm deep. To improve life expectancy and the noise level of its fans, Sunon also developed models that utilise its Vapo-Maglev bearing system. The producer has now registered more than 2500 patents for its products in various countries.
With fans, as with all electromechanical modules, it is important during manufacture to keep production tolerances consistently low and, at the same time, to stay within an economically realistic framework. To ensure a high quality level, potential sources of malfunction have to be spotted early with a sophisticated monitoring system.
It is only possible to work profitably in Asia today by increasing productivity, because rising production costs affect earnings. With this in mind, automated assembly and a reduction in the number of components is gaining increasingly attention. Bearing systems are subject to serious stresses, so it is important to minimise wear when developing such systems. Potential applications for fans using standard slide bearings are thus limited, with harsh operating conditions constantly subjecting the bearings to wear and, as a result, affecting their durability. Even if classical ball bearings were considerably more robust, they are louder and more sensitive to shock and vibration. Cost factors also play a role in this regard. To solve the problem, Sunon developed a patented magnetic bearing system – the Vapo-Maglev bearing – that brings together the technical advantages of a ball-bearing fan with economic advantages of a slide bearing without its limitations.
Adapted to the market
For the coming year, Schukat and Sunon plan to continue their growth on the German market, to focus on the needs of customers, and to tap more deeply into horizontal markets with new products. This will involve not only the introduction of new technologies and reinforcing their positions in existing and new markets, but also boosting the Asian manufacturer's understanding of European needs, in particular. A joint goal is to provide German customers with the best possible support in dealing with the current difficulties in obtaining components. Of paramount importance here is the ability to supply the European market.
In future, Sunon wants to do more than supply fans through Schukat, and plans to make its expertise in the area of electronically commutated motors available to its customers. In the electric motor field, Sunon is working towards a strong long-term market position, and is planning to grow with its existing Europe-wide sales network., with the motors set to play a key role in this growth. In the field of EC fans and EC motors, new products that should meet with strong demand in the German market are currently in production. Two new fan models are anticipated for the second half of 2019, witih the larger part of the new products coming in summer 2020 and the motors being available in time for the next Electronica trade fair.
Schukat aims to continue its current strategy of long-term organic growth, and is looking to further build up its sales channels and product range. A broad-based selection of Sunon products at market-oriented prices will continue to be offered ex stock. Beyond that, customers in the medium and large-quantity segments have access to specific products, cooling solutions and individual logistics solutions, as well as competent consulting and support through direct contact with the distributor.
This article was published in professional journal Elektronik special issue ''distribution 2019'' on 3 July 2019. The German original version can be found here.