Given that flow technology offers measurement solutions for a myriad of applications we are frequently asked to supply a flowmeter to function in a new or previously unmetered process. Unfortunately, a large proportion of the enquiries centre around early stage interest from entrepreneurs seeking a flow metering solution to a tantalising application not soluble by off-the-shelf products. Having said that, some of these ventures do indeed take-off but the majority will fall by the wayside. As a flowmeter developer / supplier we always aim to be responsive to enquiries but remain realistic and inform the entrepreneur of the likely pitfalls. Mindful of the ‘cash limited’ status of many fledgling businesses we will, if necessary, suggest that they research the application opportunity further before committing too much investment.
From experience, we find a greater proportion of OEM flowmeter enquiries that go right through the development process and reach market are from established companies who undertake market research on their target application and acknowledge a realistic timescale to bring the product to market But not always. Around twenty years ago we were approached by a company looking for a flowmeter for what sounded like a miracle chemical technology that was developed in Russia. This product was a liquid that was highly effective in killing bacteria, viruses and fungi but was harmless to humans and could be poured down the sink after use. Our potential customer wanted a flowmeter to measure the liquid for the sterilisation of medical equipment. The mystery liquid, with the amazing properties, turned out to be an hypochlorous acid solution from a Sterilox generator. To date we have secured several OEM customers using our flowmeters on this wonderful liquid for the sterilisation of endoscopes and dental equipment.
Looking at the process from a customer viewpoint:
For companies seeking an OEM flowmeter to solve their application challenge the viewpoint can be quite different. Typically, the major considerations are reliability, is the product fit for purpose, and is it available at the right price? Customers, unsurprisingly want the best possible specification for the lowest possible price. To this desire we suggest a pragmatic approach. There is no point in paying for a sophisticated, five-piece sapphire bearing set and high-grade polymers for the device body if in reality the flowmeter only has to last for 500 hours of use or just meter dispensing of 2000 cups of coffee! The accuracy and linearity may not be as good with a product made and supplied on a tight budget, but will the recipient mind if their coffee has +/- 2% more or less water in a cupful? At the other end of the spectrum if a piece of laboratory equipment has to deliver a pure chemical, uncontaminated in any way, to within an exacting specification then flowmeter performance and chemical resistance become essential. Further, the life of the device and the product line itself become critical. The short life cycle of coffee machines means they are redesigned each year and spares will be no longer available after three. By comparison, an inert chemical laboratory dispenser might have a product life of 5 years but, as it is likely to be a relatively high capital value piece of equipment, the spares will have to be available for another 10 years after the device has been superseded. Consequently, our OEM customer in this instance has to be sure that we will still be happy to produce that particular flowmeter for 15 or 20 years.
For organisations considering investing in an OEM flowmeter development we recommend that you ask yourself
1. Do I really need a flowmeter?
2. What are the actual requirements for the flowmeter?
3. What is the maximum price our product will stand for supply of the flowmeter component?
4. How good is good enough: there is little point in over-specifying?
5. How long will my product remain in production?
6. How long do we require spares to be available?
7. What level of customisation is economic?
8. Where is the cross-over point between up-front costs and production run per change from a standard product?
9. Is the time window for the OEM flowmeter development achievable?
By comparison as a flowmeter developer / supplier the questions that we ask ourselves when approached to develop a flowmeter under OEM contract include:
a. What quantities are required?
b. Does this look like a viable product?
c. Does the OEM customer have the necessary resources in place available to successfully bring the product to market?
d. Does the OEM truly understand the required flow meter specification?
e. Can we meet the required specification?
f. Do we have the required production capability?
g. Is the OEM customers timescale realistic and achievable?
h. If modifications to a standard device are required where does the responsibility for the design and acceptance rest? Who signs the product off for production?
i. If we are developing a new device do we have the resources to complete the project on-time and on budget?
Our bespoke flow sensors are designed to customer specifications to meet specific flow ranges and environmental conditions. Why not contact us (+44-1935-812790 or firstname.lastname@example.org) for a no commitment discussion to discuss your process measurement challenge.