Value-Added Solutions for Customized Thermal Management

Knight Electronics/Orion Fans
Written by Jen Hocken

Knight Electronics has been providing original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) with innovative, quality products since 1979. The company now offers a variety of services, but when it was established just over forty years ago, it focused on manufacturing private-label goods for a third-party brand.

Company Founder Bob Knight realized that he could complement that brand’s products by manufacturing under the Knight Electronics name. This enabled the company to begin building its own brand with a series of products including printed circuit boards, transformers, switches, heat sinks, and other general electronic components.

Eventually, the company grew larger than its partners. Knight Electronics’ engineering, manufacturing, assembly and component procurement services could serve small to large OEMs with quality electrical, electronic, and electromechanical components, specializing in customized solutions. As a result, Knight Electronics quickly created a reputation as an experienced and resourceful manufacturing and supply chain partner.

In the early 1990s, the company noticed that the products requested most often by its customers were air moving products or assemblies. After completing extensive market research on fan manufacturers, Knight Electronics determined that the only alternatives were companies offering a limited number of standard options with long lead times, or overpriced custom solutions that lacked quality.

“Almost universally, no one wanted to do any type of customization. Customers initially came to us for special projects and customized solutions that solved problems. Through our OEM products division, we could make higher quality custom fans at a competitive price. That’s when we decided to launch the Orion Fans product line, and that’s a registered trademark of Knight Electronics,” said John Knight, president of Knight Electronics and Orion Fans.

The Orion Fans product line turned Knight Electronics into a one-stop shop, as the fans are regularly used in customized assemblies. It is convenient for customers when fans can be installed directly into an enclosure or assembly and designed specifically for the application.

“We can do any one piece of the equation, but almost no one buys just a fan. The fan is going into something, or something is being attached to it. Value-add services are where we excel because our competitors don’t do that,” explained Knight.

As well as offsetting the limitations of its competitors, Orion Fans has the broadest product line of any fan manufacturer; it keeps its costs competitive, and it has a large availability of nearly every product in its inventory.

Orion Fans products are available for shipment from the Knight Electronics headquarters in Dallas, Texas or one of the three other locations in Taiwan, China, or the UK. All are experiencing steady growth, and the headquarters in Dallas recently underwent a two-year-long project to add more warehousing and manufacturing space.

The family-run company has employees all over the world and maintains a close-knit culture. When someone joins the Knight Electronics team, they generally stay put until it is time to retire. “We have very little employee turnover, and that’s a feather in our cap that we wear very proudly. It speaks volumes about the way that we feel about our team members here and in Asia and Europe as well,” said Knight.

In 2018, Knight Electronics/Orion Fans was named exporter of the year by the North Texas District Export Council, a regional organization supported by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The company was awarded another exporter of the year award again last year from the International Trade Council of Washington, D.C. The council also presented the manufacturer with the ‘quality in business’ award for its quality standards through the ISO 9001 2015 rating.

A component of the ISO 9001:2015 certification is customer satisfaction. Customers fill out surveys so the company can measure the service, and it extends this concept to its employees with surveys on workplace topics. The leadership firmly believes that if the employees feel understood and appreciated, they are more likely to deliver great service to the customers. Both forms of survey contribute constructive feedback that helps to improve the overall business.

The information received from the customers who fill out the comments section in the survey tends to be appreciative. Customers have repeatedly expressed that the company understands their needs when trying to resolve a problem and that they truly enjoy collaborating with Knight Electronics.

The manufacturer also works closely with its distributors across the globe to ensure that they have the proper products and services to customers and this arrangement is beneficial for both parties. The company offers more useful solutions, and the distributors appreciate the support because it helps them sell more products.

A priority for the Orion Fans division, and Knight Electronics as a whole, is to give a level of service that is usually not available to small and medium-sized operations. “Because value-add is such an important part of who we are as a company, we are pleased to provide most value-add services without large minimum-quantity requirements,” said David Luna, Vice President of Marketing for the Orion division.

Orion Fans’ customers can take advantage of its experience with fan solutions and assemblies without committing to a large order. Its minimum order quantity can be as low as three hundred units, whereas its competitors have minimums of over one thousand. “Customers come back to us because our minimums are a lot smaller, and they can get a value-added solution for a really good price, but at a lot lower quantity commitment.”

As manufacturers everywhere can attest, a challenge today is overcoming trade-related issues. Knight is particularly concerned about the secondary effects for customers that rely on the Chinese or Middle Eastern markets. To overcome potential disruption over the next twelve to twenty-four months, it has managed to rearrange some of its inventory and sales operations to better serve its customers.

The company works to deliver cost-effective and innovative products, and keeping an eye on advancements in the industry is a big part of this service. “We’re always looking for the next step, for product improvements or technological changes on the horizon that will enhance our products and move us to the next level. We want to be on the leading edge of what’s necessary to get the job done for our customers,” said Knight.

The company is committed to keeping its customers competitive and expects to continue growing in size and expanding its Orion Fans division. It also plans to broaden its export business and recently established a new distributor in Turkey and in Israel where it has decided to take on a more local approach when developing operations abroad. “I found out when doing trips overseas, especially in Europe, that a lot of customers like to have that local feel or touch through a local distributor,” explained Luna.

One of the new distributors for Knight Electronics is a family-owned and operated business in Germany that was founded in the 1950s. “If we want to be global, we have to be local, so we started signing up smaller distributors focused on design capabilities. We’re looking for that local support to service customers in Europe, the Middle East, and other countries.”

Knight Electronics and Orion Fans continue to do the things that led to their North American growth during the past 40 years, only now on a global basis, making it easy to do business and demonstrating their positioning statement every day: Orion Fans – We’ll Make You a Fan.

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