Key considerations in sourcing and buying fans

Sager Electronics’ director supplier marketing & product management—thermal, Aldo Guarino helps buyers make informed decisions when selecting fan and blower manufacturers.

Sager Electronics’ director supplier marketing & product management—thermal, Aldo Guarino

Fans and blowers are essential thermal management components in countless electronic systems. Vital for circulating air or exhausting heat entirely, their selection is crucial for optimal device function. Procurement professionals tasked with sourcing these air movers face a multi-faceted decision in matching capabilities to needs.

To start, understand the manufacturer’s core market(s). A supplier may have insight into specific requirements that are critical within the industry in question. Look for manufacturers with experience in applications like yours. They’ll likely have a better understanding of your specific needs and can recommend suitable standard products.

Identify suppliers that manufacture the type of fan you need (axial, radial, tangential) or offer a range of options relevant to the application (eg compact DC fans for small electronics). For example, a medical device manufacturer might prioritize suppliers specializing in small, quiet centrifugal fans suitable for CPAP machines.

While engineers focus on technical specifications like size, noise, power consumption, static pressure, airflow, environment and more, procurement professionals must consider additional business factors during the sourcing process.

Pre and post pandemic lead-times have ranged from 12 to 18 weeks if importing to North America. Proper planning is needed to secure an uninterrupted supply chain. Although many air- moving suppliers utilize standard products, modified standard products or custom solutions are common. Unfortunately, either one can impact availability. Ensuring a proper inventory strategy with a supply chain partner is therefore vital to reducing potential lead times.

Does the supplier have a single factory or multiple locations around the world? The recent pandemic highlighted the importance of geographic diversity in manufacturing. Balance cost with features, performance and durability. The lowest price option may not be the best option. A valuable fan may have higher upfront costs, however, in the end, may deliver one or more of these benefits (lower operating costs, longer life, reduced maintenance, improved performance, reduced noise or higher reliability) that may impact the decision.

Due to the wide range of fan and blower sizes, packaging and shipping methods vary. Proper packaging from suppliers is essential. Knowing standard package quantities (SPQs) and product weight helps when choosing the most suitable method. Sea freight is often the most cost-effective option for international shipments, but air freight can significantly reduce lead times for a higher cost, especially with heavier items. Within North America, ground freight is generally best for larger quantities to ensure safe arrival.

Despite the trend toward mini and compact fans and blowers, certain applications require large and extra-large frame solutions. Storage may be a concern regarding larger fans or blowers. Manufacturers or a manufacturer certified channel partner can add value to a thermal management solution by undertaking secondary operations. For air-moving solutions: adding connectors; shortening, lengthening or replacing wires; and building fan-tray assemblies, are just a few examples.