Understanding quality and safety
It’s not only consumer items which have knockoffs but many industrial items as well. One very familiar one is replacement compressor parts. Some might be OK but….. when it’s a copy, you take a risk.
Some companies even make Nex Flow® knock-offs which when checked, are of dubious quality and one even potentially infringed a patent which the company had to address legally. The copy was also done so badly it did not work!!! A reason to address any knockoff of a product is of course to prevent your own good product from being mistakenly identified with a bad copy. We discovered all this when a customer came to us after their supplier stopped calling them back once the product, which was a Cabinet Enclosure Cooler, was found not to work. It was actually quite shocking when the copied product had a piece break off. The manufacturing was simply not good. Imagine this knocked off product on a control panel!
One area of the world where copies and even copies of copies are prevalent is in parts of Asia. Every major manufacturer of our technology has been copied and re-copied with various degrees of quality. The further down you go in this chain of events, the worse it seems to get!
Here is an example of a product, made in China that copied a well-known air nozzle manufacturer (not us by the way).
It looks the same but…. what if the material is inferior? What if the product breaks and negatively affects production or worse – what if it breaks and someone gets hurt? Poor quality material will wear out faster. Most would want to avoid such knockoffs despite sometimes lower price simply for safety reasons. Here are things to look for when choosing any product which may have perhaps even several copies on the market.
Understanding quality and safety. Look at the web site of the company:
- Does the web site have a wide range of products or just some that other competitors have? One relatively easy thing to do is simply compare the extent of the variety of product content. Does it appear that only the “easy” items were copied?
- Check the address. Even multiple addresses may only be mail drops for couriers. Trying to provide an image of a large company with multiple locations that are just mail drops is suspicious. If the company is not truthful about their real size, then what else is not true?
- Look for the quality of the web site content. Has it simply mimicked what another company has done and maybe just altered some data? We found one copy using the same performance charts for the same copied product but changed the data slightly – not the real information which we tested. It has happened, when a company has called us thinking it was our product wondering why it did not match the false data. An honest company uses honest data but when someone copies, it is very tempting to embellish data to stand out (and also avoid obvious copyright infringement).
- Does published data make sense? One term that is overused in our industry is the term “air amplification ratio”. There is no real standard approved definition. For example, an old-style air knife design (like our Nex Flow® Standard Air Blade air knives where exiting air flow bends 90 degrees) gives an amplification ratio of 30:1 at 6 inches away. The X-Stream® Air Blade air knife where the air comes out straight gives an amplification ratio of 40:1. Similar looking products will logically have the same figure. But, if suddenly that figure jumps to 50:1 without any explanation, something should be suspect. The best way to compare performance from air knives is really to compare force and velocity figures at the same distance at the same pressure to the air consumption. One thing to seriously note, is if the amplification ratio is too high, it in fact indicates weaker performance as it would slow velocity more and reduce blow off force. But looking at explicit, measured data is the best way to check the quality of performance.
Understanding quality and safety. Look at Approvals, Certifications
- Certifications such as those performed by UL or CSA or any other international body are the best way to insure a certain level of quality. For example, Nex Flow® Frigid-X Panel Coolers have been RUL tested with Type 12, 3R, and Nema 4/4X certification. That means several things, that materials used in the construction of the product are of a certain level of quality – no cheap substitutes that can wear our earlier in an industrial environment. And for sure, safety has been a big consideration in testing. If there is no certification to some standard the product should be suspect. The example of the disastrous knockoff described at the beginning of this article is a perfect example – it has no certification.
- Are there strict manufacturing standards and testing in place. When Nex Flow® products are made, there are strict tests and checks that must be done before the product is sent to the market. Even many customers require us to assure that certain standards are met. Great care is made in the choice of materials and in sourced parts. If a product is suspect, ask the supplier what their standards are, how they insure quality.
Understanding quality and safety. Does the Company Innovate, Service well, Product available, personnel available?
- Some knocked off products are marketed by part-time companies. One clue is a lack of innovation compared to other companies that offer much more, have more data to provide, and have some indication that it is a real serious business such as product development. If the company has some patents, that is one indication that is a serious company that will be around for a long time since patents are not inexpensive and take time, effort, and cost to create.
- If the response you get when you call is an answering system with a rather poor quality message that should be suspect. What is more important is if you do not get a response for a long time to your message, or no response at all. It is not impossible that the owner could be out at his “real job”. If something went wrong, would you not want a quick response? Answering systems are certainly fine to have but it’s the response time you need to assess. Availability is important.
- One important feature of our industry is product availability. Most products are stock. If the product you are seeking is not in stock, or it takes several days to package and deliver, that is a clear indication of a part-time business. Nex Flow®, and other serious manufacturers in the industry realize that having stock is important, and same or next day shipping is the norm. You should expect that except for those unusual situations which can occur in any business, where you have a rush on a particular item. But if you order something, especially if ordered online, and it takes several days to ship, it is suspect.
- Does anyone you contact for technical support help you? Do they sound like they know the product? That is certainly important. If they do not know the product well, that can be a waste of your time. You need confidence that what you purchase will work for you.
Innovations by Nex Flow®:
Check Internet Presence and Reputation
- Does the company have a decent web presence? This is not just spending energy for showing up, but also their contribution to education, and positive contribution on social media. Do they publish articles and blogs on a regular basis that actually go beyond simple product descriptions and sales? It’s not only quantity but the quality of postings.
- What online reputation do they have? Has anyone complained online? Any better Business Bureau complaints? Has anyone recommended them? Beware of Case Studies that cannot be verified with real references or at least real photos that are not photoshopped.
When purchasing a product you want a fair price, a reasonable level of quality, assured support, and to be secure that it is safe. Keep in mind the above when contacting a potential supplier can help you assess if the source is reliable and that the product you purchase is what you expect, and that you have the security of proper support if needed.
Understanding quality and safety