Power supplies for consumer electronics that are produced in large quantities are mostly available in standardized general-purpose designs. Although it may require a certain level of technology know-how to make this type of power supplies, the entry barrier really is nothing. Today there is a growing demand for customized power solutions arising from specific applications in healthcare and network communication sectors, for example. They require purpose-built power supply systems and customized design services to suit their needs.
The ability to design power solutions compliant with requirements by specific industries must be backed by professional knowledge, robust R&D teams, design and manufacturing flexibility as well as rigorous certification processes. With 25 years of experience in power supply products, Asian Power Devices (APD) has everything it takes to deliver customized power solutions, particularly for applications in network communication equipment, medical devices and consumer electronics.
APD founded its business on power supplies for consumer IT equipment and has always adhered to the principle of delivering high-quality products. This was the reason why APD was able to maintain growth even during the 2008 financial crisis. However, that was also the time when APD began to realize the consumer electronics market was growingly saturated while the healthcare and network communication sectors still had tremendous growth potential. APD then decided to divert some of its resources toward the two sectors. In recent years, the healthcare and network communication sectors indeed are experiencing rapid growth. APD, having made the right decision, has secured market presence today.
According to Rax Chuang, general manager, APD's power system business group, since the company's transformation in 2008, APD has focused efforts on providing power supplies targeting applications in specific fields and delivering customized solutions. APD products are enthusiastically embraced by the market and APD is even regarded as an expert of medical-grade power solutions by medical device manufacturers. According to IHS, APD is ranked the world's No. 4 medical power solution provider. Its products are widely used in CPAP machines, oxygen concentrators, humidifiers and surgical equipment. Engaging in partnerships with leading medical device manufacturers worldwide, APD has established presence all around the globe. In addition to European and American markets, APD is also stepping up efforts toward the China market. Medical devices powered by APD's solutions are being put to use at several large medical institutions in China.
Robust R&D capability enables tailored design services
The decision to transform itself is one of the factors that led APD to success. Technology and talent are the other two. Chuang knows very well the importance of product R&D particularly for the customization market that APD specializes in. Customization is a knowledge-intensive service. Firms that offer customization design services should, first and foremost, have a strong R&D team. APD employs a team of more than 350 R&D engineers, representing 17% of its staff. It regards the team as the company's core asset and allocates 7% of its annual revenue for product research. The amount increases as APD's revenue grows.
Furthermore, APD also implements talent incubation programs such as Project Management Professional (PMP) and Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) certifications. APD is so fully committed to DFSS certification for its R&D engineers that 30 of them have obtained black belt certification and 16 have completed green belt certification. According to Chuang, DFSS highlights the management of innovation and quality. In order to achieve innovative results, DFSS has to be incorporated into the entire design process including sub systems, raw materials and every link of the supply chain. R&D engineers have to get involved every step of the way and engage in contact with the supply chain to stay on top of industry dynamics. By doing this, APD can enable innovation while optimizing product quality.
Aside from keeping contact with upstream suppliers, APD also requires that its R&D engineers have a clear understanding on the features of customers' systems. Chuang points out that compared to other products, reliability is a top concern for medical devices as they directly affect human safety, so manufacturers take great care in selecting the components they use, which is also why the medical device market is more conservative. Vendors looking to penetrate into this segment can only win customer trust by offering premium quality and service consistently over a long period of time. Having been market proven to deliver top-notch quality and service, APD has been a long-term partner with leading medical device manufacturers worldwide.
As a leader in customized medical power solutions, APD actively participates in industry events. At CMEF 2019, taking place May 14 to May 17, APD will showcase a full range of power solutions designed specifically for use by medical device manufacturers in CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) , oxygen concentrators, humidifiers and surgical equipment at it booth 6.1D12.
In addition to healthcare, network communication is also an important application area of APD's products. Its power solutions are mostly used in PoE switches. The market of network equipment requiring high-wattage power supplies also imposes stringent requirements on quality, design and material like the medical device market. Moreover, as PoE switches using APD's products are generally embedded in customer's systems, a certain level of design service is usually needed. Being a veteran in this field, APD's customization service is well recognized by manufacturers producing network equipment. Now most tier-1 manufacturers choose APD's solutions to power their products.
Flexible manufacturing enables production switches in a snap to meet the need of small quantity and large variety production
APD's customization service is not limited to R&D but extends to production. The customization service model is characterized by small quantity and large variety production so production switches are common. APD, for example, reconfigures its production line five or six times a day on average and therefore requires extreme facility flexibility to support small quantity and large variety manufacturing. Accordingly, APD pays as much attention to its production process as its R&D. During the product design phase, the production department will raise manufacturing issues or needs and work with the R&D team to resolve them. Some of APD's production lines can now be reconfigured in close to zero time. APD is also incorporating Six Sigma DMAIC in its production process by implementing a five-step cycle - Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control to perfect its production process and maximize production performance, comments Chuang.
APD stays committed to talent incubation and infrastructure enhancement so that it is able to uphold premium product and service quality. In terms of fostering talent, APD has long been devoted to power supply education by helping universities build power supply research labs and actively engaging in industry-academia collaboration programs. Supporting power supply education is APD's way of contributing to the Taiwan power supply industry, says Chuang. APD also recruited a group of talented employees from the industry-academia collaboration programs it participated years ago. These employees now hold critical positions in different departments supporting the company's operations.
APD has R&D centers in Taiwan and Shenzhen to provide convenient support to local customers and help them speed up time-to-market. Furthermore, APD has also established the highest level safety laboratory(CTDP & CTF Stage3), compliant with UL, TUV Rh and Nemko standards. This laboratory enables certification of APD's power solutions on compliance with not only regular consumer-grade and industrial-grade standards but also the IEC 60601 standards for medical electrical equipment. More importantly, the certifications can be conducted in-house and thus only take half of the time it usually requires, so products can go to market faster.
Going forward, APD will still focus on customization services, notes Chuang. With smartization being a clear trend across industries, the demand for power supply quality by smart devices will only go higher. As such, APD will continue to strengthen its R&D and manufacturing capabilities so as to deliver premium quality design service to customers.
R&D strength and customization service are APD's advantages leading to its success in the power supply market, says Rax Chuang, general manager, APD's power system business group
APD 500W embedded medical power solution