Fanning the flame of innovation

  • Focus
  • Sunday, 12 Jun 2016

The assembly line where staff are assembling air circluators. Note that there are circulators being used for the staff to create a more cooling environment. — LIM WING HOOI/ The Star

Eco Breze Technologies founder Stanley Yap went from fan to fame, rolling out the first ever device that not only circulates cool air faster, but provides light and consumes less power, reports LIM WING HOOI.

THEY say time and tide wait for no man. And in a fluid business environment, it is all the more crucial that one moves fast to clinch the deal in a new market.

If that’s the case, why then does it take so long for large companies to make decisions?

Eco Breze Technologies (M) Sdn Bhd founder and managing director, Stanley Yap Kok Foo, 46, found this especially true after working over 20 years in a Japanese electronics multinational company, and this was what drove him to start his own fan and air circulator manufacturing company.

“In a Japanese company, everything is systematic, but at the same time, product development is also at a more conservative level,” he explained.

Elaborating on his experience there, Yap, who started out as a quality control engineer and served in various departments ranging from manufacturing and R&D departments to procurement, shared how he had suggested new product development initiatives such as incorporating an ioniser for ceiling fans.

“I felt that people were getting to be more health conscious, and needed more than just a simple fan,” he said.

His idea led to a feasibility study conducted by various departments, including some by their counterparts in Japan, and after over a year, the findings showed that the product might not gain market acceptance.

Quite certain that he could develop new products on his own to cater to new consumer tastes, he set up Eco-Breze Technologies in 2012, banking on his experience which largely covered the consumer electronics supply chain.

An upclose view of the internals of the fan motor which Yap said is energy efficient.
An upclose view of the internals of the fan motor which Yap said is energy efficient.

After resigning from his comfortable position as general manager for purchasing, quality control and manufacturing, Yap said he felt it was the right time to make use of his experience to strike out on his own. He put in his savings, and got two more shareholders to pool together RM1.5mil for this venture.

As enthusiastic as he was to launch new products, he also realised that it was important to gain market acceptance first, something he garnered after all his years as an employee.

“We started out manufacturing ceiling fans. We realised that when we rolled out more innovative products, it would give consumers a reference point as to how we came about,” Yap said.

Essentially, a fan is intended to cool down a space, just like how a fork and spoon is meant to be eating utensils, so Yap had to work hard to make his 60-inch three-blade ceiling fan stand out from the rest.

“We understand that consumers are sensitive to electricity charges, and hence, we did R&D to create a fan that consumed less electricity,” Yap said.

He did this by reducing the power output of the motor, but to make up for the loss of power, he added thicker coils.

Given his experience in quality control, he also introduced safety features such as adding a safety wire which attaches the motor unit to the ceiling hook, a thermal fuse which automatically cuts off power supply whenever the motor overheats and having a double bolt to lock the unit securely.

Attention to detail, and safety is Yap emphasises.
Attention to detail, and safety is Yap emphasises.

Yap started out by renting a 278.7sq m manufacturing facility in Bandar Bukit Puchong, Puchong and 10 staff. The company managed to manufacture and sell over 60,000 fans to contractors and distributors in 2013.

It also offered eight different colours for the fans, ranging from the usual white to more adventurous colours such as yellow, purple and green. This can be done with a minimum order of 20 sets.

Next, he worked on the fundamentals of the fan.

“A fan simply moves the air, creates ventilation. So, we asked ourselves, what else can we do? Can we make a fan purify air, or provide lighting at the same time since it is mounted at a level where most lights are?” he asked.

Again, in his quest to come out with something different, he thought of the consumer’s mindset: How do you reduce electricity consumption?

Yap realised that one of the major reasons for high electricity consumption was the use of air-conditioners; he noticed that most people tried to cool a room down by setting low temperatures, which translated into higher electricity bills.

The air circulators ready to be shipped out.
The air circulators are ready to be shipped out.

“We thought if we could have a device that could circulate the cool air from the air-conditioner faster, then consumers could set higher temperatures which would not consume so much electricity,” he said.

Investing about RM2mil for R&D, he then purchased the components and manufacturing equipment, and later, launched the product in 2014 after working on the product development for six months. He came up with a two-feet by two-feet ceiling mounted air circulator with ioniser and LED lighting.

However, the market did not respond as well as he had hoped as the product was new and required more promotion.

Apparently, innovation doesn’t just come from the manufacturing floor; it also has to be reflected in the way a product is marketed.

This he gathered from the fact that his usual distribution channel did not work.

In a bid to chalk up more excitement about the product, he exhibited it in a local architecture exhibition and since then, sales have picked up, with architectural and interior design firms making up his major clientele list.

Eco Breze Technologies (M) Sdn Bhd founder and managing director Stanley Yap Kok Foo with his air circulators.
Yap with his air circulators.

To cater for the rise in demand, they moved to a 1,114.8sq m manufacturing facility in Taman Perindustrian Puchong, Puchong in 2015 and expanded staff strength to 25 people.

Looking back, Yap beams with satisfaction when he thinks of where the company is heading.

“When I was in the Japanese MNC, I only needed to give instructions and read reports. Now, as an entrepreneur, I have to do things on my own. I also need to be aware of cost. It is more work, but it gives me great satisfaction to know that a product works because of the higher level of involvement while creating it,” he said.

In the course of innovating, he did not neglect core products associated with cooling products such as exhaust fans, which the company also develops.

He incorporated their energy saving motors into these to meet consumer demand. The exhaust fan also comes with a choice of colours to cater to customers’ taste.

A staff working on the assembly of air circulators.
One of the staff working on the designs of the air circulator.

Moving forward, he is currently working on developing an air circulator capable of killing viruses.

“We intend to introduce this to healthcare institutions as well as homes where there are babies and the elderly,” he enthused.

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