3 Signs Your Supplier is a Market Reactor Rather Than an Innovator – And Why You Should Care

By Tim Cloutier, Area Vice President of Sales-East

Today’s research environment is fast and competitive. That’s why it can be especially frustrating when suppliers become complacent about staying ahead of the challenges you face, both now and in the future. Here are 3 common signs that your supplier isn’t focused on your long-term strategic needs . . .

1. The Status Quo Defender:
Reacts to innovation rather than driving it.

“Innovators” become students of their markets and lead the way to positive change. With change, comes new and better ways to solve problems. This stands in stark contrast to those who repackage existing technology and extend performance parameters in reaction to market competitiveness. When an innovator drives the market with a superior solution, it poses a threat to other “status quo” providers, who must then seek ways to respond. Innovators have the vision and courage to change the market, while the status quo simply reacts. Innovation is the lifeblood of competitive advantage and your suppliers should be your trusted advisors on this journey. Ask yourself, “Who are the thought-leading suppliers who are advancing my industry?”

Ultra-low cooling technology saw little improvement for decades, until the innovative free-piston Stirling engine was introduced to the ULT freezer market by Stirling Ultracold. While we applaud the energy-efficiency enhancements applied to cascade ULT freezers technology since then, this has been a reaction that does not address the fundamental vulnerabilities of compressor-based systems.

2. The Naysayer:
Focuses only on associating fear with the risks of change rather than the benefits.

Innovators often find themselves sorting through distorted claims and attacks from incumbents who seek to defend the current balance. Defenders of the status quo will position themselves as the “devil you know”, even seeding the market with unsupported doubts and myths about the new innovation. They will often go to the greatest lengths to protect their turf. A stagnant market only benefits the old guard, while the customer is best served by growth and continuous progress. Ask yourself, “Which of my suppliers seem more focused on discrediting competitive solutions than finding their own solutions to my long-term needs?”

As a true ultra-low temperature storage technology innovator, Stirling Ultracold is confident in the tangible value that customers gain from our innovation and quality. That’s why we’re able to focus on delivering these advantages to our customers rather than discrediting our competitors.

3. The Discounter:
Commoditizes long-term customer value and positive strategic impact.

A company that sells solely on price is offering a commodity with no differentiation or added customer value. A commodity supplier doesn’t win your trust by enabling tomorrow’s growth or protecting your strategic advantage. Instead, they seek to close the sale by employing another telltale sign of a short-sighted supplier- the price drop. This is made possible by sizable margins that often characterize legacy technology, as it gets commoditized over years of manufacturing scale, component cost downs and sourcing from low-cost regions. Ask yourself this question, “Which trusted suppliers talk about long-term strategic value and which vendors center the conversation on price?”

Another part of our innovation at Stirling Ultracold is educating customers to a better way of thinking about ULT freezer added value, rather than just costs. Looking at the bigger picture, our customers save far more money by reducing ULT operating costs and maintenance than seeking the deepest discount. Even better, they’re not placing their priceless biological samples at risk by buying from the lowest bidder!

The best suppliers understand your unique needs and growth strategies well enough to become a trusted advisor and partner. Some suppliers never become more than just vendors. Choosing the right provider will provide value-added benefits and a strategic advantage for your operation, along with a longer-term view of your bottom line.

The Stirling Engine Celebrates Its Bicentennial

Stirling Engine inventor, Robert Stirling
Stirling Engine inventor, Robert Stirling

The matchless cooling technology at the heart of thousands of our ULT freezers today, has a unique “garage story” that traces its roots back to the invention of the Stirling engine in 1816. First conceived by a Scottish minister named Robert Stirling, the original reciprocating piston heat engine was designed to improve fuel efficiency over more common steam engines of the time. Although our version of the Stirling engine uses advanced electronics, linear motion control and gas bearings that Robert Stirling could never have dreamed of, his amazingly efficient design concept is at the core of our freezers today. That’s why the recent bicentennial celebration of Dr. Stirling’s discovery is personally meaningful to me and for all of us at Stirling Ultracold.

A model of an Stirling engine can be seen at Galston Parish Church, where Robert Stirling ministered for 54 years.
A model of an Stirling engine can be seen at Galston Parish Church, where Robert Stirling ministered for 54 years.

Since its creation, the Stirling engine design has seen a number of advancements, including an early application of our patented technology on the Space Shuttle and the RHESSI satellite, where the engine has been cooling instruments for over 14 years in a geocentric orbit. In 2009, Global Cooling’s founder David Berchowitz led an effort to harness the significant cooling performance and energy advantages of the free-piston Stirling technology for ultra-low temperature storage applications. Initially, the portable Shuttle ULT was introduced, followed by the undercounter SU105U and the SU780U upright ULT freezer in 2013.

The Galston Parish Church has an active congregation in Scotland today.
The Galston Parish Church has an active congregation in Scotland today.

Since the beginning, our use of the Stirling engine has been unique in the ultra-low temperature market. We’ve been able to provide the research community with more efficient, reliable alternative to decades-old cascade compressor technology–thanks to Robert Stirling’s invention.

Celebrating this invention, Northumbria University (Newcastle, UK) recently hosted the 17th International Stirling Engine Conference and Exhibition. Stirling Ultracold founder, David Berchowitz, and I attended the event, which marked the invention’s bicentennial anniversary. As the global leader in the commercialization of the Stirling engine, we were pleased to share our story with conference attendees. I spoke about our experiences in the ULT freezer industry and how we’ve changed the way organizations think about buying freezers.

Stirling Ultracold’s Neill Lane (left) and David Berchowitz (right) at the Robert Stirling monument in Galson Scotland.
Stirling Ultracold’s Neill Lane (left) and David Berchowitz (right) at the Robert Stirling monument in Galson Scotland.

While in the UK, we also had the chance to visit the church where Robert Stirling ministered for more than 50 years, Galston Parish. Stirling’s invention is held in such high regard at the parish, there are engine displays inside the church, along with a prominent Robert Stirling monument in the local cemetery.

As the Stirling engine passes its 200-year benchmark, I believe we’ll continue to see improvements and new applications for this inherently-efficient engine. We owe a lot to Robert Stirling and, having recently commemorated his achievement, I feel a sense of pride as we continue his story. For a more in depth account of the Stirling engine’s history and its use in our freezers, you can visit our History web page.

What Do Freezer Users Want in a Perfect Door Handle?

After introducing our revolutionary Stirling engine, the most significant ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezer innovation in decades, we knew that our goal of innovating ULT technology was far from complete. Continuous improvement has always been a part of our DNA at Stirling Ultracold, and we strive to be “best in class” in every ULT freezer category.  For this reason, we have continued to listen and gather feedback from freezer users, which is helping us learn how to make a great freezer even better.

A theme that we have heard throughout the researcher community is that there is a less-than-favorable perception of freezer door handles across our industry.  To us, this presented an opportunity to provide our customers with a “best in class” door handle through our continuous improvement process.  This led our engineering team to begin exploring an improved handle design, guided by key attributes that would define a “perfect” door handle.

We determined that a perfect ULT freezer door
handle should . . .

  • Enable one-hand door opening and closing (allowing the handling of samples with the other hand)
  • Provide an easier and quicker way to open frozen, vacuum-sealed doors
  • Assure an easy, reliable and effective gasket compression seal upon door closure
  • Provide built-in door locking security

A New Door Handle for the SU780UEhandle-blog-image

Having completed our design exploration, prototyping and reliability testing over 35,000 open/close cycles (equivalent to 20 years of normal use), all Stirling Ultracold SU780UE upright freezers will now come equipped with a brand new door handle that fulfills the above design goals.

Just like our other freezer innovations, this new handle has unique patent pending features that are not available on any other ULT door handle. This includes our new Kickout-Release™ feature with cam-actuated, 90° rotation that applies a mechanical advantage to quickly open frozen and vacuum sealed doors.

Upgrade Handles on Stirling Freezers You Already Have

We also designed our improved handle to be field-installable on all existing Stirling Ultracold SU780U/UE model upright freezers. A handle “upgrade kit” is now available for freezers in the field, at a price that compares favorably to industry aftermarket pricing for replacement door handles.  Contact your Stirling Ultracold account manager, email us at upgrade@stirlingultracold.com or call us at 1-740-274-7980 for handle upgrade pricing and details.

Video shows open/close mechanical testing of the new SU780UE freezer door handle over 35,000 cycles