Timothy J. O'Brien, General Manager
A twist in the tale is what best describes the journey of Temperature Specialists. It all began in the year 1976 when Robert and Carolyn O’Brien, the founders of the company, as part of their career growth, decided to relocate to California from Minnesota. Before shifting, they visited California to buy a house. To their surprise, they discovered that there were only three houses or lots available for purchase, within 40 miles of the new plant location because of a water moratorium limiting the population in the valley.
“Being experts in the sensor manufacturing arena, this set my parents thinking. Why not stay in Minnesota and help people in California save power and water by using smart sensors?” recalls Timothy J. O’Brien, General Manager of Temperature Specialists. This was the genesis of Temperature Specialists. “Initially, we built hot wire anemometers for the flow industry where each of these sensors used two wire wound resistance temperature detectors (RTDs). Subsequently, a year after, we started receiving enquiries from other companies to make different types of individual resistance temperature detectors, which allowed us to expand our manufacturing types to meet the new requests and reach greater heights,” explains O’Brien.
Four decades later and going strong, Temperature Specialists is a renowned temperature sensor manufacturer that is breaking new ground in designing sensors that completely align with the customer’s environment and specifications. The company has always focused on investing in state-of-the-art equipment and technology to meet all aspects of manufacturing customized temperature and flow sensors. “We strive to equip assemblers with outstanding tools that include better optical components, welding equipment, resistance spot welding, and laser and plasma welding devices,” elaborates O’Brien. The new styles of welding open up novel methods of assembly that allow designers to develop innovative sensors. The company’s robust product portfolio includes temperature sensors, RTDs, thermocouples, wire wound RTD sensors, and thermistors that can be customized to customer specifications.
Crafting Custom-Designed Models
Although the industrial sensors market is expected to be valued at $21.6 billion by 2023, there are manifold challenges that organizations face. Especially, in the temperature sensors market, the manufacturers often sell poor quality assemblies built using low-cost foreign parts with questionable reliability. Adding to the woes, a majority of the traditional sensor devices aren’t adaptable to different environments, which impacts the accuracy of temperature measurements in those environments.
“Our goal is to design sensors tailored to our customers’ unique applications of measuring temperature or flow as opposed to just selling standard sensors,” emphasizes O’Brien.
The team at Temperature Specialists doesn’t believe in the quick and easy way of building sensors where most manufacturers bypass several steps internally in their manufacturing process. “We believe in developing durable products for our customers. Our sensors have an extremely long lifespan, which enables customers to use them without having to replace it frequently. Reliability and longevity are our hallmarks,” states O’Brien.
Our sensors have an extremely long lifespan, which enables customers to use them without having to replace it frequently
Prior to designing a sensor, the team takes into account all the parameters that go into defining the customer’s requirements. An engineer or a purchasing agent from the customer’s side first presents an initial idea of the sensor and a blueprint of the complete system in which they want to deploy the sensor. Temperature Specialists’ highly skilled team learns the exact customer requirements in terms of the measurements of the sensor and the part of the system where the sensor will be deployed to achieve temperature accuracy. For example, a layman would think that a quick and easy way of monitoring the temperature in an oven would be to mount a sensor on the inside wall of the chamber. However, there are a lot of factors that need to be considered, from the style of the oven to how it is heated. Is it by a heater located inside the oven or one present at the bottom like in a standard home oven, or is there an infrared heat source? All of these heat sources bring up many questions that need to be evaluated to get the best measurement result.
At Temperature Specialists, the expert team has formulated predefined questions for their customers that help them to deliver suitable sensors with accurate measurement. How fast is the temperature changing in the chamber and does that need to be detected? Do they want an average temperature of the chamber? Where is the sensor going to be located in relation to the heat source?
According to O’Brien, typically, in a convection oven with circulating air, if the sensor is located too close to the flow, the oven may respond to the temperature changes quickly allowing the heater to turn on and off rapidly. Subsequently, the temperature in other locations within the chamber may not rise to the desired temperature. On the flip side, if the sensor reacts too slowly to the temperature change, then there is a possibility of oven temperature overshooting the set point and resulting in big swings in the temperature within the chamber. “With our standard of manufacturing, we have a better ability to meet the customers’ expectations and help them achieve the ideal outcome for their temperature and flow measurements,” affirms O’Brien.
While designing these types of sensors, the designer must steer away from a one-size-fits-all approach. “If they just focus on a single type of sensor design, they may not always come up with the best design,” remarks O’Brien. “It is important to question yourself and the customer, and keep an open mind to all ideas and not have a narrow focus during the design stage.”
O’Brien cites an anecdote to highlight the effectiveness of their sensors where one of their customers was making a product to extrude plastic. They were trying to control the temperature of the plastic flow with a standard, off-the-shelf sensor. They often found 10-15 degrees offset in the sensor reading internally as opposed to external readings of the actual temperature. As the client figured out that the readings were off because of the sensors being too large in diameter, they approached Temperature Specialists for a customized sensor. The company designed a probe that fits perfectly within the hole drilled in the product. The thermal gradient between the actual flow temperature and the sensor readings decreased to about one and a half degrees. Subsequently, Temperature Specialists’ sensor enabled the client to control the temperature of the plastic stream better.
The Path to Long-Term Relationship
The striking factor about the company is that they are able to provide customers exactly with what they are looking for at an affordable price, which gives them a competitive edge. At Temperature Specialists, the team is encouraged to think out of the box to redesign sensors and come up with better measurements or cost reductions. Whenever a customer approaches the company regarding the implementation of a new controller or wants to move from one type of controller to another, Temperature Specialists always supports them in making a smooth transition to any situation. Furthermore, O’Brien’s patient approach and employee empowerment facilitate a collaborative and calm work culture that guides the team to be more productive and come up with innovative ideas while designing sensors that surpass customer expectations.
"Our goal is to design sensors tailored to our customers’ unique applications of measuring temperature or flow as opposed to just selling standard sensors"
The future of Temperature Specialists looks promising as it plans to expand to different geographical locations and cater to more customers. The company is integrating newer technology into their equipment and revamping its ERP to enhance the quality of their products. “We have all the information pertaining to sensor specifications for precise use cases archived so that we can refer and quickly access the data to help customers facing similar situations,” says O’Brien. The manufacturing facility is also getting a facelift with laser welders and new wire processing equipment in place to further streamline the manufacturing process.
The company’s capability to fine tune the temperature or flow measurement adds to complete customer satisfaction, which reflects in the company’s long-term relationships with customers. Their customer-centric approach proves to be the anchor in boosting absolute loyalty. “We are still manufacturing sensors for our very first customer who also happens to be our top customer in terms of sales,” ends O’Brien with a hint of pride.