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New force in batteries

11 September 2014

Manbat shows its commitment to the industrial market as a high quality national battery provider following the acquisition of PowerCell Industrial Battery Engineers. HSS editor Simon Duddy shares the details.

Ecobat Technologies, through Manbat, its UK battery distribution operation recently acquired PowerCell Industrial Battery Engineers. The deal gives the resulting division - Manbat Industrial - a much stronger national coverage, with a very strong service ethos. Keith Macdonald will be is heading up the sales team and former PowerCell MD Derek Anderson will be heading up operations and together they will run the new division, reporting to Manbat MD Steve Sheppard.

So, why now?

"This is two strong professional companies coming together to make the second largest service provider in the UK. We have the ability to impact the market with the supply of product backed by a strongly focused service support,” explains Keith.

The two companies have known and respected each other for years, with Battery Power Systems (acquired by Manbat in 2011) strong in the north and PowerCell strong in the south. The combined company will have a strong team of engineers nationally as well as a formidable product portfolio, drawing on Manbat’s relationship with quality manufacturers.

Derek sees the mission as supporting companies extend the lifetime of their batteries.

"We can use our experience and market knowledge to extend battery life,” he says. "Look at topping up and maintenance packages, pair the right charger with the right battery, there is a lot you can do to add value.”

This is particularly important as forklift contracts are stretching beyond the old norm of five years. If a customer extends the forklift contract at the end of five years, they don’t want to buy new batteries for just for a year or two.

"This is where smart companies get the benefit of a good maintenance regime,” explains Derek. "Even a simple thing like battery cleanliness can have a positive impact. In our own rental stock, we’ve had batteries that continue to fulfill their application, in some instances multi shift, well beyond the manufacturer warranty. Importantly, they have been maintained regularly as part of a strict regime.”

As much as maintenance is important, selecting the right battery for the application is also crucial. Keith takes up the argument.

"People often don’t grasp how application dependent batteries are. We bring the industry experience and know-how to maximise energy for each customer.”

"We’re always keen to discuss the application with the customer - to ensure that their operational needs are fully understood and that the correct capacity battery is supplied from  day one which will avoid expensive down time and additional on costs.

"To sum up, we’re very much about allowing the customer the correct information to make informed decisions.”

Closed loop
Manbat Industrial is part of the Ecobat Group, which is the world’s largest producer of lead, much of which is used in lead acid batteries. This has interesting implications for Manbat in the UK, as it allows the division to offer a closed loop in environmental terms.

Keith explains: "Ecobat recycles over 99% of a lead acid battery. The acid is used to make gypsum, for plasterboard, for example. Plastics are recycled, with the vast majority going back into battery manufacturing.

"The 0.5% not recycled is slag that is burnt off, with again Ecobat recycling this heat and using at its facilities.

Benefits gleaned by Manbat’s customers include full lifecycle traceability of batteries - a key audit requirement, especially for larger companies.

While lead acid is the most common technology deployed by Manbat, it will look at other approaches, "Technologies such as lithium-ion and gel have their applications, for sure,” says Keith. "This is where our expertise of understating both product and proposed application allows us to better inform our customers.”

With full British Isles coverage, Manbat Industrial is very keen to grow and its strategy will revolve around a service-focused, problem solving approach.