Alexander Battery Technologies – Fully Charged

As we enter an energy revolution, a host of new battery applications are appearing, and Alexander Battery Technologies is at the forefront.

Alexander Battery Technologies is a custom battery and charger manufacturer serving a wide range of OEMs in different industries. The firm’s products are being put to use in medical devices, test & measurement equipment, communications, specialised tools, military and robotic applications.

“We’re very flexible and customers approach us to support them in all markets. We’re a one-stop-shop,” says Mark Rutherford, Alexander Battery Technologies’ Managing Director. “We design the battery from the spec, put it through regulatory submission, manufacture it and ship it to the customer.”

The battery sector is a rapidly growing one, but what puts Alexander Battery Technologies ahead of the competition is its entirely bespoke development approach.

“Everything we do is customised – no two batteries are the same,” Rutherford says. “With every customer, we start from scratch and give them a customised solution. We evaluate what our customer needs and offer rapid time-to-market solutions, with a robust NPI process that has been recognised by automotive and military standard customers. We have a very responsive supply chain, and we have a lot of inventory on the shelf to allow our customers that flexibility.”

This is vital in a sector where components can have lead times ranging from 52 to 90 weeks. That is why Alexander Battery Technologies identifies and keeps in stock the parts necessary to get new products through to the prototype stage.

“We take time, effort and energy to be proactive in our approach,” says Rutherford. “In the end, you have to have a carefully manufactured product that will be robust enough for the markets we are active in.”

An Energy Revolution

Alexander Battery Technologies has been in increasing demand of late. Over the course of the pandemic, the firm’s revenue increased tenfold within its work for the medical sector. Its revenue rose from £15 million to £45 million over a period of only three to four months. It was an exciting growth trajectory, but one that brought challenges with it.

“This was a real challenge, it meant bringing in staff, upgrading facilities and negotiating supply chain issues,” Rutherford recalls

Even at the vanguard of the sector, Rutherford is still capable of being surprised by the new applications reaching the market.

Rutherford tells us. “Electric Vehicles are an exciting new area. Obviously, it’s a competitive market but we’ve found an interesting niche where there’s a requirement for high-powered batteries, but at a low-to-mid range volume that most high-volume EV manufacturers aren’t interested in.”

Rutherford is intrigued by the possibilities of producing a low-volume, niche battery product in the EV sector, and it is a possibility the company is able to explore thanks to the flexible strategy he has instilled in the company throughout its growth.

“Whatever happens we can react to it and provide a good quality service,” Rutherford says. “We’ve recently invested £2 million in a new R&D facility. That facility was going to bring some of our external supply chain in-house, but we’re holding off on that while we evaluate this new market. We’re evaluating putting high-powered manufacturing in there. Once we’ve seen that grow, we’d love to expand into Europe. It’s very exciting.”

Powered by People

Of course, an essential element in that growth is the people that make it happen, and Alexander Battery Technologies has forged a strong relationship with a local recruitment company, capable of bringing over 40 people every fortnight to put through its training programme. Rutherford is particularly proud that the company is bringing jobs to the Northeast of England.

“When it came to hiring engineers, we were lucky that we could take people from the automotive and rail industry, bringing that experience with them,” Rutherford says. “We use RGA processes (Roles, Goals, and Achievements) to lay out with our employees and their direct line manager what we need them to do for the whole business to be successful. It is not just about what the business wants but what the employee wants as well. We lay out soft skills and training requirements, so the idea is to keep staff focused on their goals and achievements and how they can get to that while making the company successful as well. We develop people internally so that if they outgrow their role, we can offer them more.”

To keep that talent pipeline going, Alexander Battery Technologies has implemented an apprenticeship scheme, adding two or three apprentices in each sector of the business every September and January, backfilling more advanced roles as they go. But crucially, everyone in the company knows the plan.

“I believe if everyone knows where they stand, the business will be successful. I want to develop local talent and have people proud to work in the Northeast,” Rutherford says. “We don’t need to lose our talent to the South. The Northeast is a good place to manufacture, and big companies are recognising that. I want to be part of that, creating high-skilled jobs and growth.”

Managing the Change

Growth is Rutherford’s watchword, but that does not mean unplanned growth. As the company grows, its needs change, and it is Rutherford’s job to make sure it adapts to that.

“The biggest challenge when you try to grow is managing the change. Everyone’s afraid of change, but how we counteract that is by having a strategic plan,” Rutherford says. “We’re focused on the next five years, then distributing that vision through the company.”

It is a different approach from what Rutherford has seen with other companies.

“Other businesses I’ve seen can be secretive- the plan isn’t shared with everyone. We make sure everyone knows what the plan is and how they are contributing to it,” he insists. “We have seen huge success because everyone knows what they’re contributing and why changes happen when they come along, allowing for growth.”

And there is more growth coming. The company has a world-class facility, and the plan is to fill that with manufacturing capabilities for more OEM customers. The company has invested £2 million into buying a nearby facility in preparation to break into bigger battery pack markets. If that is successful, Rutherford can see the company branching out into Europe to support customers with supply chain problems.

“If they are manufacturing in Eastern Europe, we want a factory there to support them more easily while keeping our main hub in the UK and the Northeast,” Rutherford says. “We want to grow our sales team with a sales office in Germany by the end of the year, then grow across other markets as we add to our revenue.”

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