Michael Shirley, President and CEO at Alexander Battery Technologies, spoke to Army Technology about the company’s innovative battery and power solutions and how these can be used within the defence industry.
As a world-renowned supplier of custom battery power solutions, what are some of the core products Alexander Battery Technologies offer to the defence industry?
Michael Shirley: Alexander is a key supplier of the latest LiIon battery pack technology to Tier 1 defence suppliers. We focus on utilising our key supplier relationships with established and reliable cell providers to ensure reliability, quality and performance.
In earlier periods, we manufactured significantly for the Land Mobile Radio (‘LMR’) segment and have used that experience to leverage into more technically advanced and custom packs that can offer a solution for any challenge in the field.
We provide our customers with full support, from the initial stages of in-house design, to prototypes and production – a complete turn-key solution. We provide packs with custom ‘SMART’ technology and custom interfaces and high integrity enclosures (such as IP65, IP67), providing the ‘edge’ in performance and reliability this demanding market requires.
What are some of the key advantages of Alexander Battery Technologies’ solutions over other battery pack solutions available on the market?
MS: All of Alexander’s packs are custom designed for each specific application. In operation for over 40 years, we have created a team that are experts in the field of battery design and assembly.
We offer packs with unmatched performance, quality, reliability that meet the stringent supply demands of the military and military OEMs. As we engage with customers in the initial design concept phase, we have the ability to optimise a customer’s battery pack to meet the unique needs found in these challenging markets.
We also regularly consult on existing packs where performance or field issues have occurred. We collaborate with our customers to review prior designs and help to troubleshoot these challenges and offer design alternatives to tackle these problems. We strive to operate as a battery engineering division for our key customers and remove any obstacles or hurdles they encounter.
Could you provide some examples of custom solutions that you have developed for the defence industry and where these have been used?
MS: During our long and established history of providing battery packs to some of the largest international suppliers, we have designed and manufactured countless high integrity smart LiIon packs. We also provide in-house designed charging systems specifically designed for these packs or on-board charging systems where required.
We are also able to navigate specific environmental requirements and often engage in classified and confidential projects. We have designed products in helicopter applications (probably one of the most challenging environments), general aerospace, field weaponry, laser sighting and many facets of the combat arena illumination.
How has Alexander Battery Technologies been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and has the business had to change how it operates as a result of the crisis?
MS: Alexander was quickly listed as a critical supplier by the both the UK and US governments. Due to the nature of our products, we were able to gain prioritisation in our extensive supply chain and were able to meet the challenges of significant increases during the pandemic. This has helped to further solidify our supplier relationships and strengthen our customer focused approach as we are almost always sole sourced with our projects.
Covid helped our business streamline operations and procurement to meet the sudden and drastic increase in business. It helped us to increase manufacturing flexibility and efficiency and find creative and innovative ways to cut lead times and collaborate with the entire supply chain. Alexander found a way to turn the devasting pandemic into a growth opportunity where many product lines required 200%, 300% and 500% increases. We are emerging as a much stronger, larger and more established supplier in the face of this challenge.
Looking to the future, do you have any plans that would be of particular interest to the defence industry, such as any new products in the pipeline?
MS: During 2020, Alexander added two new facilities for manufacturing, warehousing, testing and design. We are using this expansion to focus on modern advances in LiIon chemistry and ever-increasing energy density. We consistently collaborate with our cell suppliers on their evolving road maps to ensure we are utilising the proper technology for each custom designed project.
We also maintain a strategic alliance with our major board supplier (“PCB”) to manage new chip and component technology to not only ensure avoidance of obsolescence but also maximise efficiency and reliability of our packs. Our in-house electronic design team regularly participates in product reviews of customer proposals and helps to vet potential product paths they are investigating. Specific new products are largely focused on aerospace, communications and robotics.