ABT Power Management, Inc.: Maximizing Productivity, Minimizing Budget

written by Business View Magazine April 29, 2015

ABT Power Management is always looking for a better way

ABT Power Management supplies DC power systems for electric forklifts, automated guided vehicles and airline ground support equipment, as well as back-up power for telecom and other facilities with critical need for uninterrupted power supply.
An intense focus of the business is seeking ways customers can drive out cost from their material handling activities in distribution and manufacturing facilities.

ABT’s first engagement with a prospective motive power customer typically involves a lengthy (several weeks) power study and operational assessment. These assessments often expose a sizeable surplus of batteries in the customer’s forklift fleet. ABT’s GuaranteedPOWER® program often reduces the number of forklift batteries required and then remotely manages battery health through digital technology and data analytics. This is in contrast to most competitors who simply sell batteries and chargers via a conventional buy-sell engagement. In other words, ABT manages power on behalf of customers and drives operational efficiency, capital reduction, and maintenance savings. ABT is continuing to invest in its own software systems and staff to create lower and lower cost of ownership for its customers.

On the reserve side of the business – telecom and backup power for mission critical facilities – ABT brings customers comprehensive full-service solutions to power needs, because, though their customers’ corporate missions are not about backup power systems, backup power is nonetheless an absolute necessity.

Simply, ABT’s expert technicians handle their customers’ concerns about a reliable power supply, freeing up their customers to laser focus on their own business missions.

“ABT has dedicated itself to providing highest-quality products and service that exceeds customer expectations every time,” said Ken Fearn, the company’s founder and president. “For each business interest, ABT is committed to working with its customers to deliver comprehensive, full-service DC power management solutions at the best possible cost.”

Fearn began the business in 2000 in Greensboro, N.C. and its headquarters remain there, alongside regional service centers in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and soon Virginia.

The impetus to get started, in fact, was a product of a childhood spent in and around a local appliance and furniture business that was in his family for three decades.

“I had an entrepreneurial spirit,” he said. “My parents had their own company and I worked in it, and I owned my own small business back in the 1980s – a little small retail establishment – so it was comfortable ground for me. I was the oldest son, and worked in my dad’s business from the time I was 12-13 years old and all through college.”

An overall workforce of over 90 employees covers the operations in Greensboro and elsewhere, and Fearn said roughly half that total has been added over the last three years after a corporate-level decision was made to “unleash” the company’s growth potential rather than try to “control” it. The core impetus to grow was that the industry needed the unique solutions ABT was bringing to the market, with its combination of cost and capital savings for customers and its focus on technology and innovation. ABT felt almost duty-bound to expand what it was doing.

The service facilities in Atlanta and Birmingham have been added since that crossroads moment. Though the company’s traditional distribution and vendor/supplier relationships take place across the six above-mentioned states, Fearn said it has grown with some of its large accounts that have a national footprint. ABT has customer sites in 26 states, as a result of its’ customers implementing best practices.

The bulk of customers on the material handling side of the business are companies with manufacturing and distribution interests on a nationwide scale; while the reserve side of the operation frequently includes provision and installation of switch gear backup power equipment for new construction and related building sites.

“We realized the gap in the marketplace was that a lot of people sold and serviced product, but maybe a lot of people didn’t have the expertise, knowledge or inclination to manage the systems that were sold,” he said. “So we began installing monitoring equipment on the assets, that would upload data into our server and we’d get to view – almost in real time – the operational performance and attributes of the equipment.”

“From that emerged a program that we trademarked ‘GuaranteedPOWER®,’ and we set ourselves apart by basically selling DC power into the forklift industry, selling battery power as a service which packages the equipment and the service into a fixed monthly cost. This approach made it easy for our customers to budget and took the risk off our customers for improper sizing and poor maintenance.”

The investment in monitoring, Fearn said, provided a chance for ABT to separate from the crowd.

“The opportunity came because we started studying fleets, and we developed the fleet assessment process as the backbone of our business,” he said. “We started identifying the inefficiency in the marketplace and uncovered a lot of old myths. We found out that there was enough of an inefficiency to save the customers a significant amount of money and allow us to find a niche by supplying power as a service – and pay for the power as you use it.”

A desire to take data collection “to the next level” spurred the creation of RAAMS (Remote Automated Asset Management System), which collects data on batteries and chargers and flows it through a proprietary rules engine that searches for ways to extend life and increase performance.

The data helps ABT understand the unique relationship the batteries and chargers have within the context of a given customer’s business. In other words, Fearn said, “RAAMS understands where your pain points are, and then allows us to address them with the best solution. These ‘a-ha!’ moments allow us to create a list of actionable items that will improve the efficiency of your operation.”

The software was created in conjunction with Mariner, a Charlotte-based provider of digital business transformation to aspiring mid-market companies. It’s in an internal roll-out and test/validation phase now and, Fearn said, will be rolled out externally by the end of this year.

And going forward further, the quest for even more growth and innovation isn’t likely to stop.

“We expect, over the next 10 years, to double or triple our size,” Fearn said.

“We’re focused on delivering power in a risk-free manner to our customers and on being the best service provider in the industry. We consistently are looking for a better way to do things. That’s our general focus, and so far it’s worked out really well for us and helped us to retain customers and differentiate ourselves.”

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AT A GLANCE

WHO: ABT Power Management, Inc.
WHAT: Supplier of DC power systems for electric forklifts, automated guided vehicles and airline ground support equipment, as well as back-up power for telecommunications and facilities that require uninterrupted power supply.
WHERE: Corporate headquarters in Greensboro, N.C.
WEBSITE: www.wemanagepower.com

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