Dean Portney is vice president of sales and marketing for Hawker Powersource, a provider of batteries and modular charging systems for the motive power industry. Portney has been with Hawker for 26 years in a variety of sales and management positions, including manager of national accounts and Eastern regional sales manager. Portney, who previously worked for Potomac Industrial Trucks, has been involved with MHI for 32 years. He holds degrees in economics and finance from the University of Maryland.
Q: How would you describe the current state of the material handling and battery markets?
A: The material handling industry and battery markets are rapidly recovering from the pandemic, where supply chain issues impacted manufacturing and leadtimes significantly. During the pandemic, our battery and charger business grew exponentially and is still growing. In addition, due to changes in the workforce and the development of new battery chemistries prior to the pandemic, we were able to offer solutions and solve many of the maintenance issues that historically plagued battery operations.
Q: What impact have new types of batteries, such as lithium and hydrogen, had on the industry?
A: New power chemistries have had a positive impact on the industry, considering staffing issue challenges, in addition to the growing autonomous vehicle market. They’ve offered even more advantageous benefits.
The key to a good power partner is users not accepting a “one size fits all” approach. Simply stated, different chemistries offer unique benefits and potential solutions for delivering cost reductions. We refer to these as hybrid solutions—where a user may use a combination of chemistries under one roof by having an expert pair the appropriate, lowest-cost solution for each type of truck and application in their operation(s).
Q: Users have gradually been moving away from internal combustion forklifts to electric models. How has that impacted your company and growth in the market?
A: The shift from IC to electric-powered trucks would naturally appear to increase growth in the motive power industry—especially when you consider that in some markets, electric fork trucks account for more than 65% of that market and their share is still growing. It’s important not to forget that the introduction of fast charging in the late 1990s, followed by the emergence of opportunity charging over the last seven years, allows us to take advantage of advanced chemistries. These charging dynamics along with the use of new chemistries have decreased the number of batteries historically applied per truck in higher-demand applications.
Q: How has the growth in adoption of autonomous mobile robots affected the battery industry?
A: Autonomous material handling vehicles have assisted in driving the development of advanced maintenance-free solutions on the power side as well as inductive (wireless) charging, almost eliminating the need for human intervention. This package is truly autonomous. This has the potential to increase the life of products, thus reducing the need for replacement batteries.
Q: What technologies have most impacted the design of batteries and chargers during the past five years?
A: Thin plate pure lead (TPPL) and lithium battery technologies have impacted us greatly over the past five years. Many are predicting maintenance-free advanced chemistries will grow to 40% of the market over the next few years. As Hawker has been the pioneer in the high-frequency switch-mode -charger technology since 1984, we are well positioned to provide superior inductive charging in motive power that will have significant impact on charging for years to come.
Q: Are there particular technologies or projects you are developing that you wish to share?
A: We’ve been in the monitoring business for about 17 years and are developing a new product with AI. This new technology will encompass learning and accurate predictive analytics, benefiting users.
Q: What places your company in a unique position to offer and supply value to users of electric vehicles?
A: Hawker has been a motive power solutions provider dating back almost 40 years. With our breadth of battery chemistries, charging technologies, data devices, and modeling software like Hawker Edge, we are in a unique position to offer advanced hybrid-motive power solutions, employing customer operational and cost data.
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