In the dog-eat-dog world of industrial battery manufacturing, Bulldog Battery stays on top of its game through quality and innovation.
A real manufacturer leaves no room for guesswork, and that’s precisely what’s kept Bulldog Battery successful for more than 35 years. The Wabash, Indiana-based company abides by a simple-yet-crucial industry law that a poorly designed battery won’t have the same quality or life expectancy as a well-designed battery built to a client’s exact specifications. It’s this commitment to quality and customer satisfaction that sets Bulldog Battery apart from the competition, according to President Norman Benjamin. But there are other reasons as well.
In addition to having a far-reaching global distribution network, the company is able to competitively price its products due to a streamlined vertical integration system developed by Benjamin himself, which was inspired by his early days in the heavy steel fabrication business. As a result of this process, Bulldog Battery has an unprecedented same-day shipping offer, whereas its competitors usually take anywhere from eight to 12 weeks, according to Benjamin.
“We are vertically integrating any place we can, allowing us to be more competitive, have faster deliveries and better control of quality,” he says.
Quality control is not just a procedure, but a way of life at Bulldog Battery, Benjamin says.
“Nobody makes a tray like we do,” he asserts.
That’s because the company uses state-of-theart technology, including an automatic robotic welder that can weld three times faster than the traditional welder that used by the auto industry. The company also employs high-definition plasma table that produces half the scrap oldschool methods of sheers and punch presses produce. Not surprisingly, Bulldog Battery has advanced fabrication processes and equipment, which were modeled after Benjamin’s experience in heavy steel fabrication.
As Benjamin sees it, streamlining Bulldog Battery’s production capabilities opens up greater opportunities for innovative design. For instance, the company’s “Elite Power” battery was designed to offer extra power in extreme applications. Based upon a balance of electrolyte to active material, the battery utilizes full positive and negative plates so a special charger is not required. It’s ideal for any lift truck that may have limitations due to run time requirements, cold storage applications, European compartment dimensions or when additional equipment has been added to the truck.
“It’s a big plus for many operations,” Benjamin says. “We are always researching ways to get better performance from the battery design.”
In addition, Benjamin always has his eye out for new applications that could benefit from Bulldog Battery’s consistent approach to quality and innovation. “Right now, we’re developing a high-capacity battery link to the solar industry along with the cell power industry as battery backup,” he says. “We’re just now starting to take a hard look at that market and see how we can approach it. We already have a fair number of these solar applications in Jamaica. We do not make automotive batteries. I think we’re one of the only companies left that’s still strictly industrial. But I’m always on the lookout for something new that sets us apart in the industry. That’s what makes life interesting.”
One of the Guys
Benjamin has been president for more than two decades and says he learned the ins and outs of industrial battery manufacturing from his business partner and mentor, Bulldog Battery founder John Dawkins, who started the company in 1977.
“There’s only one way to learn industrial battery manufacturing and that’s to be in the business,” Benjamin says. “I went through a lot of training with the ‘old timers’ and was tutored by many who are no longer with us today.”
Benjamin has followed in their footsteps by training his employees throughout the years and treating them like members of his own family. He places a huge emphasis on cross-training at Bulldog Battery and gives employees opportunities to advance in their careers, noting he’d rather “promote from within rather than bring them in from the outside.” This is probably why Bulldog Battery has numerous 25-year employees, he says.
“My people make about what they’d make at a union shop without paying union dues because we take care of them,” Benjamin asserts.
“Open lines of communications are very important, and I pride myself on doing that very well,” he adds. “My office door is open to any employee in the plant. Everyone knows me on a first-name basis. I spend a lot of time on the manufacturing floor. When a customer calls, most companies utilize answering machines and a call may be returned at their convenience. We refuse to work like that. We do not utilize answering machines – we actually answer the phone, and if everybody’s busy and can’t take the call, I’ll take the call myself. The most important asset I’ve got is the people who work for me. They’re the ones who make the company. I don’t see myself as the president – I’m just another employee. That’s what really sets us apart from our competitors.”