Saft is powering industry

Saft Power Systems (SPS) is a leading global provider of premium power supplies, systems and solutions to some of the world’s most demanding markets and industries.

It has built a significant global presence with operations across Europe, Asia and North America. It boasts a product portfolio that includes modular systems for telecoms, customised UPS for industrial applications, DC systems, and turnkey solutions for the transportation sector. The company also provides products to the new energy markets of solar-generated and wind-generated power.
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Detailing the story of SPS and its current operations, Graham Marshall, the vice president of sales for the UK and Ireland, says: “The history of the group dates back to 1917 and today we provide stand-by and emergency power to two markets. The first of which is the industrial market so we are focusing on the oil and gas sector, rail and power generation. The second is providing power to telecoms companies such as BT and NTT.

“The company is split into three brands – Saft, Harmer & Simmons, and AEG. Harmer & Simmons is a British company that specialises in the telecoms side of the business. It played a major role in the telecom revolution that Britain experienced in the 1960s and 1970s when every house seemed to be getting a phone, while AEG ismore concerned with industrial projects. We are operating from 26 design and production facilities around the world where there has been major growth in either the telecoms or railway infrastructure. All of this amounted to a 150 million euro turnover last year.”

The increasing turnover and expansion across a number of the world’s continents owes much to the company’s takeover in 2005. A significant cash injection and a renewed impetus have allowed SPS to experience growth at a significant rate. Outlining the development and its benefits, Graham says: “We were taken over by a private equity group called Ripplewood, which has been marvellous for us. They want the company to grow and prosper, which has been shown by the money that has been invested. It’s made a real difference in terms of our R&D department and we have been able to develop some genuinely new products.”

There is also a belief that the deal will allow the company to focus on what it does best – delivering particularly advanced or challenging equipment and services to the market. “Our unique selling point is the customisation that we offer. When a customer requests something that isn’t in one of our competitor’s catalogues, they won’t get what they want. If that same person comes to us we are all ears and will do everything we can to deliver. Because of this we’ve designed some products, and undertaken some projects, that other companies have looked at and said ‘you must be joking’. We just roll our sleeves up and see what we can do.” Graham comments.

Due to the nature of the work, all engineers are comprehensively trained in health and safety to ensure that best practices are carried out in some of the most demanding of work sites. “Some of the most hazardous locations we’ve worked in are the London Underground and the Channel Tunnel. The conditions are hot, dirty and very difficult to maintain and you are installing equipment next to a live line. A big electric train running past a delicate piece of electronics at high speeds presents a number of electro magnetic problems. Despite this, we have an attitude that if it is interesting and challenging then we can do it better than anybody else,” he says.Saft Issue 2 2008 c

That attitude bears testament to the talent of the employees of SPS and their belief in the company’s attitudes and values. Recognising their contribution, Graham says: “The people we have here are really committed. Through the history of the company we’ve been through a lot of change and a number of our engineers have been with us for that whole time. That is down to both the loyalty they have and also the variation of work they are able to undertake, for example, if a telecoms engineer wants to do something more varied or creative then they can do so. I mentioned that the main strength of the company was customisation and that goes for each individual we have. When somebody needs a quick response they don’t rule it out, they figure out how to do it – they are fantastic at off-the-wall thinking.”

With an accomplished team and substantial financial backing, Graham is confident that SPS will continue to prosper – despite warnings of an economic downturn. “There is much talk of a recession but we haven’t seen it in the UK or Germany yet. Can you imagine the reaction of the public if funding for railways or the London Underground was stopped? There would be uproar, so we think this is an area that will continue to experience a substantial amount of investment – the future looks fantastic. Telecoms are slightly different but we haven’t seen a significant downturn here either.

“Imagine if there was a worldwide problem where all phones had lost power or if an underground train network lost power on a busy afternoon – we prevent that from happening,” Graham says, explaining the secret of SPS’s success. “Wherever electricity is needed, we are needed.” With that in mind, the company’s future looks assured, as do the electricity supplies for vital services that we take for granted every day.

Saft Power Systems

Products: Power supplies, systems and solutions
Sites: 26 worldwide
Employees: 1600 worldwide
www.powersupplysystems.com