Home: August - September 2011 › Surging forward
01/09/2011 | Channel:
Rolling Stock, Business Improvement, New Products & Services
Recognising the critical nature of power supplies, Powernet Oy’s customer specific focus delivers the optimal solution every time
Established by two experienced industry professionals in 1992, Powernet Oy’s roots have always been in power supply. As such, over the last 20 years the business has become a wel-known and trusted supplier of highly efficient and reliable power supplies and converters – both as a leader in the local market of Finland, and a growing presence across Europe. At present approximately 50 per cent of production is exported, with the other 50 per cent sold to industrial customers – many of which in turn supply customers outside of Finland.
This production is carried out in-house at Powernet’s factory facility in Äänekoski,
Finland, supported by a research and development (R&D), and sales site in Vantaa, near Helsinki. Primarily Powernet is present in three key markets – renewable energy such as wind power, transportation including rail, tram and metro systems, and the wide-ranging industrial sector.
Following the economic downturn, two years ago Powernet made a significant change in its operational strategy, moving away from standard products into more customer specific solutions: “Previously we used to offer quite a large catalogue of standard products, as well as undertaking customer specific projects,” outlines Harry Lilja, sales and marketing director at Powernet. “However given the competition from cheaper suppliers in Asia, we decided to focus more and more on customer specific power supplies where we offer both AC/DC and DC/DC solutions, as well as DC/AC inverters. Our target area is larger power supplies of between 500 watts and 3.2 kilowatts, as there is usually a level of customisation required in these units and therefore fewer suppliers operate in this market.”
Much of Powernet’s extensive success in this sector is due to its extensive R&D capabilities, combined with strong sourcing and manufacturing competences. By moving away from standardised solutions, the company is continually driving efficiency and reliability in power supply development: “We have developed new design platforms that cover our target range of 500 watts to 3.2 kilowatts, including a brand new design for 500 watt power supplies that offers 96 per cent efficiency. We are also striving to implement these high efficiency models on the larger power suppliers of two or three kilowatts, which is quite challenging. However we are already able to offer over 90 per cent efficiency for this size of power supply,” explains Harry.
Developments like this are particularly important in the rail industry where the focus on long lifecycles and reliability is extremely high. Typically rolling stock designers and manufacturers are developing trains that are intended to be operated for up to 40 years, whereas power supplies have a lifespan of closer to 20 years before components may need to be upgraded or replaced. “This is a very demanding market and customers do expect you to be able to produce solutions with a long lifecycle, as well as provide servicing and spare parts as required during that time,” says Harry.
He continues: “This long perspective is a particular benefit when designing solutions for the rail industry, and is reflected in our designs and use of higher quality components in order to provide greater lifetime security. Although the volumes per rail project may not be particularly large, at perhaps only a few hundred units, these high standards and customisation requirements means this remains an attractive market for Powernet.”
Although Powernet’s solutions are present on numerous large scale projects, both through subcontractors and direct contracts, one core reference is its long relationship with the Helsinki tram company for the provision of tram battery chargers. Given that Finland can experience temperatures as low as -40°C in the winter, Powernet has shown considerable expertise in developing a system that can operate in these challenging conditions. The business has also received notable praise from customers in producing compact power solutions, as these enable more space to be optimised for passengers.
“Many of our customers are not experts in power supplies and converters themselves, and as such we aim to work closely alongside them as a partner. We pride ourselves on customer intimacy and working with our clients face-to-face where possible. Yet, we remain small enough as a business to be able to act flexibly and react to the customer’s needs quickly. Another key benefit is that we undertake the complete process from R&D and design to manufacture and delivery
in-house, which means we can offer a complete quality solution,” remarks Harry.
Having achieved 10.7 million euros in revenue last year, Harry is confident that Powernet can substantially increase this figure over the next few years. Already the business has began to expand outside its domestic market over the last 12 months, with regional offices in Germany and Sweden, and plans for a further site in France. Having this local presence has opened up new leads and customer bases to the business, and will therefore contribute to its planned growth.
“We aim to be one of the leading power supply companies for custom designed power solutions on a European level. Our approach to the market is based upon our field proven technology platforms, which are already successfully implemented in various projects. We are able to take these basic concepts and accumulated knowledge and apply them to similar applications and types of customer in order to produce a custom solution. In this sense, we are committed to producing modern compact and highly efficient designs which are optimised for even the most demanding power conversion and supply applications,” concludes Harry.