Gould Storage Battery Corporation
The History of Exide Technologies
The rich corporate history of Exide Technologies demonstrates its position as a forerunner of industrial advancement around the world. With countless contributions to the growth of technology, the company's story reflects the spirit of innovation at its best.
The Electric Storage Battery Company
The evolution of what is now Exide Technologies began with creation of The Electric Storage Battery Company, founded in 1888 by W.W. Gibbs. As vice president of the United Gas Improvement Company, a Philadelphia gas lighting firm, Gibbs recognized that electricity had great potential as a source for lighting, and as such, posed a threat to gas. Gibbs formed the Electric Storage Battery Company to create a dependable mechanism for storing power so electric lighting companies could provide services to their customers if and when it was necessary.
Realizing that a better storage battery was a necessary first step, Gibbs purchased the ideas and patents of French inventor, Clement Payen, to transform good ideas about storage batteries (then widely referred to as "Pickled Amperes") into thoroughly reliable commercial products. With the development of the storage battery, or the "Chloride Accumulator," the Electric Storage Battery Company brought the electric lighting industry to a new level.
The "Chloride Accumulator"
In 1890, the Electric Storage Battery Company installed the first practical storage battery at the Germantown Electric Lighting Company in Philadelphia. The battery furnished the lighting current, while a dynamo charged the battery. Soon after, the battery company received a request for 13,000 cells to power six new electric streetcars for the Lehigh Avenue Railway Company in Philadelphia. These streetcars became the first self-propelled vehicles to challenge the supremacy of the horse. Throughout the 1890s, the demand for storage batteries increased, forcing the Electric Storage Battery Company to move to larger facilities.
The possibilities for storage batteries continued to grow. The Pullman Company used Chloride Accumulators to light a few of its luxury railroad cars, and small batteries were sold to operate electric fans, sewing machines and phonographs. In 1898, batteries powered the first submarine in the U.S. Just before the turn of the century, Electric Storage Battery
Company batteries were used as power sources in electric locomotives, streetcars, passenger cars, surface boats and telephone exchanges, and for the nation's first automatic switching and signaling systems for railroads.
As the new century dawned, electric taxicabs first appeared in many large cities. They became so popular that The Electric Storage Battery Company developed a product of greater capacity and less weight especially for the "Ply-for-hire" trade. This new battery, introduced in 1900, was the first to bear the trade name "Exide," short for "Excellent Oxide."
Exide in Peace and War
For more than 35 years, Chloride Accumulators enabled electric light and power companies to provide continuous service, while the alternating current systems that serve the public today were being developed and slowly extended. In 1901, the first successful transcontinental telephone service and the first transatlantic "wireless" telegraph transmission used Exide batteries. In the automotive industry, Exide pioneered two major developments concerning two entirely different uses of batteries.
The introduction of the electric carriage as a private passenger vehicle, primarily for town travel, heralded batteries as a means of replacing horsepower. The second development stemmed from a common health problem caused by cars at the time: motorists' broken arms. As a driver hand cranked his engine, the crank often swung back violently, injuring the driver's arm. Efforts to eliminate dangerous engine cranking led to the development of battery-started vehicles. The 1912, Cadillac became the first battery-started car with an internal combustion engine, produced under cooperative development between The Electric Storage Battery Company and Charles F. Kettering. The Exide battery also supplied power for lighting and ignition in this model. The functions of starting, lighting and ignition are the origin of today's battery industry term SLI, referring to automotive batteries.] In 1913, the U.S. Navy began experiments using Exide batteries to start the engines of hydroplanes and, in 1915, Exide batteries were used with the first starters installed on gasoline trucks. Use of the electric passenger car began to decline with invention of the electric starter. With the development of a radically different, heavy-duty battery, the Exide Ironclad, Exide opened up an entirely new field as a source of power. Exide batteries began to be used for the short- haul, frequent "stop and go" operations of electric handling trucks used throughout all of industry. These vehicles were the predecessors of today's delivery vans that might serve only a neighborhood or zip code. Exide Ironclad batteries also were used in electric fork trucks and for the underwater operations of submarines. Over the years, Exide was a part of many major developments in exploration, communications and warfare. In 1934, an Exide deep-cycle battery was the sole source of electrical power when Commander Byrd established a military base on Antarctica. Exide batteries also provided power for Piccard's balloon flight and diesel locomotives that same year.
When the United States entered World War I, Exide engineers developed a lightweight, non- spillable battery to operate thousands of airplane radio sets. The company's batteries also powered many radio stations. In 1938, Exide acquired Grant Storage Battery Company, a move that expanded its product line into battery chargers and testers. Exide also contributed to the war effort of World War II when engineers developed a battery-powered wakeless torpedo.
New Dimensions, New Products
In 1954, the company's lead-acid battery operations were split into two separate divisions - automotive and industrial, so the company could adequately service these different markets. Exide entered the dry-cell battery industry in 1957 when it acquired the Ray-O-Vac Company, then the country's second largest producer of dry-cell batteries.
The following year, Exide opened its Engineering and Development Center in Yardley, PA., as a corporate R&D facility. Exide went on to acquire the Wisconsin Battery Company of Racine, Wis. The renamed Wisco Company added motorcycle and specialty batteries to the growing Exide product line. In 1969, NASA's first lunar landing module used the stored energy of Exide's solar-recharged batteries. NASA took nickel-zinc Exide batteries to the moon on all of the Apollo space missions. During the gasoline crunch of the 1970s, Exide provided batteries for the small, fuel-efficient vehicles that were popular at the time. By 1987, with Exide's acquisition of General Battery Corporation, the company's product line became broad enough to fit nearly every vehicle on U.S. roads.
Modern Innovation and Expansion
The 1980s and 1990s led to increased growth and development for Exide. In 1991 during Operation Desert Storm, Exide supplied starter and tank batteries for the U.S. Army. Exide continues to provide ordnance batteries for the Army today. In 1992, Exide once again demonstrated its powers of innovation with introduction of free electrolyte and gel marine batteries, climate-tailored batteries and maintenance-free technology.
In 1993, Exide initiated European expansion with development of an overseas battery division. In the United Kingdom, Euro-Exide began by acquiring BIG batteries and Gemala Ltd. In Spain, Exide purchased Tudor, and in France CEAC. By 1995, Exide achieved global reach and became the first battery manufacturer to launch a site on the World Wide Web. Robert A. Lutz, former president and vice chairman at Chrysler Corporation, was appointed Exide's Chairman of the Board in 1998. Lutz reorganized the worldwide management structure into Global Business Units and sold off non-battery units to allow the company to concentrate on its primary business. In 1999, Lutz heralded Exide as a high tech, innovative battery company with the introduction of the cylindrically-wound Exide Orbital technology, the most significant technology advancement in lead-acid batteries in 30 years. Exide launched the Orbital into the automotive and specialty markets with the Select Orbital auto battery, and the Orbital marine-starting and deep-cycle batteries.
The Acquisition of GNB Technologies
In 2000, Exide acquired GNB Technologies, the global battery business of Australian-based Pacific Dunlop Limited. The acquisition allowed Exide to reenter the North American industrial battery business, broaden its geographic reach and attain significant efficiencies in its North American transportation business. GNB, a leader in the U.S. and Pacific Rim in manufacturing industrial and transportation batteries, supplied approximately 20 percent of the industrial batteries sold in North America for both motive and network power applications. GNB also was a leading North American supplier of automotive batteries for original equipment manufacturers and aftermarket retailers.
Like Exide, GNB had a rich and colorful history. Three partners – Bertram B. Down, Neil R. McLeod and Edgar A. Reed - founded a company April 9, 1906 in St. Paul, Minn. It was known as the Electric Manufacturing Company.
In that first year, twenty-three-year-old Lytton J. Shields joined the Electric Manufacturing Company and built an extensive regional network of dealers through which he sold Exide batteries, the leading name in batteries at the time. He was so successful that Exide decided to bypass him as distributor and open its own Twin Cities branch. Undaunted, Shields took on the Willard battery line and, through his network of dealers, firmly established the brand regionally. When Willard, too, decided to cut out the middleman, Shields once again was forced to change suppliers. This time, he took on the Philco product line; but again suffered from too much success. In 1916, when Philco notified him that it planned to begin selling direct, it became clear to Shields that if he was to have a future in the battery business, he would have to manufacture his own batteries. Shields initiated action to begin casting grids and making plates, a production process that manufacturers guarded jealously. Thanks to the imagination and ingenuity of Carl Albrecht (who later became chief engineer), the team mastered the art of casting battery grids from molten lead. This gave them a foundation for their own company, called National Battery Company. The company sold its first glass container farm light battery in 1916 and its first automotive starting battery in 1918, under the National Battery brand name. By 1921, Shields realized he needed a national account - a company that would put its own name on his battery and sell it through established, well- accepted outlets. With this business strategy, Shields pioneered the marketing concept of private branding. His first customer was Montgomery Ward. On July 8, 1930, Shields purchased Gould Storage Battery Corporation of Depew, N.Y. With this acquisition, National Battery Company expanded its product line from just smaller, low-capacity automobile, farm lighting and radio batteries to include larger, high-capacity industrial batteries.
Gould supplied standby batteries for electric trolley lines, ocean liner lighting, electric elevators and even the communications wonder known as the "wireless". With much in common, Gould and National came together, pooling technologies, resources -- and names, inspiring the name Gould National Battery. In 1931, National acquired the Champion trademark with the purchase of Englert Manufacturing of Pittsburgh, PA. (Exide Technologies no longer uses the Champion brand).
With battery sales and demands running high, Gould-National diversified by acquiring companies that produced related products to strengthen its position in the automotive industry. During the next 20 years, Gould acquired more than 10 companies. By 1976, when Gould merged with I-T-E Imperial Corporation, it had its first billion-dollar year. In 1989, Gould-National Battery began export of Absolyte II batteries to Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) of Japan, becoming the first and only U.S. or European company to do so. A year later, the company opened GNB Japan, and in 1994, established GNB China in Hong Kong. GNB scored an award-winning accomplishment in 1996 when the company installed a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) in the island community of Metlakatla, Alaska, in a partnership with General Electric. The BESS is an installation of lead-acid batteries that smoothes out the uneven hydroelectric current, saves money in energy costs and keeps the community from having to haul fuel oil in a precarious journey from the mainland over rough seas. In its first three years of operation, the BESS saved the local power company more than $1 million. GNB Industrial Power received a prestigious national award for its work on the BESS project.
Exide Technologies Today
Today, Exide Technologies (NASDAQ: XIDE) serves the complex stored energy needs of customers around the globe, providing services and systems that enhance vehicle performance and fleet utilization as well as those that reduce risk of temporary interruptions of power supplies. Key strengths of the Company are that its products and services span global markets and geographic borders, melding two significant bases of experience and technology expertise across its operations. This global footprint promotes better and faster means of introducing innovations in products and services, changing the way the world uses and stores electrical energy.
As a global leader, Exide has operations in more than 80 countries and has 33 manufacturing plants in 11 countries worldwide. Renowned brands including EXIDE®, GNB®, Sonnenschein®, and Absolyte® work to ensure the Company’s leading position in global markets.
The Company's four global business groups – Transportation Americas, Transportation Europe and Rest of World, Industrial Energy Americas and Industrial Energy Europe and Rest of World – provide a comprehensive range of stored electrical energy products and services for motive power, network power and transportation applications. The Company’s fiscal year 2010 net sales were approximately $2.7 billion.
In November of 2009, Exide introduced ReStore Energy Systems, a new Company division dedicated to the development and pursuit of new markets for renewable energy storage and lithium ion energy systems. ReStore Energy Systems is a global division that utilizes proven technologies in lead-acid energy storage, along with recently acquired lithium ion technology, to develop new application-specific solutions for high-growth, global markets such as renewable energy. Technology- and application-specific collaboration with customers will be a focus of the new division.
The Global Research, Development and Engineering organization at Exide Technologies also is making critical strides and exploring some exciting new dimensions — developing new materials, products and processes to build a solid technology foundation and infrastructure for the future. The team is working on the advancement of multiple technologies ― those that may enable breakthrough products or significant new product platforms ― for implementation during the next two to five years.
The Company is making a significant investment in upgrading its laboratory and R&D equipment capabilities and continues to build its professional core of qualified engineers and scientists to join its new Product Development centers in Milton, Georgia; Büdingen, Germany; and Aurora, Illinois.
Exide Global RD&E efforts are directed at the utilization of technologies (inclusive of lead- acid) across applications, thereby seeking to maximize efficiencies and accelerate the global growth of new products across multiple product lines and businesses. Overall, the global organization has a strong focus on engineering and product development including those in emerging renewable energy (solar and wind turbines) with large storage applications, coupled with a strategic business fit concerning hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs).
Updated June 2010
Looks unsettling. A U.S. electronics and computer company is being purchased by a Japanese giant, Nippon Mining Co., which at $6.5 billion in sales ranks No. 162 on Fortune’s list of the world’s biggest firms outside the United States.
The last time something like this happened--when Fujitsu Ltd. tried to buy Fairchild Semiconductor in 1987--the U.S. government stepped in to block the deal and prevent the sale of U.S. technology.
But that’s not likely to happen in the case of Gould and Nippon Mining. The story on the $1.1-billion deal announced Tuesday is that of a Japanese partner buying out a crippled company that was already liquidating itself piecemeal.
Gould’s technology has long been shared with Nippon, an oil refining and minerals company that has been partner to the Chicago-based firm in several ventures. Also, there are signs that Gould’s investment bankers have shopped the company around in recent months, with no U.S. takers.
So Nippon gets to pick up the remaining pieces of a company that in the last 20 years has demonstrated both the creativity of a strong and vaulting ego, and also its destructiveness; both a strength and a weakness of U.S. business.
The story of Gould, once Gould National Battery Co., is the story of William Ylvisaker, now retired at 64, a one-time securities analyst who rose through a series of jobs in manufacturing to become the chief executive of Gould in 1969.
Gould then made car batteries, other engine parts and ball bearings. It had less than $500 million in sales, but it made good products and a tidy profit that it rigorously reinvested in its business.
Profits Didn’t Come
But Ylvisaker was impatient with mundane products like batteries and ball bearings. He was determined to put Gould into high tech, to make the old company future-oriented and to catch the eye of Wall Street and get the stock price flying. So in the 1970s, he sold many of the older industrial businesses and bought electronics companies. “You’ve either got to believe or not believe,” he declared and drove older hands from the company.
By 1980 he had built Gould into a $2.2-billion sales company and to his credit had added several promising product lines to Gould’s traditional electrical lines. But greater profitability failed to follow the buildup in sales. One reason was that Ylvisaker, for all his talk about building for the future, didn’t reinvest in the business the way his predecessors had.
And he made mistakes. When Gould came up with an advanced car battery in 1983, Ylvisaker used the development as an opportunity to sell the battery business. Batteries may have been a decent business, but it didn’t fit with the image Ylvisaker wished to impart to Wall Street and the public--of a high-tech, glamorous company. As part of the glamour he even made Florida’s Palm Beach Polo Club a subsidiary of Gould.
The company became a case study in American industry’s bad habits. “American companies look at their businesses as stars and dogs,” says Kenichi Ohmae, the management consultant and author who heads the Tokyo office of McKinsey & Co. “And they always want to sell the dogs and keep only the stars. That may be logical, but it lacks a time horizon.
“It doesn’t recognize that times and businesses change,” says Ohmae. He might have been describing Gould, which failed to recognize new opportunities in batteries and which in the 1980s became a company furiously buying and selling one business after another and talking about restructuring. It declined in sales and suffered losses--$175.7 million in 1985, $95.6 million last year.
But, surprisingly, despite the chaos Gould came up with a few hotshot products. Its copper foil is one of the standard materials for electronic circuit boards, and it has good products in fiber optics and a powerful super-minicomputer.
Nippon Mining has been marketing those products in Japan. Now it will inherit the good businesses worldwide.
Nippon is no slouch technology-wise. Nippon President Yukio Kasahara, like Ylvisaker, saw that his company had to get into future-oriented business. So Nippon invested in advanced metals, and in optics, biotechnology and electronics. It already owns a titanium company in Michigan and a couple of small high-tech companies in California.
But Nippon didn’t forsake its base in metals or petroleum refining. Kasahara hasn’t sold old businesses to buy new ones. Rather, he has added businesses and invested in them. Thus, Nippon has grown as Gould has withered. Kasahara hasn’t let ego stand in the way of common sense.
The National Battery Company (NBC), incorporated in 1928, acquires control of the Gould Storage Battery Company in 1930. After that, the latter operates as a subsidiary under the name Gould Storage Battery Corporation. NBC purchases the storage battery division of the Philco Corporation in 1947. Three jaars later, NBC changes its name into Gould-National Batteries, Inc. (GNB).
In 1969, GNB merges with the Clevite Corporation, a manufacturer of precision automotive parts, marine electronics and batteries. The new entity results in Gould, Inc., and engages more in digital electronics and computer peripherals. After the acquisition of Systems Engineering Laboratories, a manufacturer of minicomputers, Gould becomes a supplier of mini- and superminicomputers including CAD/CAM turnkey computer systems.
- 1971 Gould wins a $1.5 billion U.S. Navy procurement contract for the computerized Mark 48 torpedo.
- 1973 Introduces the Gould 700 line of computer-output microfilm (COM) recorders. In 1975 compatible Gould Beta COM systems include a disk file, a stroke character generator, modular software, and an operator console.
- 1974 The Gould Plotmaster System, an off- and online electrostatic printer/plotter system, is introduced.
- 1975 3M Company acquires Gould's Graphic Systems Division which produced the computer-output microfilm (COM) recorders.
- 1975 The company announces the Gould 6000 analog to digital data logger-reader and one year later the Gould 6100 data logger-reader. These systems collects, digitizes and stores low-frequency data on magnetic tape for subsequent processing e.g. by one of Gould's printer/plotter systems.
- 1977 Gould introduces a remote graphics processor (RGP) that gives remote terminals the capability of generating hard copy when coupled with a Gould 5000 Series electrostatic printer/plotter.
- 1977 Gould acquires Modicon Corporation, a pioneer in PLC’s (programmable logic controllers)
- 1979 Gould does not succeed in acquiring the Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation and the Mostek Corporation. As a result Fairchild was acquired by Schlumberger Ltd and Mostek by the United Technologies Corporation.
- 1981 Gould acquires Systems Engineering Laboratories which continues to operate as the Gould Computer Systems Division.
- 1981 Gould acquires American Microsystems, Inc., a maker of custom semiconductors.
- 1983 A pair of Gould SEL 32/8780 digital minicomputers are used in SAIL (Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory simulator environment). Other SEL computers are used for digital autopilot simulation, solving equations of motion, radar altimeter, and other nonavionics functions.
- 1984 Gould's Computer Systems Division launches the PN9000 series of super-minicomputers running on UNIX
- 1984 Gould introduces the CONCEPT/32 family of real-time 32-bit minicomputers. The systems run on Gould's Process Automation and Control Executive, PACE/32, a menu-driven software system which allows engineers to implement process automation strategies without programming.
- 1984 The 32-bit PowerNode 6000 runs on Gould's UTX/32 (Universal Time-sharing Executive) operating system, a compatible multiprocessor extension of the Unix operating system consisting of AT&T System V and Berkeley BSD environments. The system comes with the Gould Selbus, which offers a data transfer rate of 26.7 Mb/sec.
- 1984 Gould enters the CAD/CAM marketplace as a turnkey supplier with the introduction of the PowerStation 3100 and 5100. These two standalone workstations for mechanical CAD/CAM applications are UNIX-based and use a software package from Vulcan Software under a software license agreement.
- 1985 One of Gould's primary contributions to the real-time computing world was its "Reflective Memory" technology which allowed up to eight computers to share distributed memory at a high speed.
- 1986 Introduces the PowerNode 9000 32-bit computer systems. An optional 32-bit Internal Processing Unit, a duplicate of the CPU, can be added to the system to improve computational throughput. Up to 16MB of main memory can be optimized with up to 64KB of cache memory per processor.
- 1987 Introduces the NPL family of mini-supercomputers for computationally intensive engineering applications. The NP1, the first series of the new family, has an open systems architecture, including parallel and high-speed vector processing, and massive memory. The NP1 models range in price from $395,000 to $2.9 million. The largest system, the Model 480, has up to four billion bytes of physical memory.
- 1987 Acquired by Nippon Mining and Metals
- 1989 Sells its computer division to Encore Computer Corporation and its Modicon division to AEG.
As might be expected, his family came to the rescue. Uncle Tom, who had given Stuart his first job in Rochester, was at work in Baltimore developing new products for the railroad industry and thought Stuart might be of some help in the business. So Stuart and Eve sold their house in Rochester, packed up Baby Ttm, and moved into "a weird little apartment in Baltimore," part of the Garden Apartments on University Avenue, bordering on the exclusive Roland Park neighborhood where Stuart lived for a time while growing up. 3 "Eve was completely understanding and loyal, which bolstered me plenty," Symington later wrote.
The young couple did not remain long in Baltimore. Through the works manager at the Rochester plant, who was more of a friend than the vice president had been, Stuart got word of a company in Rochester that made sewer pipe and clay conduit for telephone lines which was about to go into receivership.
The company owned a bed of clay in Pennsylvania that the works manager said would be excellent for producing the molding sand used in the manufacture of iron and steel castings. Stuart, who apparently had ready access through his uncles to large sums of money, persuaded Uncle Tom that the clay bed would be a good investment, and early in 1926 he went to Rochester with a certified check for three hundred thousand dollars to bid on the property. While in Rochester he met an oil man from Pennsylvania, Vernon Taylor, who also was interested in the property. Taylor suggested that they form a partnership and buy the land together.
This was satisfactory with Tom, who joined in the establishment of the Eastern Clay Products Company, with Stuart as president. The company sold clay products to large foundries all over the country, and during the first year made a profit of 40 percent. Clearly, young Stuart knew how to run a company.
Uncle Charlie asked him to return to Rochester as his executive assistant (His uncles for some years had assumed a familial responsibility for his well-being, and with the rather sudden death of his father on February 19 1926, that sense of responsibility increased. They were learmng, however, that in young Stuart they had a man who could run a _busmes~ and make money on his own. He would come to them for help from time to time, but he surely did not need to be taken care of.) Charlie's company had expanded rapidly, purchasing the Gould Coupler Company in Buffalo and its subsidiaries, the Gould Storage Battery Company and the Gould Car Lighting Corporation. The entire operation they renamed Symington-Gould.
So it was back to Rochester. Stuart kept his interests in the Eastern Clay Products Company, arranging with Taylor for someone else to serve as president. The young family moved into a house on fashionable East Avenue in the Brighton section of Rochester, "one of Rochester's proudest addresses. "5 While living there, a second son, James Wadsworth Symington, was born.
The family didn't stay long in Rochester. Stuart's uncles offered him the presidency of the battery company in Buffalo. After thinking about it for a while, he turned them down, saying that he knew nothing about selling batteries, but was confident he could manufacture them. He suggested that they make him operating vice president. They agreed, and the family moved to Buffalo, taking up residency in a new high-rise apartment on Park Circle.6
In a short time, however, Stuart found himself at odds with the newly appointed president of the company, a likable person who apparently found it difficult to make tough decisions. Stuart's efforts to clean up the operation ran afoul of some of the senior executives, who understandably took umbrage at having a twenty-six-year-old boy tell them how to run their business. Two of them threatened to quit unless Stuart resigned, and the president told Stuart that he had no choice but to support chem. Stuart went down to Baltimore to talk to his Uncle Donald, president of the Baltimore Trust Company and a major investor in Symington-Gould. He suggested chat the brothers get rid of the battery company's management and make him president, assuring his uncle that he had become convinced he could handle selling as well as manufacturing.
Uncle Donald replied that they couldn't do chat, but told Stuart he could have a position in a company in Baltimore in which the uncle had an interest. Stuart countered by suggesting that the uncles let him use a building in Rochester, which was being vacated because they were selling the car lighting business, to manufacture radio parts. They agreed, and set up a new company called Valley Appliances, Inc., with Stuart as president.?