The Past, Present and Future of Power
Universal Power Group
From powering satellites in space to your home security system, Universal Power Group (UPG) has spent the past 49 years innovating and evolving into a leading battery manufacturer and provider of end‐to‐end power solutions.
Each year, UPG fulfills and ships 500,000 orders, satisfying upwards of 2,000,000 order lines for nearly 2,000 orders each day. It keeps customers from a diverse spectrum of industries powered up each day, which it has done with pride since it was established in 1968.
UPG was established as Computer Components Corporation. As President and CEO Ian Edmonds explained, “We were an electronic components distributor and were one of the first authorized Panasonic battery modification centers in North America,” building battery packs exclusively using Panasonic battery cells.
“In the 1990s, we expanded into other battery chemistries including a wide breadth of sealed lead-acid batteries to serve increasing power demands across many applications. It opened up our channels to power new markets requiring portable, back-up, and starting power,” noted Edmonds.
In the 2000s, UPG expanded its services further to include third party logistics (3PL) and supply chain services, and renamed the company Universal Power Group, to better reflect the evolved scope of its business operations. UPG also attained ISO 9001:2000 certification at this time, renewing its commitment to quality and customer satisfaction.
In 2011, as part of its growth strategy, UPG acquired ProTechnologies, Inc. (PTI), an ISO 9001 and ISO 13485 certified industrial lithium‐ion battery pack manufacturer from Pilot Mountain, North Carolina, further expanding its reach into new market segments including medical, robotics, aerospace and defense.
In 2013, UPG moved to its new 210,000 square foot headquarters in Coppell, Texas, a major distribution hub near DFW airport. UPG also established a logistics center in Rotterdam, Netherlands to service European markets. “Our strategic footprint allows us to take care of our customers not only around North and Latin America, but also the greater European and Asian markets,” explained Edmonds.
In 2015, UPG continued its expansion plans and acquired Intelligent Technologies, LLC (iTECH), an ISO 9001:2008, ISO 13485:2003 and FDA certified smart lithium‐ion battery, charger and docking station manufacturer located in California. iTECH adds significant engineering and manufacturing capabilities for performance-critical applications where health, safety or significant revenue are at stake. Defibrillators, infusion pumps, medical monitoring equipment, asset tracking devices, electromechanical movement for prosthetics, gas and chemical detection instrumentation, IR cameras, and wireless headsets, are a sampling of custom applications supported by iTECH’s engineering-centric portable power solutions.
Regardless of where a customer is located, UPG is a collaborative partner and an unmatched solutions‐based resource for all battery powered needs. Thanks to UPG’s impressive portfolio of products and services, and its proven infrastructure, UPG’s customers have been able to successfully leverage the company’s capabilities, be it engineering expertise or comprehensive end‐to‐end supply chain solutions.
As Edmonds noted, “There are many battery suppliers in the marketplace; the UPG difference is our value proposition beyond the battery. “We like to see ourselves as an extension of our customer’s business, where we step up to help them leverage our infrastructure, expertise and scale. From the breadth of the quality solutions including proven range of products, engineering design expertise and integrated fulfillment services, right down to custom EDI capabilities, inventory management, marketing support and even regulatory approvals, we bring a tangible competitive advantage to our customers. We become their true power solutions partner,” he said.
UPG makes it easy for customers in its many business channels to do business, including OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), e‐tailers, brick and mortar retailers, distributors, large dealers, buying groups, service providers, and companies ranging from innovative start-ups to Fortune 500. “We service more than 20 different markets in the industry,” Edmonds explained. “If you think about how dependent our society is on maintaining mobility and functionality at all times, and our increasing need for emergency preparedness and contingencies, just imagine the vast number of applications our batteries fit into.”
A great example of UPG’s supply chain solutions in action is the relationship it enjoys with ADT Security, the largest provider of monitored electronic security to residential homeowners and small businesses in the United States and Canada. As the sole battery power solutions provider to ADT, when batteries are depleted in each ADT subscriber’s security systems, UPG’s integration with ADT allows for our distribution centers to seamlessly support ADT’s subscribers by shipping replacement batteries and other peripherals directly to them with installation instructions and support, to keep them, and their property, secure.
“That entire supply chain logistics service is something that is unique to UPG. We try to offer a fully integrated solution to all of our customers and in turn, to their customers, so in this case, while ADT is our direct customer, their millions of subscribers across North America are also being serviced by UPG,” said Edmonds.
When asked what has been the catalyst for UPG’s success, Edmonds responded, “It boils down to the UPG team and how we take care of our customers – we work hard to become an integrated partner with our customers. As a battery company, we’ve always tried to be more solutions‐based and not simply sell a product,” as demonstrated by the ADT example.
“When we started off back in the 1960s, right up to 2010, we were just a large distributor of electronic components, batteries and other battery-related products. Today, we are a U.S. manufacturer of lithium-ion smart batteries, chargers, and power subsystems – in line with our vision to become a more all-encompassing and innovative battery solutions company to our customers,” explained Edmonds.
Everything at UPG is done with quality and customer service in mind. In addition to its ISO and FDA certifications, the company is strongly committed to the continuous improvement of its processes, submitting to internal and independent audits to monitor and uphold quality and safety standards across its operations. Training plays an important role in UPG’s success in this regard, as it continues to build the knowledge and experience of its team of 200 employees. As Edmonds noted, “It takes ongoing training, tweaks and upgrades to our processes and systems as our business evolves.”
Despite having grown, UPG has been able to sustain a small‐company culture. Team building and annual kick-off events, luncheons and contests contribute to good employee morale, and in turn, drive exceptional service. “We try to have a good time. While we work hard, we try to instill the notion that we should be able to play as well, such as our increasingly competitive ping pong matches, with proceeds going to a local charitable organization,” stated Edmonds.
The purposeful and inclusive culture that has been created at UPG also extends to the community. The company gives back to charities and organizations dedicated to children, the sick and the homeless such as the Make a Wish Foundation, Vogel Alcove and Toys for Tots.
Battery recycling programs also demonstrate the company’s social and environmental responsibility. “I am very proud of this team who have been so vested in our success and have worked tirelessly through our challenges, and who continue to be open to change as we evolve as a company,” said Edmonds. “I remind the team all the time that no matter how broad or narrow each individual’s function may be, each role is a critical contributor to our overall success as a company. Every touch point matters.”
As with any company with longevity and success, UPG has had to overcome its fair share of challenges whether market related, or the result of changes in a customer’s business. For instance, UPG persevered in the face of adversity when a large customer was acquired by another entity. That accounted for a loss of over $50 million in revenue, yet UPG never had to undertake mass layoffs. “We made changes internally and tightened our belts where we needed to be more resourceful, and through calculated and strategic adjustments, we were able to rise up from a very low point, re-focus and go out and get more business,” said Edmonds. “Of course there was a lot of sweat and tears and sleepless nights when you have a lot of employees and families counting on UPG, but success can only come from working through adversity – so I am especially proud that by working collectively and staying committed to our purpose, the UPG team has been able to navigate through these challenges together.”
As UPG prepares for its milestone 50th anniversary next year, Edmonds plans to celebrate. “We have a lot to be grateful for. We want to thank our customers and our employees old and new. We’ve got a long list of loyal employees, customers and business partners alike, so there is a lot to reflect on and celebrate as we continue this exciting journey. We remain committed to identifying new ways to innovate and power lives and businesses around the world and are deeply focused on our path to become a leading innovator in the battery power space into the future.”
In addition to planning for its 50th anniversary celebrations, UPG continues to integrate its various business segments in order to be a seamless vendor for its customers. Edmonds identified that it is, “One family: one company; a one-stop power solutions partner,” as the company further unifies customer experience across its operations. “There is always work to be done and room for refinement when it comes to delivering the best customer experience.”
UPG continues to focus on growth, seeking out opportunities to diversify and grow, leveraging new technologies and capabilities to remain, as Edmonds said, “always relevant in the future of power. Since our inception in 1968, our battery and power solutions have been powering lives, everyday applications and groundbreaking innovations.” After 50 years of growth and success, UPG has truly established itself as the past, present and future of power. The company looks forward to what the next 50 years will bring.