Surrounded by the quiet cornfields of Berks County is a major mover and shaker in the technology world.
East Penn Manufacturing Co. Inc. of Lyon Station, maker of Deka Batteries, is a leader in the lead-acid battery field, providing products for a wide variety of industries.
Indeed, East Penn is the largest single-site battery manufacturing facility in its industry, employing more than 6,500 people.
The headquarters in Lyon Station includes 520 acres with about 3.25 million square feet of building space.
At the site, East Penn designs, manufactures, distributes and recycles its products. An additional manufacturing facility in Corydon, Iowa, helps to accommodate the company’s growth.
From energy storage for smart grid technology to batteries for hybrid vehicles, the manufacturer has to stay on top of the latest trends to best serve its customers.
“It certainly is a fun time to be a scientist in this field,” said Robert P. Flicker, executive vice president and chief operating officer. “We’re very diverse because of our vertical integration. We’re doing so many things here. It keeps us wide open in our thinking.”
Being open to providing power solutions to “virtually any application” that’s out there, as well as those products that may be on the horizon, means a huge emphasis on research and development, Flicker said.
“The needs [of the battery industry] are really peaking for changing and evolving products,” he said.
To stay on top of those needs, Flicker said, East Penn Manufacturing meets regularly with the original equipment manufacturers that it supplies.
“We have a broad range of products in our portfolio, but we don’t try to sell what we’ve got; we try to make what the customer needs,” he said.
The company also is very green-minded. Besides manufacturing products used in the creation of environmentally friendly products, such as solar grids and hybrid cars, East Penn has a commitment to being green in its own house.
“We’re very sustainable. We recycle everything from cardboard boxes to soda bottles. It’s very ingrained in our culture,” he said.
The manufacturer also reclaims about 95 percent of the material it uses in the products it creates.
The company has received a number of honors lately for its commitment to green and emerging technologies.
For the second time, East Penn received the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence this year. It also received an innovation award from the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania this spring for manufacturing achievement as the company “that best exemplifies achievement in the manufacturing arena, showing a proven track record of success and an unbending commitment to achieving and maintaining excellence in manufacturing.”
Flicker credits the technology partners for helping East Penn to become an award-winning company.
East Penn Manufacturing has worked with Ben Franklin repeatedly since 1987, partnering with Lehigh University and the Enterprise Systems Partners, the Penn College of Technology’s Plastics Innovation and Resource Center and Northampton Community College’s Emerging Technology Applications Center.
Such connections assisted East Penn in implementing innovations that increase efficiencies, reduce costs and enhance profitability, according to Laura Eppler, director of marketing for Ben Franklin.
She said while her organization is best known for helping technology startups, a good portion of its work also is helping established firms, such as East Penn Manufacturing, find new, better or more efficient ways to operate.
Flicker said most manufacturers could see value in such help.
“We pride ourselves on being at the top of our industry. Obviously we have our own house of team members that are good in their respective areas, but sometimes it’s good to have someone come in from the outside to help,” he said. “The most important thing they can do is help you look at things from an outside view. That’s the value of Ben Franklin.”
Flicker said he’s sure the company again will seek the assistance of the partners.
“To remain a leader in any industry, you need excellent relationships with external partners. The Ben Franklin network is one of those invaluable partners,” he said.
He said the company is poised for growth as demand grows for its energy storage products. To stay on top means a commitment to innovation.
Whether helping East Penn to optimize a drying process, “improve our overall equipment effectiveness or develop specific training programs, the Ben Franklin partnerships have always been able to organize the necessary teams, and we truly appreciate their support,” Flicker said.