Charged for Growth

Storage Battery Systems Inc., (SBS) a Menomonee Falls-based manufacturer of industrial batteries and chargers and related products, has products and systems in manufacturing facilities and big-box stores around the country.

The company’s core products are industrial batteries and chargers used on forklifts, specialty carts and automated electric-powered vehicles commonly used in manufacturing and distribution facilities, said Bill Rubenzer, vice president. SBS’ employees fabricate, assemble and configure large battery banks  and systems inside its 40,000-square-foot facility in Menomonee Falls and a 15,000-square-foot plant near Chicago.

The company has achieved significant growth by also offering systems integration for its batteries and chargers, Rubenzer said.

“More and more customers are looking for turnkey solutions,” he said. “People rely on us to come up with integrated solutions so that they can focus on their business.”

SBS has also achieved significant growth in its uninterruptible power supply (UPS) division. UPS systems offer critical backup power for data systems that cannot be without power, and are designed to bridge the gap between power shuts off and a generator starts up.

SBS buys off-the-shelf UPS systems from other manufacturers and couples them with its batteries. It often adds power inverters, Rubenzer said.

“We don’t manufacture (UPS systems), we integrate it,” he said. “We buy the system, design and build a battery component for it. These are enhancements to customize the unit. We then assemble and install it.”

The company recently began work on a contract with a national big-box retailer to retrofit the UBS systems in 1,500 of its stores around the country. Rubenzer declined to name the chain.

SBS also manufactures specialty batteries for a wide range of original equipment manufacturers. The company recently won a large order from a lawn and garden equipment manufacturer, to build a series of batteries to power an electric riding lawn mower, Rubenzer said.

It has also achieved significant growth through its sale of battery systems and chargers used in the standby utility market. These systems are primarily used in the electric power generating, telecommunications and data center markets.

SBS is owned by Rubenzer, his brothers Scott and Bob Rubenzer and their sister Jean Mueller. Their father purchased the company in the 1960s. SBS was founded in 1916 to service batteries for the Baker electric car. 

The company’s diverse offerings have given it significant growth – its sales will rise 25 to 30 percent this year, Rubenzer said.

“We’ll start 2009 strong,” he said. “The question is the next three quarters after that.”

SBS employs 58 workers total in Menomonee Falls and the Chicago area, and will hire two more workers by the end of the month. Because of its recent growth, both facilities are essentially out of room.

Within the next 12 months, SBS will likely double its Menomonee Falls facility. Its 40,000-square-foot building sits on a 5-acre parcel, with plenty of room for expansion, Rubenzer said.

The company is also considering opening a 100,000-square-foot plant in China, where it would manufacture batteries and components for the Chinese and Indian markets. SBS will decide on that facility in the next six months, Rubenzer said.

SBS is now looking for ways to integrate its battery systems into alternative power generation systems such as wind and solar systems. The company is now selling batteries for those systems, but hopes to design and assemble complete systems, Rubenzer said.

“That’s something we’re definitely looking at – especially the turnkey aspect of it,” he said.

In the coming years, SBS wants to maximize its work in design and integration, because of the value that adds its relationships with customers.

“The value of a supplier is someone who can take on the messy end of the job too,” Rubenzer said. “It’s more interesting, and it’s nice to have a challenge, asking ‘How can we make the impossible happen?'”

Storage Battery Systems Inc.

Address: N56 W16665 Ridgewood Dr., Menomonee Falls
Industry: Industrial batteries and chargers, uninterruptible power systems, battery test equipment and related products
Employees: 58
Revenue growth: 25 to 30 percent
Web site:

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