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Spotlight on Surrette Battery Company

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Steve Higgins, Technical Services Manager, provides training for Renewable Energy Dealers and Installers at Strathmore SERC Solar Lab in Nairobi, Kenya. Educating industry professionals on proper selection, installation, setup & ongoing maintenance is key to the success of the Rolls Battery brand.

Surrette Battery Company Ltd. is one of North America’s leading lead-acid battery manufacturers, and Canada’s only remaining independent battery manufacturer. Located in Springhill, the company produces Rolls-branded premium deep cycle batteries which they export worldwide for use in Marine, Railroad, Motive Power and Renewable Energy applications. We caught up with Jeff Myles, Marketing Manager at Surrette Battery Company Ltd. to learn more about the company’s operations and its plans for growth in Nova Scotia.

Can you share a brief history of Surrette Battery Company Ltd.?
Surrette Battery Company Ltd. is a family-run business, now in its third generation.  The company was started by John Surrette in 1937 in Salem, Massachusetts and was relocated to Springhill, Nova Scotia, following a mining disaster in the late 1950’s.  The manufacturing plant opened for production in 1959 with government assistance through the predecessor of the current Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).

At that time the company manufactured flooded deep cycle lead acid batteries for the marine market, industrial and automotive applications.  Offering flexibility in their product lines and a willingness to adapt to changing market demands, the company began phasing out the automotive line in the 1980’s, focusing on production of customized products designed for locomotive & diesel starting for the railroad industry.  Surrette Battery Company Ltd. pioneered a unique dual-container construction, including modular cells and bolt-on connections which are found in many of their current 5000 Series products.  These features continue to set the Rolls brand apart from many of its competitors, providing superior design and durability.

Renewable energy applications such as photovoltaic (solar), wind and hydro have grown considerably popular in the last several decades.  Deep cycle lead acid batteries were chosen early on as an affordable solution for energy storage.  Today, the growing renewable energy industry drives the majority of our production and export.

A lot has changed in the energy sector over the years – what’s currently driving demand for Surrette’s products?
As a well-established brand, our product lines have earned a strong reputation.  Renewable energy markets around the world now drive most of our current production and export, and the percentage of this business continues to increase annually. Our wide range of renewable energy batteries offer capacity options suitable for use in small residential off-grid or backup systems to large-scale commercial applications. Often, systems are installed to reduce or eliminate the reliance on grid-connected power.  In some cases, they’re chosen to replace inefficient, polluting and costly power sources such as older diesel generators. This is especially apparent in developing countries where renewable energy, such as solar or wind power, is viable and offers a cost-effective alternative to unstable or non-existent grid power.  Over the years our distributors and dealers have been involved in many projects which have drawn attention to our products globally.  From mini-grid systems which power entire island communities off the coast of Scotland, to systems providing stable power for schools in Sub-Saharan Africa, our deep cycle batteries are chosen as the highest-quality, most dependable products available.

How much of Surrette’s business is export focused – and how does export factor into the company’s growth?
It is safe to say that 99% of the product manufactured in our Springhill facility is exported out of province; the majority travelling to the U.S. as well as Central & South America, Europe, Australia and growing markets in Africa.  Despite the company’s size, our Rolls-branded batteries are internationally recognized as a premium product which has fueled export to new markets.  To remain competitive and continue to meet the expectations and demand of our distributors, the company’s focus is to optimize production through upgrades and added workforce, allowing us to increase volume and export.

What can you share with us about Surrette’s growth plans?
Product quality has been the key to the company’s success.  Maintaining this while continuing to support growth and meet market demand requires innovation and qualified and dedicated employees.  Our company is focused on increasing production, while maintaining quality, through necessary enhancements and upgrades to the plant as well as expanding our skilled workforce.

What kind of skills will Surrette be recruiting for?
As a growing company, we’re looking for qualified individuals who are comfortable working in a fast-paced environment, who understand the importance of maintaining our strong reputation for quality through attention to detail and who recognize and support growth.  Many of our current employees have held long-standing positions and are skilled in a variety of production-related duties.

What kind of on-the-job training is provided at Surrette?
At our manufacturing facility, safety is top priority.  New hires are provided full on-the-job training, specific to the various roles and tasks that may be required.  All front-line staff are equipped with necessary safety gear and provided ongoing instruction and support to ensure a safe working environment for everyone.

How can people interested in opportunities at Surrette learn more?
For those interested in learning more about Surrette Battery Company Ltd. and our current job postings, we’ve setup an online application process which can be accessed via our company website or at www.surrettebatteryjobs.ca

Surrette Battery Company Limited is eligible to receive payroll rebates through Nova Scotia Business Inc., over a five-year period based on achieving specific hiring targets. If you are interested in developing your business’s capacity for export, contact a Nova Scotia Business Inc. Regional Business Development Advisor.