2022 Thought Leaders: James Rutty

Powerbox Australia Pty Ltd

Wednesday, 07 December, 2022

2022 Thought Leaders: James Rutty

What opportunities do you predict for the growth of your industry in 2023?

We anticipate the continuation and acceleration of expenditure towards infrastructure modernisation across the public and private sector.

DC power and energy storage have always been a significant part of any radio or critical communications network. Traditionally, most equipment was powered by either 12 or 24 VDC; however, we are rapidly seeing the industry adopt -48 VDC as the backbone of modern radio equipment in line with the broader telecommunications industry standards.

With the widespread acceptance of -48 VDC radio equipment, there is generally a requirement to upgrade a site’s DC power system. Network operators are using this as an opportunity to integrate a greater proportion of renewable energy such as solar and wind along with the latest in lithium-ion battery technology. This has a two-pronged effect of increasing site resilience and reducing OPEX costs.

At Powerbox, we are embracing this rapid adoption of renewable energy and taking this concept to the next step, offering complete turnkey solutions including modular and expandable DC power, lithium-ion batteries and customer communication equipment into integrated enclosures that can be quickly deployed on site by truck or helicopter. This approach allows for a rapid network deployment, by significantly reducing the amount of civil works required onsite. In addition, this approach reduces a client’s risk by ensuring equipment can be thoroughly tested in a controlled workshop environment prior to heading to site. This allows communications companies to focus on what they do best, building communications networks.

How are you making your company more resilient to ongoing global supply chain issues?

As an Australian-based manufacturer and distributor of power conversion and energy storage equipment we are fortunate to have a diverse supply chain, with equipment sourced both locally and internationally.

Despite the worst of the pandemic being behind us, we are all still feeling the ongoing impacts on supply chains from what has been an extremely turbulent period. Whilst these supply challenges may be stabilising, there are many cases of manufacturers still seeing component lead times in some cases exceed more than two years.

As a result, traditional supply chain approaches are being challenged and Powerbox has implemented key initiatives centred around a more transparent and integrated supply chain.

In practice, this means bringing our customers’ early planning discussions into our forecasting and demand planning activities and holding higher levels of stock in our Australia and New Zealand warehouses.

Another highly successful initiative implemented by Powerbox is leveraging our in-house engineering and manufacturing capabilities to perform ‘last mile’ configuration of Enatel Energy’s DC power systems. This level of cooperation with a leading global OEM allows us to hold common building blocks locally in Australia, and provide a level of system flexibility and customisation, with much faster delivery times.

That said, this is not always a perfect solution, and we acknowledge the need to work actively with our customers to find alternative products or substitutions to ensure project requirements are met.

Following the extreme weather events of 2022, how can critical communications be better deployed to manage similar events in future?

Australia has a long history of extreme weather events, but the challenges faced across the east coast in 2022 are unprecedented. Flooding has been a regular event across large areas of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. These widespread flooding events have placed significant pressure on residents and the emergency and essential services operating in these areas. During these extreme weather events, radio communication and telecommunications infrastructure is often affected by power outages and site access can be restricted for extended periods.

The greater adoption of mobile assets such as cell on wheels (COW), mobile communication trailers and mobile command centres ensures critical communications can be established in these affected areas and operators can continue to work in a safe environment.

The effectiveness of these mobile communications assets often comes down to how they are powered. Over the past five years, we have seen continued development in power generation, power conversion and battery storage allowing for greater site autonomy in a much smaller footprint. We anticipate seeing this trend continue, particularly with emerging battery technology and wider adoption of alternative energy sources such as fuel cells.

What are the biggest challenges or threats facing your industry in 2023?

2023 is a new year, but we are anticipating may of the challenges faced through 2022 to carry over. The pressures around supply chain, the effects of a weakening Australian dollar, and a skills and labour shortage will no doubt continue to be felt for some time into the future.

James Rutty is National Sales & Marketing Manager for Powerbox Australia, with over 10 years’ experience in power conversion and energy storage for the telecommunications industry. Throughout his time at Powerbox, James has gained a detailed understanding of available technologies which can be applied to solving real-world business problems for his customers.

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