May 4, 2016

Regulation changes for the battery industry are always tough to manage, particularly if given a notice that is shorter than what is really needed to comply. That’s exactly what many companies faced when ICAO/IATA cracked down on shipping lithium batteries via air cargo, which went into effect on April 1 of this year.

Under the regulation:

  • Air shipment of lithium ion cells and batteries UN 3480, PI 965, must be offered for transport at a state of charge (SoC) not exceeding 30% of their rated design capacity.
  • All rechargeable PI965 lithium batteries are forbidden to be transported in the cargo section of passenger aircrafts and must carry  a “Cargo Aircraft Only” label.
  • Over-pack exception removed. No more than one package prepared in accordance with Section II of PI 965 may be placed into an over-pack.

In particular, the 30% SoC requirement was a big challenge for cell and battery manufacturers, as lithium ion batteries were traditionally shipped anywhere from 30-60% SoC.  It was a significant change for the industry.  To give you an idea of the scale of this market, there were approximately 5 billion lithium ion cells manufactured last year.

At Inventus Power, we took a proactive approach to the April 1st IATA regulation changes by engaging with our global OEM customers as soon as the proposed changes were announced. From there, we guided our diverse base of customers through the upcoming changes by tailoring a solution to meet their unique needs.

Here’s a look at some of the challenges imposed by the IATA regulation and the solutions we were able to provide our customers who manufacture today’s leading medical, consumer, industrial and military devices:

Challenge: How to Handle Existing Inventory 

Many of the largest global cell manufacturers waited to start shipping cells <30% SoC until just before April 1 or after, which meant there was a significant amount of existing inventory at >30% SoC for battery shipments. 

Solution: By engaging with customers early, Inventus Power was able to come up with logistical & technical solutions to ensure that our worldwide customers would not be affected. For example, we were able to build and ship inventory early or change shipping methods from air to surface (While still meeting delivery dates, of course). Additionally, because of our technical expertise, our factories were able to discharge existing inventory before shipment, when necessary.

Challenge: Supply Chain Impact

One of the biggest challenges companies faced by the new regulations was the impact that it would make on their supply chains when receiving batteries at lower state of charge. Loss of charge due to a battery’s on-board electronics and natural self-discharge over time is a big concern.

Solution: Soon after the regulation was announced, Inventus Power performed an analysis to determine the shelf life for each of our customer’s products. This analysis was based on the cell self-discharge and quiescent drain for the electronics, and allowed us to identify the highest risk products (AKA the ones with the shortest shelf life.) We then wasted no time and began working on custom technical solutions with those customers. These solutions ranged from changing to a lower power mode for the electronics (as agreed upon by the customer) to implementing our own “set it and forget it” technology.

Challenge: Spare Shipments

Another area of concern with this new regulation was regarding spare shipments. In all of the industries we serve, it is common for customers to ship a significant amount of replacement batteries. The hard part? These shipments are traditionally done from a company’s distribution center by air. Even if we could ship batteries to our customers via ground or sea at >30% SoC, they could still potentially have too high of a charge when it was time to ship by air.

Solution:  We were able to mitigate the problem primarily through logistical solutions as well as discharging particular shipments earmarked for specific customers.

Ultimately, every function and department within Inventus Power were involved in ensuring our customers were prepared for the April 1st deadline and had the solutions necessary to continue business with ease. While IATA’s latest regulation change may be behind us, sooner or later another regulation is going to come across the table, so make sure you’re taken care of with the right partner who is proactive and customer-focused. Our safety & quality record, industry experience, technological know-how and global footprint are second to none. We are the only power solutions provider that can be your single source for battery packs, chargers and power supplies. Contact Us today to learn how we can help differentiate YOUR devices out in the marketplace and mitigate risk for your business.

 

ChrisT

Chris Turner, Vice President, Technology