WORDS By: Natalie Dookie
PHOTOGRAPHY courtesy: LANGE TRINIDAD
Published in CONTACT Magazine
A stalwart in the automotive industry since 1957, Lange is one of the leading battery distributors in Trinidad and Tobago. With 80 employees and four departments – automotive, batteries, industrial and insurance – the firm was one of the first companies in Trinidad and Tobago to earn an official “SME 2000 certification for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Quality and Environmental Management System”.
Today, Lange is building on that track record of success by establishing its first manufacturing venture, through its subsidiary LTL Manufacturing Limited.
Lange carries a wide range of battery products, including Premium, E-Series, Heavy Duty, 6-Volt, Traction and Gel Batteries for light and heavy duty automotive application. It also supplies the construction and marine sectors’ needs.
Steven Blanc, Chief Operating Officer, Lange Trinidad Limited, notes that the locally produced TRACK battery brand, established in 1987, is a household name with consumers. “In 2014, we began looking at new export markets and decided to source an international supply that would be able to compete on quality globally.
“Eventually, we found a manufacturer in Turkey, which met our needs of being strong on quality, and research and development. We began importing from them with the goal of setting up a plant in Trinidad and Tobago.”
From importer to manufacturer
Blanc believed that, as Trinidad and Tobago was heavily reliant on revenues from the oil and gas industry, there was a shortage of export-oriented manufacturing businesses generating foreign exchange. “We saw this opportunity as a member of the private sector, to help improve the economy, through diversifying our business into manufacturing. As a distribution firm, we had been experiencing foreign exchange challenges, and wanted to reduce our import bill. Now, as an export driven manufacturer, we will become a net positive US dollar earner.”
The Ministry of Trade and Industry came in for high praise from Blanc, who credits their team with providing excellent support to first-time manufacturers, especially one like Lange, whose product is sophisticated and requires significant engineering and research and development services. The Ministry also assisted with obtaining the necessary certifications, and with the preparations for export. The Environmental Management Authority (EMA), the Customs and Excise Division and exporTT were also helpful in getting Lange to this point.
Technology modernises battery production
The new TRACK plant is located at e TecK’s Industrial Park, Arima, on 44,000 square feet of land, and will have the capacity to supply the Caricom market. The new factory has cutting-edge technology with a modular design, allowing for ease of expansion in the future. The equipment is state-of-the-art, and the manufacturing process will be fully automated, with quality control stations at every stage.
The first phase of configuration will allow for the production of automotive and heavy-duty batteries, which will supply Lange’s current local and regional export markets. The plant will provide employment for 20 to 50 people at its maximum capacity by year-end, creating highly technical jobs for a different class of manufacturing.
The TRACK brand has three differentiating points of value, according to Ibrahim Abdool, Marketing Manager, Lange Trinidad. “VR Guard Technology protects your battery against the rigours of driving in harsh conditions. Secondly, Power Plus Technology ensures that the battery is able to start all modern vehicles which carry more components and features than in the past.
“We are also developing the batteries with Calcium Shield Technology, which basically means that you never have to worry about maintaining your battery as the structure and composition of the materials and chemicals minimise water loss, extending the overall life of your battery.”
Targeting one million units
Blanc is keenly looking to the future. “Once the plant is up and running, we will be ready to export. We have already commenced negotiations with partners in the Greater and Lesser Antilles, as well as South and Central America. From our early interactions, they are very impressed with where we are going, and with the product and operations of the company. Our goal is to manufacture one million units within the next five years. We want TRACK to be seen as an international brand with the ability to compete on quality in the international market.”
In the medium to long term, Lange plans to add renewable energy, and industrial traction batteries for fully electric equipment, to its product line. Blanc explains: “As vehicles become more automated, with increasingly complex electronic systems and equipment, we will monitor changes in the market, and we have set up the plant so it will be easily adaptable to manufacture batteries of any specification.
“Our mission has always been to provide high quality products at competitive prices, so this move into manufacturing will allow us to focus on quality control and competitiveness, while adapting as the industry evolves.”
As published in the first issue of the rebranded CONTACT Magazine, produced by MEP for the Trinidad & Tobago Chamber of Industry & Commerce. Read the full issue here, which was unveiled at the Chamber’s April 2018 AGM