Official Blog of Flux Power Inc.
February 29, 2016
1. Congratulations on UL Listing. What is the revenue opportunity going forward for your UL LiFT Packs?
A: First off, the significance of the UL Listing cannot be understated for we have emerged from an intensive six month process with a substantially enhanced product, that is now the first-ever UL 2271 listed lithium-Ion battery on the market.
The UL listing confirms to all customers that our packs have been rigorously tested and meet the highest industry standards for safety. This validation, combined with OEM approvals for LIFT Packs designed in 2014, our growing industry reputation and the very clear performance and cost of ownership benefits of lithium vs. lead acid should provide a powerful stimulus to our sales and marketing efforts when we initiate commercial shipments this spring.
As for the revenue opportunity, the total addressable market for walkie pallet jack forklifts is approximately $400 million, and that’s really just the entry level opportunity in the overall forklift market which we believe is $1 – $2 billion in total potential. So, there is plenty of opportunity for our company in just this first target market, and pursuing the balance of the opportunity is very much our objective going forward.
Near term, we believe that Flux is well positioned to achieve revenues of between $3 million and $6 million in the first 12 full months of the UL Listed LiFT Pack commercialization. And we look to begin shipping UL Listed LiFT Packs in our fourth quarter ending June 2016. The first few million dollars in sales are the hardest, so from there we think revenue could scale even faster as there will be a growing base of visibility and technology corroboration – from some of the biggest names in beverages, food and grocery, and other logistics-intensive industries.
A key factor in our future revenue performance is our ability to access capital to properly fund our business. We have become very good at moving the business along with limited capital via modest draw-downs on our credit line, but to achieve the sorts of sales targets I just referenced, we’re going to need additional capital. We’ve been working on this effort for some time and are optimistic that our UL listing and the near-term launch of that line allow us to close on some growth capital on terms that are favorable for our shareholders.
2. What are you doing on the pricing and margin front with your new UL Listed LiFT Pack Line?
A: The simple answer is that we have a very clear plan for building our gross margin in this product line, and we do intend to shift pricing into better alignment with the substantially increased value of our UL packs. The hard part is to predict the timing of our margin enhancements as they depend on a range of factors including the status of our funding and our production volumes. We have identified a range of design enhancements, component and procurement changes and volume economies of scale aimed at achieving a solid and sustainable gross margin of 30% or more. It will take time to implement all of these initiatives, but the good news is that we do have a very clear and achievable plan to get there that is linked to additional funding.
As I said, we do plan on some pricing increases to reflect the quality and durability of our LiFT Packs. However, as we remain in the launch stage of our product, we plan to be as aggressive as possible on pricing and discounts, to make initial sales and trials as attractive as possible. What we’ve found is that once you can get a customer to try our lithium packs, they quickly recognize the benefits and in 80% + of the cases, they really want the solution. Our job is to help facilitate the initial purchases so that we can overcome the normal institutional reservations around buying a new product from a new vendor. So combined with progress on the costs of goods sold, we also see pricing moves that should get us to the economics that make sense for this kind of business.
As capital sourcing is very hard to predict, particularly in the very challenging microcap market of the past few months, we have developed a few different business plans that are based on differing levels of investment. The more capital we can secure, the more rapidly we can move on building out the business but with greater near term operating expense, that raises the cash flow breakeven hurdle. And in the worst case, if we are compelled to operate in a more lean fashion, we have experience running a very lean organization to keep our use of cash in line with our resources.
3. How much sales do you estimate you will need each quarter to break even on a cash flow basis?
A: That’s a difficult question to answer this early in the business as it depends on a range of factors including to what extent we have been able to fully implement our margin enhancement programs. As I mentioned, we have different models for the business that are based on differing levels of investment – the more capital, the more rapidly we can move in building out the business – and the greater the operating expense required and therefore the higher the cash flow breakeven hurdle.
It may be counter intuitive, but I do think Flux’s best chance at building a very large and successful company are rooted in higher levels of spending that will push out breakeven further into the future. While we might be able to hunker down and work to cash flow breakeven sooner, by limiting the capital nourishment of he firm – we’ll be limiting its growth and increasing the potential for other players to enter the market and become formidable competitors.
We have a fabulous opportunity to exploit our leadership position in lithium batteries for forklifts, and it is the Board’s preference to source more capital, sooner to allow us to move as quickly as possible to convert our customer relationships and product leadership into a powerful franchise.
Currently, our ongoing operating expenses have averaged $550,000 per quarter on a cash basis over the past two quarters, so to get to cash flow breakeven at this level we need to generate revenue of about $700,000 per month at a 25% gross margin. Of course gross margin is a key factor in this equation and so we need to move as quickly as possible to get into a favorable position there.
Certainly, our preference is to have the capital to really ramp all aspects of the business sooner than later. While that will negatively affect cash flow and profitability near term, it gives us the best opportunity to ramp sales, take market share and solidify Flux’s leadership in the market – all of which provide the greatest potential to drive shareholder value.
4. How much additional financing over what time period will you need to reach break even?
A. We have a few different plans based on different levels of investment. At a base level, we’d like to secure $2-3M in additional capital but on the high end we have a plan that utilizes $5M over the next 12-18 months. The funding is targeted both for supporting a rapid ramp in inventory and receivables as well as additions to our team to enhance operations, R&D and Sales and Marketing.
5. What other business opportunities are you considering in addition to Walkie pallet jacks?
A: We have several different initiatives underway however our resources are principally focused on our Walkie pallet jack line. We expect to modify our line of LiFT Packs to power End Rider pallet jacks (still in development) in the coming months to incorporate design enhancements from our UL listing effort. End Riders are larger, heavier and more powerful than Walkies, requiring a more robust energy storage solution. Flux has been working on a development model for an End Rider packs for the last year and choose to move cautiously and responsibly to make sure we met our internal demands for quality control.
In addition to forklift opportunities, we are working with a key supplier to the airline industry that sells lead-acid batteries and other equipment to multiple national carriers. One major airline carrier in particular has asked this supplier for an alternative solution to lead-acid and Flux is therefore finishing design of a lithium-based solution for airline ground support equipment and baggage carriers. In coordination with this trusted supplier to the airline industry, we expect to deliver beta units for piloting in the next few months. It’s difficult to predict but early indications are that a lithium battery solution as an alternative to lead-acid may be well received by multiple national airline carriers for certain applications.
Beyond these nearer-term opportunities, we can expand on previously developed storage solutions for robotic mining equipment, solar storage for military or commercial use, and portable power sources for remote use in a variety of applications, principally as a replacement for portable generators.
6. Can you comment on costs in Q2 related to customer service and warranty issues?
A: Certainly. We have invested significant resources in supporting our current customer relationships and addressing performance issues with certain packs. As in all technologies, the first generation product helps you identify design issues that need to be corrected in subsequent product versions. We have a better understanding of the truly punishing conditions to which our LiFT Packs are subjected, which are unlike most other battery applications. These vehicles operate without any suspension or air-filled tires, creating very harsh conditions for our Battery Management System (BMS) circuit boards, which we have addressed through a number of design and vendor changes. We feel we have most of these challenges well addressed and that belief was confirmed by the very rigorous UL testing that included aggressive vibration testing on three different planes (the x, y & z axis).
Given my career experience working with very large companies like Ford and DHL, I understand the incredible importance of customer support and so when there is an issue with a customer, particularly the very large organizations that have purchased or are piloting our batteries, we need to resolve it promptly, at whatever cost. This dynamic has also caused us to move more slowly with each customer, as we don’t want to ship a large quantity of units, only then to identify a quality issue. Commitments to our customers will not be compromised.
Through our responsiveness to customer issues, I feel we have been able to establish solid relationships that position us well for the launch of our second generation UL Listed LiFT Packs.
Fortunately, most of the issues we have faced with our products and warranty issues relate to design and production launch issues that we feel were well addressed in the UL process. So we are very confident about the reliability and performance of what is really our second-generation technology. Importantly, Flux is probably the only company to work on these challenges and certainly the only one to develop a pack to meet UL’s rigorous testing.
We are very grateful to our first customers for deployment or trial of our packs and now we are in a position to deliver a solution that incorporates the feedback we have garnered from each of their experiences with our product.
7. Why has the forklift industry failed to adopt the next generation battery storage solutions that have been fueling the mobile device and automotive industry? What makes you feel they are ready and willing to make the change from lead-acid? How do you unseat the incumbent lead-acid providers and infrastructure?
A: First off, forklift customers are without question eager to try alternatives to lead-acid power due to a variety of limitations and general dissatisfaction with that incumbent technology. They are anxious to find a better solution but have moved cautiously the last few years due to some level of disappointment with alternative sources of motive power that were introduced prematurely. The discontent with lead acid however, plays right into the value proposition of our LIFT Packs. There has not been a compelling or viable alternative to lead-acid until very recently so the status quo has remained with lead-acid owning the market. With no other solutions, I think companies have just put up with the costs and performance limitations of lead-acid because they had no other choice. These lead acid markets are very mature and are viewed, I believe, as commodity products that have sales and marketing structures based on promoting customer relationships rather than innovative and disruptive products.
The arrival of new battery technologies has been focused on markets where their capabilities have enabled new products and markets. The technology was integral to the creation of new revenue streams – not as a replacement alternative for a market that is already spoken for, and for that reason it became the first point of focus for the capital and R&D.
The second part is now that markets for lithium power (such as mobile applications) are established or underway, the next area of opportunity was to pursue a large existing market that was utilizing an inferior solution. That is Flux’s vision; introducing our lithium solution to the forklift and materials handling market..
However, one can never underestimate the challenge of getting established industrial processes to consider something new. While from our perspective, the decision is obvious – why wouldn’t a company deploy a better technology that will improve efficiency and performance at a lower total cost over time? No one has ever lost their job for not being the first to try a new solution, whereas, that’s what happens if you do try something and it misses the mark. Large companies are risk and change averse – they move slowly and carefully and rarely jump into anything.
That is very apparent from our financial performance the past two years as we worked to break through those barriers and mindset. It requires patience and persistence, and you have to listen well to the customer to identify those who could be early adopters vs. those who are not.
We’ve invested a lot of time getting to understand the thinking of the 30 national companies who have either purchased or piloted our LiFT Packs and help them understand our value proposition. This cohort doesn’t include the dozens of regional end-users who are evaluating our pack technology. As a result of our intense outreach with the help of dealers and distributors, we’ve planted the seed from which a large-scale technology conversion can take place. We need to continue to tread carefully and remain very focused on each customer’s experience and needs. If we do that, we feel certain that there is enormous deployment potential for our solutions.
And why do we think they will make the move? Logistics intensive businesses – such as food or beverages – have enormous supply chains that they have worked to optimize over the years. Flux can now offer them a clear way to reduce cost while also enhancing the efficiency and productivity of the teams and their fixed assets.
This is a concept that is at the top of the list of their materials handling management – because the benefits are clear and real and even if they don’t want to try a new technology, the fear of competition will push them in our direction as they can’t afford to pass over the same cost and efficiency benefits as their competition.
Outside of just our opinion, I can tell you countless stories of forklift drivers and logistics managers that just love our product. They even fight over who gets to use the lithium pack – because the performance is significantly better and the workflow is far more streamlined.
These benefits versus current lead acid packs include:
- Opportunity charging during breaks
- No required post-charging cool-down period – which can be as much as 8 hours for lead acid. So a Flux battery can operate two of three shifts per day compared with only one for lead acid.
- No requirement for a charging room or special ventilation for lead acid
- Virtually no maintenance and definitely no need for personnel to monitor and manage water levels in lead acid.
- Our LiFT Packs have built-in chargers that let you charge them anywhere, without removing them from the forklift, whereas lead-acid batteries – which weigh at least 500 pounds, are normally removed from the vehicle and replaced with a recently charged battery.
- Our LiFT Packs last 5-7 years versus 18 months to 2 years for most lead acid, so you spend less time on procurement activity
- While our packs cost more initially, their longer life, improved performance and limited maintenance yield a lower total cost over many years than the cost of several lead acid batteries over the same period.
Bottom line – better performance at a lower cost and with enhanced safety and environmental issues make Lithium-ion energy storage a clearly superior solution – one we feel very confident will displace much or all of the market over time. It’s our job to make that happen and happen quickly.
Thank you for the questions and the interest in Flux Power.
Flux Power CEO
October 23, 2015
1. What’s involved in the UL listing process and how confident is Flux in achieving this certification?
A: UL operates under its own authority as an independent, not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization. To establish certification, samples of a product submitted by manufacturers for certification are tested and evaluated. If UL decides the product fulfills all applicable requirements it authorizes the manufacturer to apply a certification mark to production of the samples submitted, or issues a certificate or notification that the product is now certified by UL. Flux is very confident that LiFT Packs will achieve UL Listing because our packs were initially designed to meet UL standards.
2. What is your strategy and plan to initiate larger scale deployments from existing customers that have made modest initial LiFT Pack purchases? How does UL fit into that strategy and what sort of pace can we expect to see for ramping sales?
A: The plan to increase sales to existing customers who have made modest purchases to date hinges on exceptional customer service. Proactively addressing any customer concerns and questions is the best way to ensure repeat and future large scale ordering. The OEM’s and battery dealers with whom we partner are crucial advocates for additional after-market service of Flux packs. We are forever articulating the LiFT Pack value proposition over alternative power sources for materials handling equipment in terms of runtime, performance and total cost of ownership. Prominent customers have suggested to Flux that the only hurdle to large scale ordering is the existence of a UL Mark on Flux LiFT Packs. As previously indicated, Flux expects to conclude the process with UL in Q2 ’16, and we expect significant, increased ordering in the beginning of the calendar year 2016.
3. What is it going to take to get the Flux stock price moving? What can management do to position Flux shares for appreciation?
A: The share price of Flux stock will respond positively to news of LiFT Pack sales growth. Management expects to keep investors informed of large scale customer orders in addition to reporting quarterly results that include details on the number units sold. The materials handling battery market is a multi-billion dollar opportunity each year. Flux can capture a larger share of the market for LiFT Packs by leveraging and expanding the same things that got us in this position as first mover; engineering acumen, customer service and advancing our reputation for reliability.
September 9, 2015
Flux Power To Exhibit At The Battery Show 2015
May 15, 2015
Q ’15 Q&A with CEO Ron Dutt
1. Does Flux Power have any convertible debt outstanding?
A: As of March 31, 2015, Flux had borrowed a total of $215,000 under a $500,000, 8% convertible line of credit that was established October 2, 2014. The line of credit is convertible into Flux common stock at $0.12 per share. Flux has also filed with the SEC for the possible sale of up to $2M in notes convertible into Flux stock at $0.14 per share to provide working capital to support accelerated sales growth within its expanding base of customers and customer prospects that have substantial materials handling operations.
2. Why is there no promotion to attract new investors?
A: Flux does have ongoing programs to attract new investors as you know, however they have not yet been reflected in our share price, I think because our financial performance has yet to show in numbers the qualitative success we are having. Flux is focusing its finite personnel and financial resources principally on its sales, marketing and corporate communications efforts. These efforts reach a variety of constituents including customers, distributors, OEMs, trade media AND investors. To leverage the Company’s progress, we also utilize an external investor relations firm to provide ongoing counsel, communications support, and investor outreach and engagement – all of which is intended to develop new investor interest and support existing shareholder interest in the Company.
Flux is very active in social media, a discipline that provides efficient and low cost visibility to support the building of our brand, our sales and marketing visibility and our investor relations profile.
In addition, Flux has an active trade show schedule, including our recent participation at PROMAT 2015 in Chicago and DC Power Group Annual Meeting 2015 in San Diego where we developed solid additional exposure across our stakeholder objectives including investors.
Specifically on the IR front, Flux was featured company within our IR agency’s booth this week (May 12-14) at the Las Vegas Money Show. Several thousand prospective investors were exposed to the Flux name and brand over the three days, including approximately 75 investors who heard the Flux overview presentation and over two hundred investors who received Flux materials. Like all outreach efforts, it takes time and effective follow up to see the results, but we are pleased by the increased exposure.
Flux will also be presenting on June 2nd in Los Angeles at the LD Micro Invitational Investor Conference. LD Micro has emerged as one of the premier West-coast events for small and microcap companies. This year’s invitation-only event features over 170 presenting companies and an estimated 700 professional investors. We expect to develop new investor AND prospective customer interest at this forum.
3. What is the current number of shares outstanding and are they going to continue to dilute?
A: As of May 5, 2015, Flux had 99,464,112 shares outstanding. Given our operating losses and financial position during these early stages of our product rollout and market development, investors should assume some level of additional dilution as part of our working capital funding. However, we do have cost management procedures in place and are very focused on delivering a return on investment from our deployment of capital in the business. Sourcing capital on the most favorable and risk-adjusted terms possible is important to us.
Additionally, given the solid demand we have achieved for our LiFT Pack product line and the growing base of large customers that have made initial purchases and are now considering broader-scale deployments, I am both optimistic and confident that in the next few quarters, investors should start to recognize the value of the franchise we have built in the industrial equipment market.
4. What technology or patents defend Flux’s Market Position?
A: Flux has developed a range of engineering and technical knowledge and patents over the past six years that form the core of our value proposition and competitive advantage. We have developed battery management system technology that is the ‘brains’ of an effective storage solution, and we have addressed all the issues that go into the design and effective functioning of a battery pack used in very challenging industrial environments like materials handling.
Each storage application has its unique demands – and this is true of forklifts, given their use cycles, environmental issues – indoor, outdoor, movement, temperature changes – run time needs, etc. We have spent the past 18 months learning about our customers needs and learning from the testing and piloting process. We have also invested in the testing of our LiFT Pack products by the three leading forklift OEMs to secure technical approval of our LiFT Pack product line for walkie pallet jacks. These approvals are of critical importance to customers as they signify that the use of our batteries is condoned by the OEMS and therefore will not impact their warranty protections. Further with each lift truck model and manufacturer, there is a range of case sizes & specifications as well as power and other feature requirements – it’s not just a one size fits all market, and we have built products to meet each specification of our target market. And because we have initialized interest and demand from some substantial customers, we are now taking the next step in market development which is to secure UL certification for our LiFT Packs so that certain of our customers who require that validation in their procurement process will be able to move forward. As we built our packs based on UL specifications, we are confident in our ability to meet their specifications and expect to secure the approval in the next few months.
Finally, there is the issue of building awareness and trust in a market. Large companies have rigorous processes for vetting vendors and new equipment and there’s no shortcut to building that trust. Material handling is the basis of their business, and any disruption would create significant reverberations though their business. As a result, they cannot afford to take a chance on any new battery technology or vendor that shows up with a product. Additionally, we have focused on building both products and relationships – as at the end of the day, customers will choose to do business with those company’s they can trust to deliver on their word and to address any issues that might arise. We have purposely moved slowly in our market development so that we could assure we were responsive to our customer needs, and that has required we remain focused on a smaller base of customers, distributors, dealers & OEMs. We will expand that focus as we build on our current successes.
While all of these issues could be achievable by another company, the combination of industry knowledge, investment and time required to meet the requirements to do business with any one customer, OEM or distributor or dealer remain a very important hurdle for competition. We are starting to see some competitors in the market, but we feel we have a sufficient lead in timing and value-add with our products that we are not concerned about this, and frankly other participants would expand our sales, marketing and market awareness efforts for lithium technologies, likely increasing the near term addressable market.
5. If Flux has Such a Great Product, Why are Sales so Low?
A: Flux is in the early stages of product introduction. The past year has been focused on introducing the Company and the LiFT Pack line to the material handling industry. A new company with a new solution – it takes time to build trust, to carve out attention and then to develop interest, pilots and ultimately sales. Big companies move slowly to avert risk.
Large enterprise clients take a long time to vet the credibility of their vendors technology. The cycle between initial interest, piloting and final adoption can take several months or as much as a year. Fortunately, this sales cycle starts to shorten as the solutions become known and trusted and the vetting process can be streamlined or ultimately eliminated. But there is no short cut to building customer relationships and trust.
Having put in this effort with OEMs and many large customers, Flux is now approaching the inflection point where they can begin to expect far larger deployments. UL approval is an important step in enabling larger scale sales. Even so, the trend of unit sales and revenue is starting to show engagement and Flux is confident that its growing base of customer interest will translate into accelerating sales growth.
6. How can they demonstrate their customer prospects?
A: Flux issued a release in March 2015 that highlighted 16 large customer prospects with extensive material handling demands. Representative customers included those in the food & beverage production & distribution businesses where supply chain efficiency can make a big impact on profitability. Of these 16 companies – with annual revenues ranging from $1B to over $50B – 10 have completed piloting of Flux LiFT Packs and made initial demonstration orders and the other six are in the process of evaluating. As these companies become more comfortable with Flux – from evaluation and initial product purchases, the expectation is that they will begin to convert their fleets to Lithium-ion packs as new batteries are required.
Flux estimates that on average these clients could account for annual purchases of 100 – 300 LiFT Packs – or roughly $300,000 – to $1 million in annual revenue.
To help accelerate adoption, Flux is in the process of receiving the “UL Mark” certification from Underwriters Laboratories. This certification will demonstrate compliance with industry standards and safety, making large companies comfortable in making larger scale purchases.
Flux LiFT packs have been tested and approved by lift equipment OEMs representing approximately 75% of the Class III market. There is also a growing base of LiFT Pack interest from dealers, battery distributors and other customers across the material handling industry.
7. Do they have access to capital?
A: Capital has been the one weak spot in Flux’s story as the market has yet to respond to our growing base of interest and demand. As a result, Flux has had to work on less than optimal funding but we have been able to advance the business significantly despite this limitation. Flux has been funding its working capital needs via credit lines and equity sales and currently is seeking capital via a convertible note structure. We have the financial support of a major shareholder who continues to provide capital to support Flux’s progress while we work to secure additional funding and to begin to build an equity valuation that would allow us to source capital on more attractive terms.
February 16, 2015
Flux Power To Exhibit At PROMAT 2015
The Breakthrough Flux Power Lithium Battery LiFT™ Pack To Be Showcased At The Premier Material Handling Event.
We are delighted to share with you that we will be participating at the largest expo for manufacturing and supply chain professionals in North America. The event takes place March 23-26, 2015 at Chicago’s McCormick Place South, and the Flux Power Booth is 5527.
This is the first time we will be exhibiting at ProMat and we will be showcasing our line of LiFT Pack lithium battery packs that are a dramatically superior alternative to lead-acid batteries used in material handling equipment ranging from Pallet Jacks to Tug and Tow vehicles. The Flux LiFT Pack™ combines the benefits of lithium-ion with Flux’s patented software Battery Management System (BMS) and engineering design to deliver a much longer run-time and battery life-span battery at much lower cost.
We extend a warm invite to you and your colleagues to visit us to see how major cost savings and much longer run-times for material handling equipment are delivered by our lithium battery packs. In the meanwhile, please look through our website or contact us to see what we can do for you.
See you at ProMat!
September 4, 2014
How do you pressure wash a dirty pallet jack at the end of a long day?
Until now, the answer was … very carefully.
Electrical machinery operators in the food and food processing industries know that cleanliness is vital, yet water and electricity don’t mix. Regular cleaning is a mandatory but delicate chore, particularly when it involves old-school battery systems that require frequent maintenance and service.
Excited by the performance and cost benefits of Flux Power®’s LiFT Pack lithium-ion pallet jack batteries, a leading national food processing company asked Flux Power to develop a lithium-ion pack to meet the unique challenges of the food processing industry.
Flux’s engineering and design team went to work … enter stage right … the Flux Power® LiFT Pack S5, the latest in our growing line of innovative lithium-ion industrial energy storage solutions. Flux has designed cases, or enclosures, that fit most pallet jacks.
The ‘S5’ offers all the benefits of Flux’s LiFT Pack™ line of energy storage solutions:
1) Longer run times
2) Faster charging
3) Eliminate smell and acid drip
4) Sustained high performance over a typical work shift
5) No maintenance (eliminating recurring costs and down-time)
6) FAR longer lifespan ~ 5-6 years vs. 1.5 – 2 years for some alternative technologies – Flux provides a 5-year warrantee!
Resulting in improved performance and substantially lower total cost of ownership.
PLUS: the S5’s unique design encases the battery internals inside a welded cover to ensure critical water-resistance. Users still have convenient access however, to the electronic access panel and the charger cable storage compartment.
After weeks of technical testing, a food industry customer has indicated keen interest and high praise for these packs.
Take the new age of lithium power for a drive, come rain or shine – if you act before September 30 you may be entitled to special launch pricing!