Can GE’s Product Managers Find A Way To Get A Charge Out Of Batteries?

The GE product managers are going to have to catch up with their rivals
The GE product managers are going to have to catch up with their rivals
Image Credit: Asim Bharwani

We all know the company General Electric – at one point in time, they seemed to make just about everything that you could buy that could be plugged in. These days GE is playing a game of catch up with other companies. GE wants to be a player in the growing business of large-scale electricity storage. The problem that their product managers are facing is that other companies such as Tesla and Siemens already have a strong position in this new business Looks like they are going to have to update their product development definition and come up with a new product if they want to be competitive.

The GE Reservoir Product

The good news for the GE product managers is that they do have a new product that they can go to market with. The product is called the GE Reservoir. This product is expected to allow electrical utilities to store energy that has been generated by solar panels and wind turbines so that it can be used later in the day. The market for battery storage systems is expected to grow over the next few years. The reason that there is a market for products like this is because they don’t currently have any way to store electrical energy, utilities currently end up firing up their power plants during peak hours to meet the power demands of their users. If utilities were able to store electrical energy, then they could also use it to stabilize voltages that are being carried by the electrical grid.

The market for storing the electrical energy that a utility produces is forecasted to become a huge market over time. Everyone knows this and that’s why big names like Tesla have gotten involved in it. Tesla has created a very large battery system for use by an Australian power utility. Meanwhile, Siemens who is one of GE’s world wide competitors has gotten together with a company called AES. Together the companies have formed a new firm called Fluence Energy. This company is building what may turn out to be the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in California. The market for these types of energy storage systems is expected to grow by 14% annually through 2025. Participating in that kind of growing market is exactly the kind of thing that you can put on your product manager resume.

The product managers at GE have realized that there is a big market for electricity storage systems for quite some time. In fact, GE has tried to enter this market twice before. The first time they attempted to make batteries using sodium-based technologies. However, they ended up walking away from that effort because they discovered that they were unable to compete with the dominate lithium-ion battery technology. Their next attempt was based on trying to sell battery systems using a subsidiary called Current. This effort never got very far. What they are doing now is to change that business and create a new stand-along business unit that will live within the existing GE Power division.

New Solutions For New Markets

The GE product managers are very excited about the new energy storage product that they are planning on bringing to the market. They view an electrical energy storage systems as being a virtual Swiss army knife because there are so many different ways that an electric utility can make use of it. The new GE energy storage product will be a 1.2 megawatt, lithium-ion device. This product will be the first one that GE plans to launch as a part of their new Reservoir product line. The plan is to start to ship these product is roughly a year.

GE is very interested in having their new product provide them with a way to gain entry into the electricity storage market. The key reason for this interest is because it is forecasted that this market is going to generate tens of billions of dollars in revenue over the next decade. What makes this market even more attractive for the GE product managers is that the prices of lithium-ion batteries have been dropping sharply as they have started to become commonplace in devices such as smartphones and laptops.

What All Of This Means For You

The product manager’s product manager job description is telling them that the fact that the economies of scale are starting to make manufacturing of lithium batteries more economical means that it is starting to become more viable to use them to store electrical energy on a large scale. As an example of this, lithium battery packs used to cost US$1,000 per kilowatt hour at the start of the decade. However, they now cost between $250 and $300 per kilowatt hour. It is falling prices like this that makes the introduction of the GE Reservoir product the right product at the right time.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: What can GE do to get people to notice their new product over competing products from Siemens and Tesla?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Just imagine if you were a product manager for Target stores. You would be responsible for the success of a brand that has over 1,800 stores sprinkled throughout suburban areas everywhere. However, you would have recently bumped into some problems. Sales at your stores have just taken a dip for the first time in a couple of years. It’s starting to look like you need to take some steps to change things up and get more people to come to your stores if you want your product manager resume to keep looking good. What are you going to have to do as a product manager to get things back on track?

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