Thomas Bawart began his career in the family business at Banner in 1986, where he trained in all relevant departments. He took over as CEO in 1996. He studied business and economics at the University of Vienna and earned a Master’s from the university in 1991.
How did you get involved in the lead battery industry?
Banner is a family-owned company, now in its third generation. It was rather obvious I would get involved, although I always had the option to do something else. But it was probably the grid casting process that initially peaked my interest in the business.
What is the biggest change/challenge you've seen in the industry?
The industry continuously changes! Not at a very fast speed, compared to other battery technologies, but if you look back, there is not only evolution, but quite a bit of revolution. When I first started in the industry in the late 80s, the standard product in Europe was a dry charged battery, many of them built by hand. Production was slow, and the used grid alloys were antimonial; you had to maintain the batteries and refill water.
Now, with different continuous plate-making technologies, it is a new world. Assembling has also become highly automated. The whole production process is clean and lean, and productivity has increased enormously. And best of all, the battery now is maintenance-free and nearly defect-free.
What do you value about BCI?
For many years I have attended the BCI’s Annual Convention + Power Mart Expo. I, and the few other Europeans in attendance, always thought the convention was more or less an excuse for going to Florida to play golf. And, of course, there was the supplier reception!
In the last few years, this has changed quite a bit. They now partner with Eurobat to advance industry lobbying efforts and exchange knowledge. I am now on the BCI Board to support these initiatives.