Ceramic Fuel Cell Limited (CFCL) was formed in 1992. CFCL is an Australian company that is at the frontier as far as Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) technology is concerned (Ceramic Fuel Cells Limited, 2010). SOFC technology utilizes natural and renewable gas to manufacture and produce fuel cells that provide energy, which is sufficient, of high quality, and of low emission (Ceramic Fuel Cells Limited, 2010, p.2). SOFC technology boasts improved electrical efficiency of up to 60% and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 60 % in comparison to coal. CFC Company has developed fuel cells competently using the most advanced technology, which allows it to control water as well as fuel inputs, and at the same time, it allows the company to control electricity and heat, which are outputs. Having done this, CFCL is gearing up for commercialization as it is pursuing partnerships in Europe and Asia that will enable it to popularize its products.
Business and Technical Issues at CFCL
In today’s world, there is increased environmental awareness making the environment a very important factor to consider when launching a new product, especially in the global market. CFCL’s fuel cells reduce carbon dioxide emissions significantly making them a source of clean energy. This fact can make a good basis on which to base its marketing campaign. Another issue that CFCL will have to consider is the affordability of its product whether it is for domestic or commercial purposes. Fair pricing will attract customers and fairly relieve them of the costs of moving to this new technology. Ceramic Fuel Cell Company considers marketing as a very important component of its business strategy. Through marketing, CFCL will popularize its product to the public or specific people it targets to sell the new technology (Ford, 1988).
Because CFCL is pursuing partnerships in Europe and Asia to work in manufacturing, production, and use of its products, the choice of partners is crucial to its business strategy. CFCL will have to find credible partners, which are conversant with its activities and who understand the company’s objective. Labor availability and costs are other issues that CFCL will have to consider in its business strategy. As it explores new markets for its products, it is clear that there will be a need to hire experts who are well acquainted with SOFC technology. Labor has to be available in these new markets and its cost has to be put into consideration.
Another important factor to consider in its business strategy will be the legislature in different markets, especially that which affects its operations. A search for knowledge is important as it can help the company avoid losses in the form of expensive lawsuits. Search lawsuits can cripple its operations and possibly affect its short or long-term objectives negatively. The Final non-technical factor to consider in CFCL’s business strategy is the availability and cost of raw materials in these new markets. Production and manufacture of its product will be possible if raw materials are available and at a cheap rate.
One of the technical issues to consider in its business strategy is the safety of the SOFC technology (Stacey & Ashton, 1990). IT is important and the technology is not harmful to its producers and users. Another important technical issue to consider is its production system, which has undergone a Failure Mode and Effect Analysis test. This will ensure that the products produced meet the required standards and ensure easy debugging in the remote event that a failure occurs.
The computerization of its technology is another technical factor that CFCL has to consider in its business strategy. Computerization of some of the aspects of its technology can affect positively its business strategy. Computerization can allow for a Graphical User Interface (GUI) that is easy to use in monitoring the progress of the fuel cells whether domestically or commercially. Another technical aspect to consider in its business strategy is the compatibility of its product with already existing electrical and heat appliances. If an incompatibility is imminent, they must review the design of their product to eliminate the incompatibility. Otherwise, they may consider launching into the market appliances that are compatible with its SOFC technology.
It will also be important to educate people in whatever way is appropriate on the technological advancements made in the new product and thus how to carry out maintenance of the product if need be. Users need to be aware of how to take care of the product and who to consult if a problem arises. Another important technical aspect is the disposal of the fuel cell once it is used. CFCL will have to be clear on how to dispose of the cells to avoid a health or environmental catastrophe.
The following are the kinds of questions expected to be put forward to CFCL during a technology audit.
Since there are products intended for home use, thus the public qualifies as the target market. Another target market is small-scale project owners interested in heat and power to run their projects in consideration of the environment. Does your product conform to the International Standards Organization (ISO) standards? The ISO has a set of standards that are used to vet production systems and the subsequent end products to ensure that they are not harmful to humans. Since CFCL has successfully developed fuel cells together with their fuel stacks and a monitoring mechanism this is in line with ISO requirements as far as SOFC technology is concerned, which is why the appropriate answer to this question Should be that CFCL strictly abides by ISO standards
Does the product conform to FCC rules and does it allow for external interference that can cause undesired operations? It is important to comply with the FCC rules and to allow for justifiable interference. For instance, if the product fell in the wrong hands then authorities should be allowed to take charge accordingly. CFCL needs to agree and accommodate such interference to maintain the integrity of their products and learn how they can improve them. Thus, the proper answer to this question from CFCL should be that their products allow such interference.
Do you have a proper campaign strategy in place to educate the target market on the product, its use, maintenance, and disposal? The target market should know what they are using and how to use it. It is also important that they know how to take care of it and how to dispose of it once they are done using it. This is done to promote safety to the users and aid in creating a cleaner and safer environment. Owing to this point CFCL should do without any doubt an extensive campaign to educate its target market on these issues.
Has an FMEA test been carried out on the production system? FMEA tests are vital in launching new products such as the CFCL’s fuel cells. They can minimize or eliminate failures in the production and manufacturing of such products (Dovach, n.d.). They guarantee products that conform to the agreed standards set for the manufacturing and production of the item. FMEA tests will be beneficial to CFCL and the users of its products that is why they should ensure that these tests are accommodated in their organization.
Impact of Business and Technical Issues on R&D Activities
CFCL fuel cells reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 60%, which is a significant achievement; however, there is room for more improvement. This room for improvement has prompted the CFCL’s R&D department to analyze the design and structure of the cells to cut more emissions. The right approach for CFCL would be to set aside funds and encourage research in better designs that reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
CFCL fuel cells have to be safe for humans. Thus to improve safety and better handling the R&D department may propose an extra casing for the cell. In addition, the R&D department can come up with a safer mechanism to dispose of the cells after their use. Again, the CFCL has to make the funds available for such proposals.
On the issue of carrying out FMEA tests, once it is agreed that they should be undertaken and the faults identified, the proper procedures should be followed and documentation presented by the R&D team. These tests are expensive thus, CFCL should again avail funds for these to guarantee a quality product. If the fuel cells comply with FCC rules and allow for interference then their design must allow for easy dismantling and flexibility. It is up to the R&D team to make the design of the fuel cell in this manner. Again, CFCL should make the funds available to finance the research of such a design.
Research & Development at CFCL
CFCL is currently undertaking its research and development alone. CFCL is the leader in SOFC technology that is relatively new. IT is therefore important for the company to have a robust research strategy and team. This is to ensure that the company’s fuel cells are continuously improving. CFCL is without any doubt defining the frontiers in SOFC technology. Hence, it is therefore important that it manifest strong research capabilities to maintain its leadership.
The research part of CFCL is responsible for coming up with the design of the fuel cells. The development part of CFCL is responsible for producing the product by the design. Mistakes at this point cannot be allowed. It is therefore important that the company’s developmental capabilities are strong. This guarantees that the product produced does not deviate from the design and thus performs as desired.
CFCL has to ensure that it has strong commercialization capabilities to guarantee profits. It must have the right strategy from manufacturing and production to the distribution of the fuel cells. A plant should be in place that allows for large-scale production of the fuel cells at the same time avoiding overproduction. Transport should be made available to allow for easier distribution of the fuel cells. Marketing should be carried out to boost sales. Proper inventory should be carried out regularly to monitor production
Industries of Energy & Material Sector versus (ICT) & Pharmaceuticals Industries
CFCL’s SOFC technology can be expected to turn the situation around for industries in the energy and material sector. The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry is a large consumer of electrical energy. A transition from traditional sources of electrical energy to SOFC technology can be costly. However, the fact that the fuel cells boast high-energy efficiency is an attractive factor for the industry. If you consider the fact that these fuel cells will be distributed for home use with such efficiency and clean energy then you can predict a lot of ICT activity. In addition, given that these are cells, there is no geographical limitation as to where they can be used and this can power the penetration of ICT services to places that were otherwise remote and devoid of ICT services.
When you consider the pharmaceutical industry, the case is slightly different. The industry should benefit from improved electrical efficiency. But then again the fact is that SOFC technology produces clean energy, which should then affect the sales of drugs negatively. Clean energy means reduced risk of diseases that in turn implies that there is reduced need for drugs that were otherwise needed. So, arguing it this way implies that you can predict a win-lose situation for the pharmaceutical industry.
CFC is one of the global companies that are credited for employing stack and SOFC technologies to produce ceramic fuel cells globally. CFCL Company has successfully been able to produce and distribute fuel systems, which are viable economically. The ability of the company to test services competently, handle materials, and its expertise in powders has made it to be one of the major players in the industry. CFU’s prowess in the industry has made it a world class and that it has presented several business opportunities to the company.
Ceramic Fuel Cell Company operates in Europe and Australia. The company specializes in ceramic research in Australia while in Europe it deals with zirconia powder. According to My Share trading (2010), the technology of Ceramic Fuel Cells is quite reliable, is of high quality, and is efficient in terms of energy and it also exhibits low emission of electricity from renewable fuels such as methane, liquid petroleum gas and natural gas. The technological development that Ceramic Fuel cell possesses is too advanced to the extent that the company projected that by 2006, it would release a type of fuel cell generator. My Share trading (2010) argues that ceramic fuel cell company has both international and domestic competitors in the field fuel cell systems manufacturing. CFC Company derives its customers mainly from the appliance (electrical device) manufacturing industry. It has been established by the My Share trading (2010) that micro-CHP technologies are most preferable in America, Europe as well as Asia.
Ceramic Fuel Cell (2010) reiterates the fact that not all markets in the world embrace with high esteem the m-CHP appliances empowered by the SOFC. However, CFC states that Japan and Europe are the leading regions that use fuel cell m-CHP appliances. The company therefore has a strategy in place aimed at being actively involved as well as working with appliance and utilities manufacturers in Japan and Europe. For instance, in Denmark more than 50 percent of the power generated in the country is derived from Distributed Generation capacity. There is even more business opportunities for Ceramic Fuel cell company in Europe because in Europe the cost of electricity is very high. Consequently, European Union aim to reduce drastically carbon footprint and to increase energy efficiency at the same time, thereby making Ceramic Fuel Cell company a potential player in reforming fuel industry in the region.
The company is actively involved in the German market since regulatory framework in the country encourages investment as well as the use of the systems of the micro-CHP. The seriousness of Germany in the deployment of microchip systems is manifested in the funds allocated for the same. The government of Germany has allocated 500million Euro to be used in the energy sector to improve energy efficiency in the country as well as to develop use of cell powered CHP fuel. In the United Kingdom, according to Ceramic Fuel Cell (2010) the government has projected to have a total of 10GW electricity of cell powered CHP fuel installed. The country has set aside millions of Great Britain pounds to be used in the development of microgeneration technologies in the same industry. United Kingdom has also pledged to invest 1 billion GBP to set up a research institute that is expected to develop the m-CHP powered fuel projected to contribute about 40% of United Kingdom’s electricity in the next forty years. Japan is another suitable market for the company due to its high electricity cost and suitable policies of the government on m-CHP powered fuel development.
Ceramic Fuel Cell Company is considered one of the most progressive companies in the world in terms of technological development especially in the development of fuel cells. Today the company is considered one of the successful companies in development of SOFC system. Many of the methods used to generate electricity have serious negative impact on the environment. However, power generated by wave power, solar and wind is environment friendly. Likewise, SOFC, which is fuel cell generate electricity and have minimal impact on the environment.
Ceramic Fuel Cells Limited. Ceramic Fuel Cells Limited (2010).Web.
Dovach R. A. [n.d] Perspective on Quality. Web.
Ford, D. (1988). Develop Your Technology Strategy. Long Range Planning, 21(5), pp. 85- 95.
My Share trading.com (2010). Ceramic Fuel Cells (CFU). Web.
Stacey, G.S. & Ashton, W.B. (1990). A structured approach to corporate technology strategy. International Journal of Technology Management, 5(4), pp. 389-407.