Lift Truck Tips: Battery management replaces gut reactions and guesswork

Three practices can help users take the bite out of ‘the vampire in the battery room.’

By ·

Anyone with a battery room could probably identify some things they’d like to improve. The expensive hub for increasingly expensive batteries can have a big impact on productivity, both by the minute and over the lives of those batteries. More often than not, the immediate needs of an operator will trump any overall program to monitor and maintain the health of individual batteries. To put it mildly, this can result in some waste. Harold Vanasse, vice president of sales and marketing for Philadelphia Scientific, puts it less mildly.

“I sometimes say there’s a vampire in the battery room sucking the life blood out of an organization,” says Vanasse. “There’s a lot of money spent there, but it’s often overlooked.”

The problem with battery room waste is that it’s very hard to quantify, especially when some wasteful acts are perceived as a quick way to get back to work. Vanasse says each of the lean methodology’s eight types of waste can be found in a battery room, and that battery management systems can cut into all of them. “As it rapidly spreads through other operations, lean thinking has not yet made its way to the battery room,” he says. “But this is the information age, so it’s only a matter of time.”

There are three primary steps a battery room owner can take to improve: rotation, watering and right-sizing. Rotation is often confused with a first-in, first-out (FIFO) approach, which is not ideal. With FIFO, there’s no way to tell if the first battery has completed its cycle, when it’s possible the second or third battery has. This can create a downward spiral of poorly charged batteries, less runtime and battery damage.

Just as poor rotation practices consist of guesswork and bad habits, battery watering is rarely optimal and can be just as damaging to equipment and productivity. “Some top off their batteries frequently, and some just water every Friday,” says Vanasse. “But it is possible to over-water and under-water a battery.”

The best time to water is after a full charging cycle, and it’s better to not simply use a bucket. Vanasse says about 70% of users water manually, at about one minute per cell. That adds up to more than 15 minutes per battery, whereas a battery watering system can ensure the job is done well in five minutes or less. Some can water an entire battery in just 15 seconds.

When a battery management system is installed, Vanasse said about half of users find they have too many batteries, and half don’t have enough. For operations with big seasonal shifts in volume, battery management system can inform battery inventory strategy year-round, as opposed to building a battery room around seasonal peaks. “The old philosophy is one charger and three batteries for each lift truck,” says Vanasse. “By pooling and effectively managing those batteries, it’s often possible to reduce battery inventory by one per lift truck.”

About the Author

Josh Bond, Contributing Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

Subscribe to Modern Materials Handling Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Find out what the world’s most innovative companies are doing to improve productivity in their plants and distribution centers.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Latest Whitepaper
Hydrogen, the Future of Materials Handling
Large, successful organizations are integrating hydrogen fuel cell technology into their lift truck fleets and benefiting from lower operational costs, reduced emissions and improved reliability.
Download Today!
From the October 2016 Issue
Brownells’ new Iowa distribution center has taken touches—and miles—out of the order fulfillment process and increased throughput with near 100% accuracy.
System Report: Brownells new DC is flexible and responsive
Pallet Usage Report: Pallets Remain Critical in the Modern-Day Warehouse
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
Pallets: Supporting Product, Processes and the Enterprise
The smallest leak in performance or cost can bring a lean, nimble and speedy supply chain to a halt. During this 30-minute webcast we'll examine how Modern's readers use pallets to keep the wheels turning as they maneuver a road filled with sharp edges and potholes.
Register Today!
Brownells: Designing for Efficiency and Growth
Brownells’ new Iowa distribution center has taken touches—and miles—out of the order...
Industry celebrates National Manufacturing Day
Fourth annual Manufacturing Day is a grassroots effort by U.S. manufacturers to improve the public...

American Eagle Outfitters’ omni-channel journey
The fashion retailer has used warehouse execution software and automation to create a true...
The data-driven lift truck
Now that manufacturers and distributors are using the data from their automated systems to drive...