Other Voices: If you can track it, you can control it
January 11, 2012
Editor’s Note: The following column by Joe LaFergola, manager of business and information solutions, The Raymond Corporation, is part of Modern’s new Other Voices column. The series, published on Wednesdays, will feature ideas, opinions and insights from end users, analysts, systems integraters and OEMs. Click on the link to learn about submitting a column for consideration.
We spend a good part of our lives tracking things. We establish budgets to track our living expenses, we track packages and letters sent by the postal service to ensure they are delivered on time, we even track our food intake to ensure we do not overeat. Why does tracking work? Simple: It works because it makes us more conscious and aware of what we are trying to measure, and keeps us involved in managing the activities that help us meet our goals.
In our everyday lives, we need to keep up with so many things that very often we tend to forget what our main goal is and where are we going. We also tend to get off track on the way to our destination. Conducting a periodic review of our activities and actions allows us to spot trouble before it gets out of hand. Lift truck fleet optimization is no different.
One important aspect of fleet optimization is battery maintenance. Battery maintenance has the potential to offer great savings by following a few simple steps. Today, the cost of lead acid batteries can be as much as one-third of the cost of a new truck, yet this very valuable asset is often an afterthought.
A typical battery should last about five years or 1,500 charge-discharge cycles. A poor battery can contribute to unnecessary downtime due to frequent battery changes. Poor battery maintenance also can lead to downtime. There are a few simple and cost-effective things everyone can do to prolong battery life:
• Do not discharge a battery to lower than 20 percent of its capacity.
• Always fully charge a battery.
• Allow a battery to cool before using it in a lift truck.
• Ensure proper water levels are maintained and the battery is equalized regularly.
By following these simple tips, it is possible to increase battery life by as much as 33 percent. This can amount to considerable cost savings when multiplied across an entire lift truck fleet.
So how does one track this data to ensure regular battery maintenance? For small lift truck fleets with a few batteries, a simple clipboard with a schedule can be enough to track these items. For a more extensive fleet with many batteries and a multiple-shift operation, you may need to look for a system that will track these items for you. For example, a wireless vehicle monitoring system (VMS) with a battery monitor can provide the data you need to ensure proper care and maintenance of your batteries. The data gathered from the battery — such as amp-hour in and out, water level, temperature and equalization — can be passed to the VMS when the battery is put into the truck. The data is combined with other valuable truck data and sent across the warehouse wireless network. The data is then aggregated and various reports can be generated by accessing the information through a web-based interface.
The reports help track the necessary data to maintain good battery health and serve as documented proof that the end user has followed the manufacturer’s guidelines, thus supporting any warranty claims that may be filed. The ability to compile, access and analyze data about lift truck batteries helps facilities better manage batteries and lift truck fleets, ensuring the batteries play their role in helping to increase productivity and optimize business.