Lift truck tips: Plug-in lift trucks
November 23, 2010 - MMH Editorial
If time is money, then increasing speed is probably a good investment. Too often, exhausted batteries force lift truck operators to hurry up and wait while the recharge station works its eight- to 10-hour magic. In cold storage applications, this rhythm can have an even larger impact on the efficiency of an operation, making fast-charging battery technology an appealing alternative.
Fast-charge isn’t for everyone, admits Scott McLeod, president of Fleetman Consulting, but many companies that might benefit from the technology, especially in cold storage environments, have yet to take the first step.
“They just keep doing it the same old way,” says McLeod. “They don’t even investigate. But everybody is trying to do more with less.”
For any fleet, McLeod says the first step is to use energy consumption meters to determine the base level of energy use. Over a suitable sample period, from one week to two months, a picture will begin to emerge of the daily patterns of battery use and recharge time.
Fast-charge equipment can cut charge times by as much as 75%, says McLeod, from eight hours to two, for instance. But charging need not occur all at once. If an operator connects a lift truck to the fast-charger during breaks, lunch and shift changes, the truck could remain operational as many as 24 hours per day.
Because of the substantial costs of cooling in cold storage facilities, all-day lift trucks could help make every minute count. Multi-shift environments are more likely to benefit from quick-charge technology, says McLeod. This is especially true in cold storage, where a battery will hold a charge for an average of 25% less time. There are lots of intangible savings as well, says McLeod, such as the cool air lost each time a truck exits cold storage for a battery swap, and the labor costs associated with such journeys.
With energy meter data in hand, managers might find that the warehouse’s work cycle needs some tweaking to align with the fast-charge rhythm. If fast-charge is a good fit, managers might eliminate spare battery inventory, increase productivity and improve energy efficiency. And replacing the traditional battery exchange process with a simple plug might result in much happier employees, McLeod suggests.
“You can just imagine the manpower and the agony of getting those batteries out of the lift trucks and into the charging stations and back, especially when those batteries are at below-zero temperatures,” he says.
On the other hand, plug-in lift trucks remove the need for heavy lifting. And, as many cold storage managers are well aware, nothing chills productivity like worker fatigue and unattractive duties.