Lift trucks: With batteries, waste can be too much or too little
May 11, 2011 - MMH Editorial
For most experienced battery room and lift truck operators, the battery swap process is a cinch. Sure, it can be a pain to take that trip to the far side of the DC, but once there, the process of changing a battery is almost instinctive. Unfortunately, according to Joe Posusney, engineering manager for Philadelphia Scientific, the speed of a battery change is rarely the most important factor, and those instincts are likely a major detriment to equipment health and a serious drain on productivity.
“One customer told me his battery room operators retrieve the battery that feels the hottest, reasoning that it must have the most juice,” says Posusney. “Of course that’s the exact opposite of what you want to do. It’s an old wives’ tale that has no basis in fact. Or they’ll pick the newest battery, whether it’s fully charged or not, expecting better performance from newer equipment. Other times, they just go for the closest battery.”
The result is a battery room where the batteries closest to the front are over-used, a few batteries in the middle are used at roughly ideal intervals and the back half are underused. Battery management software and hardware can eliminate the guesswork by monitoring the state of charge of each battery and directing the battery room operator the optimum battery for each change.
“There is a right battery to take,” says Posusney.
He cited a study of battery performance three months before and three months after the installation of the battery management system. Afterward, batteries produced an average of 30 minutes more operating time per charge. Supplementing this increased productivity is a free, Web-based software that tracks the usage of each battery and can generate a variety of reports in an instant.
Combined with hardware that can help identify whether a battery is connected in the first place or whether the charger cable is even functional, such systems allow an organization to right-size their battery inventory.
“Waste can be too many batteries or too few,” says Posusney. “You always want to optimize. This system keeps assets in play.”
Fast-charge or opportunity charge setups would benefit little from this sort of battery management, says Posusney, but depending on the scale of an operation and the customized blend of software and hardware, battery management systems can generate returns in as little as seven months.