Boost productivity and profit by using a battery management system

October 12, 2011
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Distribution centers using battery-powered forklifts and pallet trucks can reduce their battery count with an automated battery management system.

Getting data on a specific battery is as easy as reading a bar code. Source: EBatt Systems Div.
An advanced battery management system can immediately reduce the required number of forklift, pallet truck or AGV batteries by up to 50 percent. This decrease in the number of batteries minimizes the overall cost of charging and maintaining batteries by 25 percent or more, according to Terry Orf, administrative vice president at Temple, TX-based Materials Transportation Company (MTC).

A battery management system can also boost staff productivity. Changing batteries at the proper time rather than during peak periods, like shift changes, can add an extra 30 minutes or more of productive work per forklift each day. The money saved by increasing the efficiency of the floor operations and the reduction in maintenance and charging costs can result in an ROI (on the purchase of the management system) in as little as nine months, adds Orf.

According to Orf, battery management systems should track at least seven basic data points:

  1. An asset ID for the lift vehicle
  2. An asset ID for each incoming battery
  3. An asset ID for each outgoing battery
  4. An ID for each individual operator
  5. A time stamp for the moment each battery transaction begins and ends
  6. How long each truck ran on each battery, obtained from the hour meter (run-time)
  7. The charging location for the outgoing battery.

While collecting the above data, battery management systems should also time-stamp every change of state as a battery is charged, cooled, installed and used. This provides the key metric of run-time, adds Orf.

“Knowing run-time, or how long a forklift actually moves or lifts product, is critical since it tells you how much actual work you got out of your battery,” says Orf. “Clock-time, or how long a battery has been sitting in a forklift, is relatively meaningless unless you have run-time as well.”

What’s needed is to turn data into useful information. The ability to slice, dice and interpret data gives managers the visibility into the operations they need to create savings and encourage higher productivity. While some battery asset management systems are limited to as few as a dozen reports, others offer more than 50 standard reports, plus the ability to customize and interpret information with optional executive summaries, operations reviews and business consulting, says Orf.

Evaluating battery performance on run-time, for instance, does more than allow organizations to quickly zero in on which batteries may be worn out or simply need to be watered. It’s a great overall indicator of how an entire operation is running, especially when coupled with metrics like operator performance.

To get the most out of a battery management system, there should be user-defined reports exportable to spreadsheets and other programs. Also necessary is the ability to sort data within reports without having to export it. This flexibility is required to manipulate the data as needed and provide a manager with information that is unique to their particular operation, adds Orf.

“One Fortune 500 distribution warehouse that ran three batteries per forklift cut their battery use in half based on analysis of their operations, runtimes and other factors,” says April Jones, vice president of MTC’s EBatt Systems Division. “They were able to reduce their inventory by 60 batteries for $250,000 in savings.”

For more information, visit EBatt Systems , 866-953-2288.

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