Forklift Battery Room Best Practices
The BHS Battery Room Best Practices page is a collection of recommendations made by individuals experienced in battery room design for a nonspecific battery room. Every battery room is different, and each recommendation should be thoroughly considered prior to execution.
The forklift battery room is an integral part of day-to-day operations, and it is imperative to include its layout in the original floor plan of any warehouse. The location of the battery room should minimize time spent traveling to and from work areas. If the industrial lift truck fleet is dispersed throughout the warehouse or distribution center (DC), a centrally located battery room would be most efficient. For companies where industrial lift truck usage is primarily isolated to a specific area, it is recommended to locate the battery room near the area of highest usage. In larger environments, multiple battery rooms should be considered.
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The Battery Room
The battery room should be located in an area that allows adequate space for traffic flow in and out of the room. Traffic aisles should be wide enough to allow industrial lift trucks to pass one another as required and should stay clear of obstructions. The size of the battery room is important. The planned area must be sufficient for the size of the fleet it is servicing and should allow room for expected future growth.
The battery room must have adequate electrical service and should be located near a main power feed, as distance from the power feed will increase costs. Chargers, ventilation, heating, cooling, and battery handling equipment all require electricity and should be considered when calculating the power requirements for the battery room. Plumbing, including drainage, will also be needed inside the battery room for battery filling and washing, as well as safety eye washes and showers.
Forklift Battery Handling Equipment
Weight is a significant safety concern with industrial lift truck batteries. Incorporating handling equipment to move, store, and maintain the batteries must be a priority in the planning of any battery room. Even the smallest battery fleet should have battery handling equipment available for maintenance purposes.
The ideal battery changer will efficiently handle battery changes as often as required. Eliminating a line of industrial lift trucks waiting for changes increases productivity. Considerations for selecting the appropriate battery handling equipment include:
- Overhead Extraction vs. Side Extraction
- Daily number of battery change-outs
- Space available for the system
Overhead Battery Extraction
A fork attachment and lifting beam along with sufficient charging racks and/or service stands are suitable for the following applications:
- Fleets requiring overhead extraction
- Limited battery changes (1 or 2 trucks)
- Removal for maintenance
As an alternative, a small portable gantry crane would increase efficiency by eliminating the need for a second available industrial lift truck. Larger systems requiring multiple changes per day would benefit from a track mounted, powered gantry crane.
Side Extraction for Forklift Batteries
For fleets with side extraction, choices are similar, but more options are available. Small park and charge operations may only require a manual transfer carriage and battery service stand for battery maintenance purposes. Multi-shift operations with a small fleet and minimal battery changes per day may find that a powered transfer carriage will make the battery changing process more efficient than the manual transfer carriage.
For maximum efficiency in larger fleet operations, a fully powered Operator Aboard Battery Extractor will be required. Operator Aboard Battery Extractors are available in multi-level systems. Deciding which system is right depends on space availability and the number of batteries to be stored. Ceiling height of the battery room may eliminate some options. Depending on the charger quantities, specifications, and stackability, the system layout may require additional charger storage stands. Increasing the system height can save between ten percent and fifty percent of floor space.
It is common for an industrial lift truck and battery fleet to consist of multiple types and sizes. It is important that the battery handling equipment is designed to safely transport all of the batteries in your fleet. The following chart may assist in determining the proper BHS equipment according to the number of stored batteries in the warehouse.
BHS Equipment Application Guide
|Number of Batteries Stored||BHS Equipment Recommendation||Change-out Time||Type of Extraction|
|1 – 99||BE-SL (Single Level)||2 – 3 minutes||Operator Aboard Side Extraction|
|100 – 149||BE-DS (Double Stack)||2 – 3 minutes||Operator Aboard Side Extraction|
|150 – 299||BE-TS (Triple Stack)||2 – 3 minutes||Operator Aboard Side Extraction|
|300 +||BE-QS (Quad Stack)||2 – 3 minutes||Operator Aboard Side Extraction|
|Up to 50||MBE (Mobile Battery Extractor)||2 – 3 minutes||Side Extraction|
|15 – 18||ATC (Automatic Transfer Carriage)||3 – 5 minutes||Side Extraction|
|2 – 3||BTC (Battery Transfer Carriage)||5 – 8 minutes||Side Extraction|
|2+||PGC (Portable Gantry Crane)||10 – 12 minutes||Overhead Extraction|
Note: These are general guidelines. Each engineered system has its own unique requirements which may create exceptions to these guidelines.
Maintenance on Battery Handling Equipment
Daily inspections by trained operators along with Planned Maintenance are vital to the battery handling equipment’s functionality and operator’s safety. Any defects or damage found during the inspection should be addressed prior to operation. All fluid levels should be checked and filled accordingly as well. Frequent inspections support the prevention of system malfunctions while Planned Maintenance, such as lubrication and cleaning, ensure proper system operation. It is imperative that all battery handling equipment sustain a scheduled maintenance program. The battery handling equipment’s owner and operator manual should be referenced for maintenance checklists and intervals. In addition, the BHS Service School is offered as an excellent tool to advance the knowledge of the battery handling equipment’s operators and technicians.
Battery Extractors wired for the Industrial Internet of Things provide condition-based reporting and enable preventive maintenance. These capabilities anticipate necessary maintenance tasks, allowing managers to schedule them with less downtime and more efficient operation.
The Industrial Internet of Things in the Forklift Battery Room
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) refers in part to smart equipment collecting data on its own performance. Assets such as Operator Aboard Battery Extractors include extensive sensor arrays. They collect and collate data, transmitting it to software systems that provide users with useful intelligence on a wide variety of operational outcomes. Advantages of IIoT-enabled battery room infrastructure include:
- Greater control over equipment access.Operators of Battery Extractors must log into the digital workstation in order to power on equipment. Managers can set and adjust permissions, granting only trained operators access to battery room infrastructure. Sign-in logs allow managers to see who is using equipment and when. Productivity reports allow managers to uncover inefficiencies and address them with real-time intelligence.
- Predictive maintenance and condition-based reporting.Sensors in IIoT-enabled equipment track performance parameters, alerting managers in real time when safe thresholds are exceeded. This allows operators to plan and perform maintenance operations more effectively than traditional plans. A 2016 report from Aberdeen Group found that condition-based and predictive maintenance approaches improve equipment effectiveness by nearly 90 percent. These IIoT features reduce maintenance costs by up to 13 percent and boost return on assets by up to 24 percent, the report found.
- Push notifications provide real-time feedback and remote shut down.Sensors in IIoT Battery Extractors alert managers to problems with the system, including dropped batteries, running off track, poor oil condition, and more. Managers can shut down equipment through a digital portal, accessible on any mobile device.
In addition to the sensors and communications technologies built into assets themselves, Fleet Management software improves efficiency and protects batteries in the Industry 4.0-ready battery room. Learn more about battery Fleet Management in the Forklift Battery Section of this document, available below.
Battery Room Floors
The floor of the battery room should be code approved flooring which resists acid damage. Consult applicable building codes and regulations issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and others. The BHS Operator Aboard Battery Extractor operates on a fixed travel path that requires a defined flatness specification.
An uneven floor in a fixed travel path causes vibration, flexing, and stress on equipment resulting in decreased productivity of the Operator Aboard Battery Extractor. Lift heights of battery extractor systems magnify the effect of an uneven floor. As elevation increases, so does the amount of flex and strain on the machine. A floor with an appropriate F-min rating provides for safe and proper operation of your equipment. Consequently, you will save money with fewer repairs, fewer parts purchased, less downtime, and less potential for personal injury or equipment damage.
A single number, F-min, is used to measure the floor flatness and levelness for defined traffic paths. F-min rating results from four different F-numbers representing the floor’s longitudinal levelness, longitudinal flatness, transverse levelness, and transverse flatness. The floor is measured along the exact travel path that each wheel of the Operator Aboard Battery Extractor follows. Changes in elevation along each wheel path are used to determine whether the floor meets the specified F-min requirements. Any area of the path that falls outside of the specification is identified for correction as part of the measurement process. As systems increase in height, any defects in the floor further amplify dynamic shifts of the load while traveling.
Seismic Ratings for Battery Room Infrastructure
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, 42 out of the 50 American states “have a reasonable chance of experiencing damaging ground shaking from an earthquake in 50 years.” Earthquakes pose particular hazards for forklift battery rooms, where rack failure can result in spilled electrolyte, considerable crushing risk, and fires.
Battery System Stands and Charger Stands should be designed to withstand the force of a seismic event and rated for safety according to the earthquake hazard in the area. For parts of the world with high seismicity, that means choosing battery racks that feature a minimum base shear coefficient of at least 10 percent of the weight of the racking system.
United States model building codes use probabilistic ground motion maps to rate structures for seismic resistance. However, manufacturers of forklift battery racks frequently use the seismic zone ratings included in the 1997 Uniform Building Code (UBC) to describe their products’ durability in the event of an earthquake.
Seismic zones were numbered 0 through 4, with the higher number equating to a greater risk of serious ground shaking due to earthquakes. Even in areas with relatively low earthquake risk, fleet managers should use Battery System Stands and Charger Stands that are approved for use in Zone 4, as this represents the greatest chance of preventing damage during natural disasters.
Forklift Battery Wastewater Disposal
Water used to wash forklift batteries becomes contaminated with traces of lead, sulfuric acid, and other pollutants. For this reason, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers used wash water “hazardous waste” and strictly regulates disposal.
The federal law that governs hazardous waste disposal is called the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, abbreviated RCRA. Under RCRA regulations, the producer of hazardous waste is responsible for that waste “from cradle to grave.” If an unscrupulous hauler disposes of contaminated wastewater improperly, the generator of that waste — the owner of the forklift batteries that rendered the wash water hazardous — may be held accountable and issued fines or even jail time.
For this reason, many large fleet operators and forklift battery dealers handle wastewater in-house. A variety of containment and treatment equipment allows users to dispose of battery wash water in full compliance with the RCRA and local environmental regulations.
This equipment includes:
- Battery Wash Stations – These walled units contain and collect the water used to wash forklift batteries for later treatment and disposal.
- Battery Wash Cabinets – Wash Stations collect runoff and overspray, but they still require users to wash forklift batteries manually. Battery Wash Cabinets automate the process in an enclosed chamber, cleaning and drying batteries while collecting all wastewater for treatment, reuse, or disposal.
- Wastewater Recycling Systems – A Wastewater Recycling System treats used forklift battery wash water, generating clean water and a non-leaching clay sludge that’s certified landfill-friendly.
Wastewater Recycling Systems work by adjusting the pH of contaminated water, capturing heavy metals and pollutants in flocculent, micron filtering to remove effluent, and subjecting water to an ozone purification process to remove bacteria. The resulting clean water can be fed back into a Battery Wash Cabinet to create a closed-loop water reuse system. It can also be safely and legally emptied into the sewer system. A bentonite clay tablet contains heavy metals and contaminants and is RCRA-compliant for disposal in landfills.
Improper battery rotation is a leading cause of reduced battery run time and reduced battery life. Tests have shown that when battery selection is left to an operator, thirty percent of batteries will be under utilized while another twenty percent will be over utilized. Under utilized batteries will lose capacity due to sulfation on the plates. Over utilized batteries do not have time to cool and become over-heated, causing plate material loss which leads to a shortened life. Proper rotation of all batteries is required in order to ensure maximum battery life and run time. Selecting the battery that has the longest cool down time ensures proper rotation.
First-in-first-out systems, such as BHS’ Fleet Tracker, select the next available battery based on the battery’s time on the rack. The battery which has been on the rack the longest will be logically selected, as it is the battery which has had the longest cool time after charging. This type of system requires no input from the chargers or the batteries, so there is no additional wiring, or modules to connect. The system can track multiple battery types. The addition or removal of batteries, racks, or trucks can be done simply at any time. The Fleet Tracker system also alerts operators when batteries require equalization, washing, or watering based on parameters set by the user during setup. Unauthorized use of the extractor can be prevented by requiring a user to login to the Fleet Tracker in order to activate machine travel. All transactions are recorded and all information is available for review in a variety of reports. These reports track battery and truck usage, maintenance intervals, and operator performance. Review of the battery and truck usage may identify shortages or overages in fleet availability. This allows the battery room to be “right-sized”, avoiding costly wastes of time, space, and energy.
Multiple charger monitoring systems, like the BHS NAB-2000, utilize the same first-in-first out theory, but do so by monitoring the charge state of all of the batteries on charge. Remote modules on each charger monitor charger output and queue the batteries in the order charging was completed. Again, the battery with the longest cool down time is shown as the next available. If no batteries have completed charge, batteries are displayed in order of most fully charged. By monitoring the charger output, the NAB-2000 can also alert operators when a charger does not come on, when chargers shut off prior to the battery reaching an eighty percent charge, or when chargers do not shut off after 15 hours of runtime.
Regardless of the system chosen, ensuring that batteries are properly rotated, even by simply recording information manually, will not only increase the lifespan of the batteries but also the overall efficiency of the battery room.
To save floor space and comply with OSHA regulations, chargers should be mounted to shelves or stands designed for that purpose. Many charger layout variations are available depending on the size of the fleet and space requirements. Traditional cabinet style chargers must be anchored securely in all four corners, regardless of the quantity. Chargers can often be stacked, but it is important to follow all manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations. Vertical style chargers that are designed to be bolted to a wall are required to be securely mounted to their brackets. These brackets can also be attached to vertical charger stands or to strut channels on BHS stands. Manufacturer’s instructions must also be followed when spacing the chargers to allow adequate ventilation during use.
When positioning battery charger cabinets, consideration should be given to the charger DC cable lead length. It is important to design the battery charger layout in a manner that enables the charger DC cable leads to connect to the battery, yet ensures that the charger manufacturer DC cable lead length specification is not exceeded.
Accommodations should be made for charger maintenance during the design of the battery room layout. The incorporation of a catwalk and/or multi-level charger shelves into the overall system design allows for easy accessibility to the chargers.
Safety equipment is essential in the design and planning of the battery room. Proper planning is necessary in order to provide a safe and productive environment for those operating and maintaining the equipment. Hydrogen gas can reach dangerous levels in the warehouse. It may be required to install hydrogen gas detectors which will activate ventilation and alarms when this occurs. Installation of emergency wash equipment is imperative. Personal protective equipment must be available to machine operators and maintenance personnel. This equipment includes acid-resistant face shield, goggles, gloves and apron. Nonconductive tools for maintenance must also be supplied. It is necessary to keep spill kits on site to control spills of dangerous materials such as battery acid.
As part of all safety programs, it is important that warehouse management properly train personnel. Operators must be trained on the proper operation of the battery handling equipment. This training includes daily inspections which help to determine that the equipment is in proper operating condition and safe for use. Personnel must also be trained on the use of the personal protective equipment. Appropriate signage denoting locations of safety equipment must be present. Other signage marking travel paths, pedestrian warnings and other safety related information are also recommended.
The proper training and management of the battery handling equipment is crucial in determining its lifespan and efficiency. It is recommended to assign a dedicated battery handling equipment operator to manage all industrial lift truck battery change-outs as well as the battery handling equipment’s maintenance. A dedicated operator is responsible for performing the daily inspections, planned maintenance, and all repairs thus heightening his or her familiarity with the battery handling equipment and its functions. Implementation of a dedicated operator increases productivity and ensures the battery handling equipment’s preservation.
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Download BHS’ Forklift Battery Room Best Practices.