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 battery room is an integral part of the day-to-day operations of any warehouse, and it is imperative to include its layout in the original floor plan of any warehouse. The location of the battery room should minimize the time spent traveling between the room and other 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, and technologies such as forklift battery changers and fleet tracking software can improve efficiency substantially.
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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 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.
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
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
- 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.
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 10% and 50% 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|
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 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 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 both static and dynamic shifts of the load while traveling.
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 20% will be over utilized. Under-utilized batteries will lose capacity due to corrosion on the plates. Over utilized batteries do not have time to cool and become over-heated, causing corrosion 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’ FleetTracker, 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 FleetTracker 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 FleetTracker 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 80% 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. The chargers must be mounted 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. 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. Non-conductive 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.
For a guide on battery room best practices, download our Best Practices.