Environmental sustainability in warehousing is more than a socially conscious trend; it is quickly becoming an industry-wide mandate. Green warehousing has reached the mainstream, as is evident from recent sustainable storage facility commitments from major corporations such as Walmart Canada and Goodyear.
Energy efficiency consultants often focus on the most visible ways to reduce consumption, emphasizing high-efficiency lighting, solar panels and rainwater management. These are all great ways to save money and reduce your operation’s carbon footprint, but given that battery charging comprises around one tenth of a warehouse’s total electricity costs, reducing energy use through innovative battery handling equipment is an important — and often overlooked — part of any green initiative.
Here are a few tips to enhance operational sustainability during battery handling tasks:
When possible, go manual.
While this is a simple concept, it’s certainly worth restating before moving on to more complex (and costlier) fixes. Manual battery transfer carriages provide safe and relatively quick battery change-outs without an additional draw on the electrical grid.
Paired with battery transfer carts and roller stands, smaller operations can limit electrical usage without sacrificing efficiency. Of course, this is not always a productive option for larger facilities, but it’s an essential consideration in small warehouses.
Manage battery fleets.
Without detailed battery tracking, battery room attendants sometimes waste electricity by overcharging or by choosing undercharged batteries during change-out.
Sustainable operations use data-based fleet management strategies to keep energy use under control. A computerized battery fleet management system like the Fleet Tracker ensures that batteries are properly charged and compliant with maintenance schedules. This also reduces the need for forklift battery replacement, further limiting your operation’s footprint.
Computerized battery room systems also keep detailed usage information, and with enough data on usage and charge levels, facility managers will be able to match lift truck fleet sizes and battery collections to their needs with precision. This eventually cuts into resource requirements — sometimes in a dramatic fashion.
Best of all, battery room fleet management systems are just as beneficial to your bottom line; industry journal Material Handling & Logistics reports that computerized fleet trackers can reduce costs by 25 percent or more and cut the number of required batteries in half.
Recycle battery wash wastewater.
Electricity is not the only nonrenewable resource consumed in forklift battery management. Battery washing results in contaminated water, which must be processed according to modern environmental regulations.
Using battery wash stations and cabinets to contain wastewater and control splashing is a great start, but for the lightest environmental footprint possible, consider an integrated Recirculation/Neutralization System, or even an on-site Wastewater Recycling System.
Green Warehouses and Electric Forklift Technology
Not sure where to start with your green initiative? The good news is that if your facility uses electric lift trucks, you are already making an environmentally responsible choice.
Electric lift truck fleets are far more sustainable than the most common alternatives. Electric batteries for forklifts produce fewer greenhouse gasses than any other power source, and they are recyclable — in fact, trade journal Food Logistics reports that more than 98 percent of the lead used in industrial batteries is recycled.
Leaders in the storage industry have noticed these advantages. Between 2007 and 2013, forklifts that run on batteries grew to 64 percent of the market in the United States and 70 percent in the European Union according to the Electric Power Research Institute.
These numbers suggest that the majority of the world’s warehouses and distribution centers are poised to make responsible commitments to environmental stewardship, starting with a few simple changes in the battery room. If your operation is onboard, you’re headed in the right direction.
DUTTON, GAIL. “Sustainable Warehousing.” World Trade: WT10023.11 (2010): 28. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 7 Apr. 2015.