If you operate forklifts today, odds are your fleet relies on electric power. An estimated 65 percent of forklifts in the North American market run on electricity. In Europe, that figure is 80 percent. The market for electric lift trucks is expected to expand by a compound annual growth rate of 7.1 percent through 2030, reaching a value of more than $39 billion, reports Goldstein Market Intelligence.
Most of these electric forklifts — up to 90 percent by some estimates — get their power from lead-acid batteries. This battery chemistry offers a compelling combination of low operational costs, long service lives, and safety. But lead-acid technology also requires particular maintenance and handling procedures to get the most value out of each battery asset.
That’s why managers of electric forklift fleets need a battery monitoring solution designed specifically for industrial lead-acid batteries. Here are just a few of the advantages of a lead-acid battery monitoring system — not just for protecting batteries themselves, but for more efficient operation throughout the fleet.
1. Ensure Proper Battery Rotation
Most lead-acid forklift batteries require a dedicated charge cycle: eight hours to charge, eight hours to cool, and, every week or so, a slightly longer equalization charge. Without monitoring batteries, operators may install a battery that hasn’t gone through the full cycle, leading to power loss during the shift.
But that’s not the only risk of poor battery rotation. As we’ve discussed in this blog, without an organized program of battery rotation, around 30 percent of forklift batteries are underused. This places additional stress on the favored batteries, shortening their lifespans, while leaving nearly a third of a valuable asset idle — while still paying for storage and maintenance.
A battery monitoring solution gives operators real-time data on where batteries stand in the charge cycle. Going one step further, a comprehensive fleet management system like BHS Fleet Tracker maintains a First In, First Out record to instantly identify the right battery for each change-out. Users identify those batteries through Operator Portal, accessed through a touchscreen tablet mounted directly onto the battery extractor — and Fleet Tracker is compatible for any side-extraction battery changer, including Automatic Transfer Carriages, Mobile Battery Extractors, or Operator Aboard Battery Extractors from any manufacturer.
2. Stick to Battery Maintenance Schedules
Lead-acid forklift batteries require regular maintenance, from watering cells to prevent plate oxidation to washing to avoid damage from leaked or vaporized electrolyte. Choose a battery monitoring solution that automatically prompts operators to complete these tasks according to the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule.
Fleet Tracker offers watering, washing, and equalization prompts to users through the Operator Portal. It also offers detailed maintenance reporting through the Web Portal, a cloud-based platform that gives managers crucial information about fleet health and operational capacity. By providing clear data visibility to both users and managers, Fleet Tracker keeps all batteries on schedule with the maintenance that improves service life and power output.
3. Right Size the Forklift Battery Fleet
Like any asset, there’s some cost to maintaining lead-acid forklift batteries. Surplus batteries add these costs without providing much benefit. At the same time, having too few batteries can keep forklifts off the floor, limiting facility throughput. But to keep your battery fleet at the optimal size, you need detailed information about usage. In other words, you need data.
Fleet Tracker collects this data with Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology, placing valuable business intelligence at your fingertips through the cloud-based Web Portal. There, the Fleet Tracker Facility Dashboard offers a real-time snapshot of total fleet usage. Users can run reports on available batteries per pool, trucks and batteries down for repairs, maintenance intervals, average change-out time, and more. If you consistently have six more batteries than you need in a given facility, you can move them elsewhere, or sell them. Likewise if you see battery shortages.
Data provides visibility, and visibility helps you optimize your processes. A comprehensive battery monitoring solution like Fleet Tracker collects that valuable data while also helping operators run a more efficient battery room. Interested in learning more? Contact a BHS at 1.800.BHS.9500 to schedule a webinar.