If you don’t rotate your car tires, you can expect to pay for early replacements thanks to premature wear — and likewise, you’ll need a good forklift battery rotation schedule to get the most out of your forklift fleet.
The benefits of battery fleet management systems are well documented. Fleet management software provides a clear plan for battery rotation, helps managers trim battery collections to the demands of their fleet, ensures the completion of key maintenance tasks, and provides vital data that can be used to improve overall productivity. Still, many facility managers don’t implement strict battery rotation schedules, which can have substantial long-term consequences.
If you neglect forklift battery rotation, here’s what you can expect over the lifespan of your fleet:
Some Batteries Will Be Overused
Most warehouses are too busy for forklift operators to spend too much time on battery changes. The emphasis is on efficiency, and forklift drivers often grab the first battery available in order to get back to work as quickly as possible. This can lead to an over-reliance on batteries closest to the end of the charging aisle.
Since each forklift battery is only good for a certain number of cycles (usually around 1,500), overuse will dramatically decrease working life spans. Overused batteries are also less likely to carry a full charge when they’re sent into service. Without a full charge, the battery only provides a fraction of its potential output for the cycle. Even worse, chronically undercharged batteries allow lead sulfate crystals to set on the plates, permanently reducing capacity.
Some Batteries Will Be Underused
It stands to reason that when certain batteries are overused, others won’t get used enough. Underused batteries cost operations ongoing storage and maintenance fees without providing any revenue-generating service in return. Ideally, batteries should be chosen for changeout solely on the basis of a full charge and an adequate cooling interval. Without fleet management software, it’s hard to apply this standard.
The inefficiency compounds with each underused battery in your collection. This can quickly become significant; trade journal Modern Material Handling reports that, without proper battery rotation practices, 30 percent of forklift batteries will be underused. That’s a lot of money to leave sitting on the rack.
Battery Change-outs Take More Time
Warehouse productivity depends on having lift trucks on the floor. Battery change-outs shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, but without proper rotation systems in place, staff can end up spending much more time in the battery room. When operators have to mull over messy paperwork or inspect every battery on the rack before deciding which to use for the shift, valuable production time is wasted.
Lower Battery Run Times
Without an effective battery rotation plan in place, battery run times suffer. Industry publication Logistics Management describes a battery performance study that found an average operating-time increase of 30 minutes per battery when fleet management systems were implemented. Taken across a whole fleet, this is a significant gain — especially because it complements extended battery life spans.
Reduced Compliance with Maintenance Schedules
If battery plates don’t remain submerged in electrolyte, they’re vulnerable to lead sulfate crystals and oxidation, two forces that destroy capacity quickly. Fleet management software helps to ensure that operations don’t neglect watering schedules.
The same can be said for the periodic washes recommended by battery manufacturers. Fleet management software keeps detailed records about all maintenance tasks, preventing the damage that comes from falling behind on watering and washing batteries.
Operating without a battery rotation plan in place can lead to all sorts of inefficiencies, and these problems usually go undocumented. The waste that comes from poor battery management is invisible — until someone notices that brand-new forklift batteries don’t seem to last as long as expected.
From this perspective, forklift battery fleet management software isn’t a luxury. It’s a crucial consideration, and whether you opt for a simple system of battery monitors or implement a comprehensive solution like BHS Fleet Tracker, some form of battery rotation management will help you keep essential equipment on the floor while limiting your long-term expenses.
Bond, Josh. “Lift Trucks: With batteries, waste can be too much or too little.” Logistics Management. Peerless Media Network, 11 May 2011. Web. 15 June 2015.
Vanasse, Harold. “Other Voices: Three major impacts on battery room operation and maintenance – #1: Battery rotation.” Modern Materials Handling. Peerless Media Network, 23 Dec. 2014. Web 15 June 2015.