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The power of battery management

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Harold Vanasse, Senior Director of Marketing, Motive Power Global at EnerSys, explores how power management tools and service programs can improve warehouse efficiency.

When it comes to industrial battery operations, knowledge is power. The adoption of lift truck power management tools can provide operators with a real-time window into the condition and performance of their battery and charger fleet and deliver actionable intelligence to help increase productivity and reduce costs. This type of intuitive technology may also help right-size the equipment to prevent premature battery failure and unplanned downtime. Depending on the size, challenges and operational goals, there are a variety of battery management solutions that can deliver the knowledge needed to transform warehouse and Distribution Centre (DC) operations. Furthermore, enlisting support from a trusted service provider can help analyse the data retrieved from these state-of-the-art battery management systems to inform a confident decision in the battery and charger selection.

Asset analysis begins with battery monitoring

The way to begin capturing relevant data on the basic health and performance of the battery is to start with some form of monitoring device. For example, the Wi-iQ battery monitoring device by EnerSys is installed directly on the battery cables and communicates with remote sensors on the battery to capture and continuously share vital battery operating data via Bluetooth with facility managers. Among the information collected to measure the fleet are Amp Hours (AH) charged/discharged, voltage levels, temperature levels and battery electrolyte (or “water”) levels, where applicable.

In addition to data collection, analysis and sharing, battery monitoring technology can also guide the necessary corrective action in the event of any misuse or neglect. Improper use typically occurs during watering, charging and equalisation, especially if conducted at the wrong intervals. A task performed too infrequently can damage the battery and compromise its performance and longevity; performed too frequently, it will waste labour time. Both will create preventable costs and interfere with productivity.

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Results delivered within easy reach

Of course, simply capturing this data with a monitoring device is useless unless it can be shared directly with the operator and turned into actionable intelligence. The EnerSys Truck iQsmart battery dashboard features a lift truck-mounted display module that gives drivers a live view of key battery operating conditions, including State-of-Charge (SOC), temperature, electrolyte levels and remaining work time. It reads data via Bluetooth from the monitoring device installed on the battery to display a range of alerts, alarms and more to help optimise battery operation.

There are also cloud-based software programs available, such as the EnerSys E Connect mobile app, that allows operators to view and share battery data from the monitoring device directly on their smartphone or tablet. 

Optimised maintenance, charging and changing

Additionally, power management tools can set proper intervals for watering, charging and equalisation, and by monitoring if, when and how operators deviate from these procedures. They may also help facility managers establish the best battery maintenance and charging practices and identify when, where and how to improve employee performance and refresh training. Always be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for battery care and handling and direct any questions to your battery professional.

Battery management tools can also give operators fewer tasks to manage through comprehensive automation of battery charging and selection. By monitoring chargers and tracking when batteries are connected, how long they charge and how long they cool, these solutions can prioritise battery selection and indicate which battery to choose. Automating the process eliminates over- and under-use of certain batteries and avoiding excessive use will ultimately extend runtimes and lifecycles. Automation also eliminates the cost of changing batteries too often. Optimal scheduling of battery charging also fosters greater energy efficiency in the use of material handling equipment, including the energy used to charge the batteries. 

To further improve efficiency, battery manufacturers are developing informational platforms to analyse operations and quantify specific requirements of the vehicle fleet. EnSite modeling software, for example, uses procedural details collected from a site survey to perform a battery performance review, identify operational challenges and determine the best power solution, or combination of power solutions, for optimal fleet efficiency. The software compares different battery chemistry options to determine the lowest Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) solution for each unique application. It can also help forecast long-term power needs and guide the selection of technology upgrades based on reliable data.

Truck-iQ-1.jpgPreventative maintenance and asset sustainability service programs

Implementation of a service and support program is also instrumental in warehouse efficiency. A program such as this includes a total evaluation of overall operations – from battery and charger efficiency assessment and equipment analysis, to remote access to a range of operational data. Comprehensive asset sustainability programs provide operators with detailed reporting, along with recommendations to increase productivity and drive operational improvement.  

Conclusion

Regardless of the size of the warehouse, power management tools contribute to more efficient fleet operations. A battery monitoring and management system provides immediate notification when a battery needs attention, which enables timely action to avoid damage that can jeopardise fleet reliability. A partnership with a power management supplier that uses modelling software, backed by trained service technician support, will ensure intelligent choices in the selection of batteries, chargers and related equipment.

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