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Battery Changing is Changing | The New Normal

Thursday, 11 March 2021 ( #1016 )
Carney Battery Handling Ltd. (CBH) has developed a fully automated battery change system for mainstream material handling equipment. Based on a long pedigree of automated battery change solutions for automated guided vehicles (AGVs) established in 2004, CBH has utilized its expertise in this technology and made it available for forklifts, pallet trucks, and warehouse trucks. Businesses with a fleet of electric material handling equipment (MHE) such as pallet trucks, order pickers, reach trucks and forklifts, and operate a multi-shift work pattern, are remarkably familiar with the need for spare batteries and battery changing during the working day. Managing a material handling fleet with spare batteries can be complicated and expensive if not done correctly. Historically, the predominance of batteries used in these applications were flooded lead-acid with 8-12 hours recharge with the need for regular maintenance. There have since been major advancements in lead battery technologies with the introduction of low or zero maintenance technology, higher capacity for longer run-times, and faster/opportunity charging capability with advanced lead solutions such as Thin Plate Pure Lead (TPPL). The industry has also seen the emergence of alternate technologies like hydrogen fuel cells and lithium-ion batteries, both giving the opportunity to 'refuel' in the truck. These new technologies can be attractive for businesses that have the infrastructure and refuelling time needed. However, for businesses that operate at a high intensity, a battery changing system would be more suitable. Major Considerations Safety Traction batteries are HEAVY and often fall outside of manual handling regulations for most countries. The safety of truck operators and staff involved in battery changing is of paramount importance, therefore a system that provides the highest degree of safety and ease of operation is needed. The systems also prevent damage to your assets such as batteries, forklifts and ancillary equipment. Battery Change Time Many recognize that changing batteries in your MHE is an essential part of keeping your multi-shift operation business running, but do they consider that the productivity of a truck stops from the time it leaves the workstation to the time it returns with a fresh battery? Additionally, the cost of the truck driver and battery room operator must be considered. Keeping that down-time as low as possible can have a significant impact on your profits! Fully automated systems score points in this area. How Much Space Will I Need for a System? Warehouse and manufacturing space is expensive. CBH puts a big focus on reducing the amount of space you need to devote to your battery charging room, with proven results of reducing customers' battery room size by as much as 70%. New construction warehouses today often have internal heights of 10m or more to utilize high level storage. It makes sense to adopt a similar approach with your battery changing system and CBH can design multi-level battery storage and charging racks, which will release valuable floor space. Deciding to invest in a battery changing system will bring operational and cost benefits to your business. Choosing the right supplier is also critical - get it wrong and it can be very inconvenient and expensive. Not All Battery Handling Systems Are Born Equal! CBH has been designing and manufacturing innovative and robust battery handling solutions for over 35 years. All engineering, customizations and automation development is done in-house. This complete end-to-end management puts the needs of our customers foremost. As with any piece of mechanical equipment, battery handling equipment needs regular servicing to maintain its reliability and efficiency. CBH has a network of distributors and service partners across the world to keep your equipment running at its best. Our battery racks include a 10-year warranty, plus 10-year warranty on all our electro-magnets. What Is a Fully Automated Battery Changing System? So-called fully automated systems appear in many guises on the market. Some claim to be fully automated but only certain aspects are automatic, as they still rely on having an operator on the machine to perform specific functions. CBH's fully automated system is truly what it states to be, and operates completely driverless. The truck driver whose battery is being changed stands on a pressure mat many metres away from the battery changing operation after he has prepared his truck for a battery change. Battery changing process flowchart:
Why Choose a Fully Automated System? The Hard Facts
  • Drastically reduces the time to change a battery, resulting in less down time for the truck and driver, and a lower impact on lost productivity
  • A dedicated operator on the change cart is not needed - it drives itself. Therefore, you can redeploy these staff. Note that a 24/7 operation typically requires five full-time staff to man the battery room, accounting for holidays and sickness coverage. This is a huge potential saving in man hours
  • Space saving - multi level systems can release valuable floor space for your core business
The Hidden Benefits
  • Fully automated change carts have precise auto positioning which means less damage to your assets, including batteries, plugs and cables, battery storage racks, trucks and even the change cart itself
  • No more manual handling of heavy batteries eliminates any possible risk of injury to your staff resulting in sickness cover costs, incident reporting and re-training costs, not to mention exposure to costly personal injury claims
Let's Talk Numbers Understanding the benefits means you can start to work out the cost savings. Let's look at a typical grocery distribution centre operating 24/7, moving an average of 1 million cases of goods per week with 100 trucks, a fleet of 300 batteries (1 battery per shift per truck) and a battery changing room with a man-aboard change cart. We will convert this to a multi-level fully automated system;
  1. The staff that are dedicated to work in the battery room can now be redeployed - this will save 168 hours of labour cost per week.
  2. Precision and speed of change should reduce battery changing time. If you shave approximately 2 minutes off each battery change, it amounts to: 2 minutes x 200 battery changes per 24hrs x 7 days = 46 hours per week
  3. This means your trucks and drivers are standing idle in the battery room for 46 hours less per week, increasing productivity.
One can also factor in some cost savings for using less floor space and put a value on some of the hidden benefits, such as damage and staff sickness. Undeniably, we see fully automated systems offer an impressive return on investment. The New Normal Every distribution engineer around the world is asking themselves what is the new normal going to look like in every aspect of their business. We'll focus on one; what is the most cost-effective solution to power my industrial forklift fleet? The questions are many and the answers are few, however they all have one common theme; what will be my total cost of ownership over a 4-5 year period and is this a capitol purchase or a part of my equipment lease? The list below are the prevailing questions based on our interactions with large national account end-users. Consider these for your operations.
  1. How many shifts will we run? (Typically, 2-3)
  2. Do we have time to opportunity charge? If so, how do we organize the charge times, floorspace and power distribution to the chargers?
  3. Is our forklift demand too high for opportunity of fast charging? How may kilowatts can reasonably be returned to the battery during your work shift?
  4. Do we size the fleet for our annual peak shipment demands or rent additional equipment during these busy seasons?
  5. How will we power our MHE fleet? Lead Acid Batteries / Hydrogen Fuel Cells / Lithium-Ion Batteries/ Thin Plate Pure Lead.
  6. What are my annualized costs? Consider equipment, energy costs maintenance and labour to operate my fleet.
  7. If I am a 3PL provider, how long is my contract with this customer and how much infrastructure cost do we want to spend in a leased building? Can we re-deploy these assets to another location or are they site specific?
  8. How much is the total energy cost to operate my fleet (cost per kilowatt or BTU in the case of Hydrogen)?
When you measure your options, the fully automated battery changing system is a safe, effective and, in many cases, the lowest cost of ownership solution to support your MHE fleet.
Register now for our "Battery Changing is Changing" Webinar.
CARNEY BATTERY HANDLING Office: 1 (905) 564-0303 Toll Free: 1 (866) THE-BULL Fax: 1 (905) 564.0313 Web: www.carneybatteryhandling.com Social Media: LinkedIn | Twitter | YouTube | Facebook
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Article Authors: John Lawton John Lawton is the Vice President of Sales for Carney Battery Handling (EMEA). A background in global business expansion and product development, accompanied by 30 years' experience in the industrial battery market, John brings a wealth of knowledge & market expertise to the industry. Jim Lane Jim Lane is the Vice President of Sales for Carney Battery Handling (USA). A leading expert in battery technologies with over 25 years experience in the industry. Jim has contributed to the innovation of battery handling as a chief development officer, where he helped develop the first automated battery handling system.
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