Lead-acid batteries are absolutely vital to forklift operations, but can also lead to major headaches for fleet managers playing a guessing game with optimal battery inventory. Having too few, or even too many, batteries can negatively impact performance and operational productivity.
These tips will help you determine and maintain the right number of lead-acid batteries needed to efficiently and proactively support your fleet.
1. Monitor utilization and efficiency through right-sizing
Not only can right-sizing your fleet help improve utilization and efficiency, it can also help you determine the number of batteries you need. One of the best ways to do this is to monitor MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) through forklift monitoring devices or a power study. Doing so will allow you to compare how many miles forklifts are driven per shift or day to help identify an ideal number of batteries needed. Every right–sizing exercise you conduct with your fleet should include battery utilization information.
2. Establish (and enforce) a battery management system
Establishing a system that will allow you to manage the usage, charging and inventory of your batteries is key. Implementing a First-In First-Out (FIFO) rotation will help you establish a battery charging process to avoid frequent change-outs. Your strategy can be as simple as a log-in sheet, or as sophisticated as a battery management system that provides detailed data. The important thing is to adequately enforce whichever strategy you choose.
3. Let data guide decision making
A good forklift fleet management system will help you uncover the wealth of data that trucks can collect. Unpacking data can help you understand optimal forklift utilization, which can be extremely valuable in right–sizing your fleet and understanding actual battery usage. Data is also useful in identifying trends that can help you proactively manage battery inventory with changing demands.
4. Keep tabs on battery health
Assessing battery health is more than just a daily check of battery water levels. Through a forklift fleet management system, you can remotely monitor the health of your batteries, proactively manage maintenance issues and budget for replacements. Even if you choose not to implement monitoring technology, you should still document the condition and capacity level of each battery through annual tests.
5. Consider your chargers
Data provided by your battery and fleet management systems will help inform the number of chargers needed to support the fleet. The number also depends on the type of chargers you use – conventional, fast or opportunity charging. Another important consideration to make is if you will need chargers that support lithium-ion technology in the future.
6. Never stop monitoring your fleet
Once you’ve come to a decision about the appropriate number of batteries for your operation, it is important to continue to ensure your fleet’s power requirements are met. As operations and fleets change, so will your battery management efforts. By conducting regular reviews of your efforts, you will be able to better manage your resources and make decisions about the necessary number of batteries.