By Harold Vanasse, Senior Director of Marketing, Motive Power Americas, EnerSys®
For decades, material handling operators have primarily relied on one battery technology to keep their fleets running: traditional flooded lead acid. While these types of batteries have earned a reputation in the industry as a viable power source and still remain so today, they require a level of “hands-on” care to maintain them. Operators are now presented with additional battery options – including those designed with Thin Plate Pure Lead (TPPL) and Lithium-ion (Li-ion) technology – that not only enhance operations with dependable, cost-effective power, but also deliver minimal labor requirements. Combined with operational management tools that enable remote, 24/7 battery monitoring, we are entering a new era of warehouse and Distribution Center (DC) operations where virtually maintenance-free power needs are at the forefront of innovation.
TPPL and Li-ion Battery Technology
When it comes to successful operations, battery technology is key as the industry evolves and adapts to new trends and unexpected challenges. With e-commerce continuing to soar, operators are in search of solutions that are less dependent on labor but still drive performance. This has resulted in an uptick in Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) usage to minimize human interaction and keep up with recent operational demands. To ensure seamless operation throughout the entire workday, these next-generation vehicles require a dependable power solution, ideally one that’s compatible with the low- or no-contact practices now being adopted by material handlers. TPPL and Li-ion battery technology are two premium options that provide reliable power without the restrictive upkeep requirements of watering, long equalize charges and battery cleaning tied to conventional flooded lead acid batteries. Moreover, both of these chemistries can also be opportunity-charged during breaks or at the end of the shift – further eliminating downtime and labor-intensive hours spent swapping out and manually charging the battery on a rack in a designated charging room. The reduced maintenance and inventory costs associated with TPPL and Li-ion battery technology may be substantial, and the increased truck uptime may contribute to a better bottom line.
Insight Through Intelligent Power Management Tools
In the past, data surrounding battery productivity and performance was tracked manually, often leading to unintentional error, making it challenging for vehicle operators to accurately assess and implement the correct battery technology. Today, power management tools are available that can now provide a variety of real-time information, including battery temperature levels, amp hours charged and discharged, voltage and electrolyte levels, that can be easily tracked remotely on a mobile device or on a lift truck-mounted dashboard. The vital information captured through these tools can be transformed into actionable intelligence that can be used to increase battery and charger life and reduce overall operational costs. It can also help end-users sustain productivity by right-sizing their battery and charger fleet.
Conclusion – Options Open Up Opportunity
The underlying theme to new battery technology and power management is suitability and convenience for the end-user. With the introduction of innovative, hassle-free power solutions like TPPL and Li-ion technology, operators are presented with more options to optimize operational productivity and performance, while allowing them to focus on core business operations versus dedicating time to manual battery management. The chemistry selected is dependent upon the power demands of the vehicle. In some cases, operators are implementing a hybrid solution that utilizes multiple battery chemistries for different applications within the same warehouse to achieve optimal power performance. As always, end-users should be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for battery care and handling and direct any questions to their battery professional.
EnerSys, a global leader in stored energy solutions for industrial applications, manufactures and distributes energy systems solutions and motive power batteries, specialty batteries, battery chargers, power equipment, battery accessories and outdoor equipment enclosure solutions to customers worldwide. www.enersys.com.
Harold Vanasse is Senior Director of Marketing, Motive Power Americas, EnerSys®.