“We ran the numbers and never bought a lift truck without a Li-ion battery after that!”. Warehouse Manager.
One of the leading US dairy producers made the switch to OneCharge Lithium-Ion batteries to ensure uninterrupted multishift warehouse forklift fleet operations in temperatures ranging from -30°F to 70°F.
The Company featured here is one of the country’s largest branded food and beverage companies with 13 manufacturing plants throughout the United States.
In 2018 the Company was looking into ways to improve its operating efficiency and safety. Freezer and Cooler environments with low temperatures put a lot of strain on lead-acid batteries resulting in long charging hours and frequent disruptions of daily operations.
The switch to Yale trucks powered by OneCharge FROST Li-ion batteries was smooth and did not require any operational or infrastructure changes. As a result, the operations management saw an increase in their forklifts’ runtime and a major decrease in charging and overall battery maintenance time. Workplace safety has also improved.
This dairy producer, with almost 200 years in business, has grown to become one of the leading national dairy producers with the highest operational and safety standards. Although electric forklifts are the best choice for food manufacturing and personnel safety, the lead-acid batteries were creating constant issues. Besides acid spills and fumes in the course of daily maintenance, lead-acid technology has an inherent weakness – these batteries lose up to 33% of their power in a cold environment (30°F), and up to 50% in a Freezer enduring its brutal -20°F. Taking into account that a lead-acid battery can’t go under 20% of discharge, and a rigid charging schedule of 8 hours of charging and 8 hours of cooling, the fleet performance was obviously suboptimal.
The uptime increase has become a real issue for the company with the 2 shifts operations when batteries needed to be charged and changed in the middle of a shift. “There was a lot of frustration!”, said Steve Castrignano, NITCO Sales Manager, one of the leading national dealers of Material Handling Equipment.
How OneCharge Lithium Batteries Helped
When Steve Castrignano from NITCO introduced the facility management to the new Li-ion technology, management had already known about this technology for years. The Warehouse Manager was, however, apprehensive regarding the actual performance of Li-ion batteries in the cold environment. There were no benchmarks and other cases to review of Li-ion batteries operating in similar applications.
Steve started with a full power study of the equipment application, including an analysis of data including charging time, maintenance time and full ROI calculations. He came up with a “one truck – one battery” design based on Li-ion power solution, and a new setup for the chargers much closer to the operations.
The Company decided to start with a Demo battery to make a data-driven decision. The OneCharge Lithium solution features advanced data capabilities. The battery’s BMS (Battery Management System) provides insights on the battery State of Discharge, exact timing and duration of charge and discharge events and calculates total Ah throughput. This allowed Steve to calculate the useful lifetime of the battery accurately, but also helped make the decision on the voltage and capacity best suited for the specific operation!
After a few weeks of operation, the actual usage data from the Demo battery was clear – a battery of a bigger capacity is required for optimal performance. The 630Ah capacity recommendation was updated to an 840Ah.
OneCharge offered FROST I batteries for lift trucks operating in the Cooler environment. These batteries have thermal insulation of the cells, allowing them to safely operate at around 30°F and occasional trips into the Freezer. These batteries need to be charged outside of a Freezer.
The Freezer operations required OneCharge FROST II batteries, which can operate at temperatures as low as -22°F, and never have left the Freezer, including charging time! These batteries have a thermostat-controlled heater to warm the cells, the cells are insulated and the case is sealed to keep out dust and condensation. Opportunity charging during any break and lunchtime provides top performance to a Li-ion battery at any given moment, one, two or even 3 shifts a day!
Summary. Results, ROI, and Future Plans
This dairy producer branch now operates forklifts powered with OneCharge Li-ion Batteries specifically designed and customized for each operation – FROST I and II for Freezer and Cooler environments and Standard American Lithium for regular ambient temperatures.
The Warehouse Manager reports a slight increase in their lifts runtime, and a massive decrease of charging and overall maintenance time. The safety improvements are also important – there are no more risks of acid spills and fumes or battery swapping-related risks. Other company facilities are looking closely at this case and some are already on the way to make the switch to Li-ion.
Any major stress on the economy and business propels the trends in technology that were already building momentum in a “peaceful” time. Companies are looking for ways to improve efficiency as a matter of survival, not just a “nice-to-have” or “expendable” environmental initiative.
Efficient Li-ion batteries are replacing the old lead-acid technology. Tried-and-tested lithium solutions are no longer newcomers and we will see accelerating adoption of Li-ion batteries by all players in material handling over the next few years.