Home>Lift trucks>Truck power>Paying the price

Paying the price

28 March 2024

Forklift battery & LPG tank change-outs cost time, money and throughput. EnerSys says advanced battery technology is the solution.

INCREASING COSTS and higher customer expectations are cutting into profits, so companies often put heavy pressure on manufacturing and warehousing operations to improve productivity while controlling costs. This often means achieving increased throughput levels with the same or fewer resources.

But even a state-of-the-art forklift driven by the most skilled operator may still be costing the operation too much money if it’s powered by liquid propane (LPG) or lead acid batteries that require changing-out during work hours.

Historically, traditional lead acid forklift batteries in single-shift or lighter-duty applications could be charged between shifts or off-hours, so change-out was not necessarily needed. However, in applications that run more than 1,500 hours per year, this recharging pattern will generally not meet performance needs, so these same traditional lead acid batteries will need to be changed out during active operating periods.

Changing-out traditional lead acid forklift batteries and LPG tanks has hidden costs that are often overlooked when choosing a forklift power source. Wasted time, worker safety risks, and wasted floor space associated with change-out all add up to hurt your bottom line.

Worker Safety Risks

Forklift batteries can weigh 500 to 2,000kg - requiring dedicated changing equipment and space inside the facility. Hoisting batteries in and out of forklifts opens the risk of exposure to accidents.

In combustion-powered forklift equipment, the average LPG tank weighs approximately 18kg and needs to be routinely lifted up to about one metre onto its back deck. With a single tank change per shift, an operator will lift more than 5,000kg in one year - the weight of an entire forklift - opening up the potential for back injuries, severe muscle strains and other injuries. How risky is routinely picking up that much weight to that height for your shorter operators, or those with pre-existing back injuries?

Wasted Time

Traditional lead acid batteries and LPG tanks require time daily to change-out as well as time to perform routine maintenance, costing you throughput. LPG-powered forklifts have internal combustion engines and powertrains that are more costly to maintain and must be taken out of operation for longer periods to perform maintenance. Traditional lead-acid forklift batteries require a weekly watering programme which occupies the time of assigned employees or hard cost of a third-party service provider.

A typical three-shift operation could require a battery change or LPG tank change once per shift. If the change-out process takes an average of 15-20 minutes, a single forklift may be down and non-productive for 45-60 minutes every day - just for battery or LPG tank changes. For facilities with large fleets of equipment, those hours can equal hundreds of thousands of pounds every year in labour and lost throughput. Additionally, with traditional lead acid- powered forklifts, performance drops as the battery discharges and its state of charge diminishes the equipment’s speed during the latter portions of a shift - making it less productive and the operator is finally forced to go and swap batteries again.

Wasted Floor Space

Industrial floor space is expensive, so building additions are often financially unfeasible. This leaves growing operations to seek new ways to increase their throughput within the same facility footprint.

Most often, LPG tanks are stored in racks outside, taking up space where additional inbound or outbound trucks, yard spotters and other productive logistics equipment could be staged. A traditional battery room and equipment to accommodate changing traditional lead acid batteries occupies indoor space that can account for thousands of square feet that don’t generate revenue. 

If you could get rid of your battery room, how would you use that freed-up space? In many cases, a facility may be able to increase revenue-generating SKUs or even rent out extra space for profit by eliminating a battery room.

Eliminate Changing by Switching

More robust forklift battery technologies such as lithium-ion (Li-ion), thin plate pure lead (TPPL) and flooded lead acid designed to “fast charge” can eliminate changing-related costs by using opportunity charging instead of changing-out LPG tanks and traditional lead acid batteries. With these more advanced options, equipment operators can simply plug into chargers during brief non-operating periods, such as work breaks, lunch times and between shifts, so there’s no unnecessary downtime. In many cases, it is recommended that chargers be placed conveniently throughout the facility for quick and easy use by operators. The constant recharging also helps to keep these solutions at a higher state of charge to help ensure consistent performance throughout a shift with no required watering.

Tired of paying the price for changing batteries and LPG tanks that drag on your productivity and throughput? EnerSys says it can conduct an application study and use simulation to help a business pick its optimum power solution!

URL: LINK to Increased Throughput