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January 8, 2024

Proper care and maintenance of battery systems means better cost control, predictability and safety

The uptime of equipment in manufacturing facilities, warehouses and distribution centers is essential for operational productivity. But the care and maintenance of the motive power systems necessary to limit downtime is perhaps the most overlooked element of operations management.  

Batteries that power lift trucks, reach trucks and order pickers typically represent about 20 percent of the per-unit cost of a truck. Battery system maintenance is as important as scheduled maintenance of brakes, tires and hoses, but too little attention is paid to best practices for their care and preservation.

As labor shortages continue, understaffed facilities are skipping protocols for regular battery maintenance, such as watering—the most important step in maintaining the life and peak performance of a lead-acid battery.

According to a study by Forbes, unplanned downtime costs industrial manufacturers as much as $50 billion a year, with 82 percent of companies surveyed reporting at least one unplanned downtime incident over the past three years.

Research shows that preventive methods are better at boosting uptime and keeping production running, but many facilities rely on reactive maintenance that is performed after equipment has broken. In the case of motive power, simple maintenance tasks such as the watering of batteries often are not performed at all.

As long lead times for lift trucks linger, companies are no longer able to mask motive power issues with short leases and equipment exchanges. Manufacturing and distribution facilities are realizing that motive power can no longer be an afterthought in the dynamic world of material handling. And equipment suppliers recognize that power management is essential to a positive customer experience.

Carolina Handling has established a Power Management Division to develop processes that ensure batteries for rental and renewed equipment are properly maintained. It also offers motive management power programs for customers called POWER UP. Watch the video below for tips on proper care and maintenance of lift truck batteries.

“The main thing is to have a process for watering batteries,” says Carolina Handling Distribution Supervisor Harman Rutledge, who recommends watering batteries after every charge.

“In your place of business, if you have a process of watering each time after a charge, then you know that batteries always have the appropriate amount of water in them,” he said.

Another important tip is to visually inspect the plastic housing and cables of forklift battery connectors for breaks, cracks, cuts or frays before charging. For example, knotting is an indication of intense heat that could be caused by a malfunctioning water valve.

Another is to disconnect the lift truck battery at the end of each shift to preserve its charge. A best practice for preserving the life of a battery is to never let it drop below 35 percent charge, Rutledge says.

An intentional approach to battery care and maintenance will lead to better cost control, predictability of operations and improved safety. That’s why Carolina Handling has designed an innovative approach called POWER UP to help customers better manage their motive power systems.

Three POWER UP packages have been developed to meet varying customer needs, and each can be further customized for unique operations. These programs include:

  • Scheduled Power Management which offers foundational battery maintenance, watering, equalizing and insights into improved power utilization.
  • Standard Power Management which features all components of the Scheduled program plus costs such as parts, freight, bad cells and misuse.
  • Comprehensive Power Management which features all components of the Scheduled and Standard programs with an included battery and charger, plus automated data collection, hardware, reporting and ongoing consultation, all as a monthly service.

Go here for more information on scalable motive power management programs from Carolina Handling.