Lift truck battery maintenance is often an afterthought when it comes to warehouse productivity. You’re busy focusing on the actual machinery and moving as much inventory as possible — but what you may be forgetting is that your machinery can’t operate at optimal levels if the power source behind it isn’t strong.
This simple oversight can be incredibly costly and reduce company-wide efficiency. How? Let’s explore a few major ways that productivity can be limited by poor battery maintenance, and what you can do about it.
The Basics of Battery Maintenance
First, let’s cover the three simple steps that are at the core of successful lift truck battery maintenance:
- Discharge. Discharging a battery involves reversing the charging process and using the potential electric energy to drive other electronic components.
- Recharge. Recharging the battery means that you are storing potential electric energy in it, essentially “refilling” the energy that has been depleted from use.
- Water. Watering a battery is typically required every week or two and ensures that each cell of the battery has the right amount of fluid in it. If it doesn’t, it won’t be able to operate at full power.
Major Ways That Poor Battery Maintenance Limits Productivity
If you aren’t regularly following the lift truck battery maintenance steps listed above, serious operational and productivity issues can arise, including:
Reduced Lift Truck Uptime
The trouble with many warehouse operations is that their main priority is simply getting as much inventory out the door as possible. This often means that ongoing battery maintenance isn’t so heavily considered. However, you have to pay attention to both, as battery maintenance and productivity go hand in hand.
The reality is that warehouse efficiency can suffer if you don’t prioritize ongoing battery maintenance. Lift truck capacity is drastically reduced and maximum power cannot be utilized if batteries aren’t fully charged when you need them. It’s also frustrating when you’re faced with unanticipated downtime because poorly-maintained batteries are taking longer than normal to charge.
Decreased Battery Useful Life
Toyota’s senior electric product planning specialist, Martin Brenneman, tells us that the standard life of lead acid batteries is cut in half without proper maintenance. This means you aren’t getting the full life that you paid for out of your batteries, and will have to spend even more on new ones sooner than anticipated.
Additionally, when forklift batteries become compromised, and eventually inoperable, the machinery cannot be used at all. Even if you have spare forklift batteries, it takes time and labor to have to keep switching out underperforming batteries and charging them more frequently. This results in extra downtime, ultimately reducing the amount of time your forklifts are actually moving cargo and generating value for your warehouse.
Issues with Warranties
It’s not uncommon for warranties to be voided by suppliers if battery maintenance is neglected by the owner. Maintaining a fleet of warehouse equipment isn’t cheap to begin with, and when your forklift batteries are dying faster than they should be, those expenses will only go up.
Dealing with faulty batteries is already frustrating and expensive, and it takes your time and focus away from other responsibilities. However, it becomes even worse when damages and routine maintenance are no longer covered under your warranty — and you’re left paying more out-of-pocket for repairs than you may have originally expected.
Increased Risk of Injury
Lead acid electric forklift batteries can be dangerous for employees to handle when they aren’t properly charged and maintained. If a battery is overfilled or charged improperly, electrolytic fluid can spill, which can cause serious burns. Also, forklifts with malfunctioning batteries may not run properly, which puts operators at risk.
When your employees are slowed down because they’re worried about their safety, they can’t do their jobs with confidence or at full capacity. Plus, this may increase warehouse staff turnover when employees are leaving to find safer working conditions. Employee turnover reduces productivity, as you’ll have to spend time and energy finding and training new staff.
Battery Maintenance Habits to Combat Productivity Losses
The issues listed above can all cost you time and money while risking employee safety. So, how can you form proper battery maintenance habits that combat limited productivity? Here are some steps you can follow to up your battery maintenance game.
Take an inventory of your current assets and battery maintenance habits.
The first step towards improving your battery maintenance habits is assessing where they currently stand. Having this baseline enables you to make plans for improvement, then a benchmark to go back to and compare against later.
Take an inventory of all the batteries you have and the lift trucks that use them. Leverage a battery inspection form to outline everything from the battery model number and age to corrosion levels, helping you uncover what kinds of repairs may be needed so you can start addressing them as soon as possible.
Be aware of common charging mistakes.
You may not realize just how easy it can be to make battery charging mistakes then end up having severe consequences—like reduced productivity and drastically increased costs. By simply being aware of what you shouldn’t be doing, you can proactively change your habits to save time and money!
Here are some of the most common and costly forklift battery charging mistakes:
- Frequently “topping off” the battery’s charge.
- Forgetting to water the battery.
- Mismatching charger and battery voltages.
Devise a written maintenance plan and stick to it.
Once you know where your battery maintenance habits stand and which common mistakes to avoid, you’re ready to start making improvements. We recommend putting your updated maintenance plan in writing so it can be distributed to and read by all team members that use machinery in any way.
You may want to post a written chart or schedule in the warehouse that clearly outlines who is responsible for charging batteries or conducting routine maintenance when. This way, everyone can refer to it and be held accountable. Have team members initial or sign off when they’ve completed their scheduled maintenance, so it can be quickly and easily flagged if something was missed.
Turn to the experts.
Your business is constantly under pressure to keep moving inventory out the door faster and for lower costs. With battery maintenance having such a large impact on efficiency, you simply can’t afford to overlook it or leave it to chance. If you want to be utilizing the best battery maintenance habits, you may want to consider turning to professionals who have the knowledge and resources to optimize your battery maintenance plan.
At Southern States Enterprises, we want to change our customers’ status quo in productivity for their warehouse operations. Our motive power team members are experts in helping warehouses optimize their forklift battery lifecycle, and can provide training for a number of different battery operations, including: battery watering, battery charging, batter cycling, battery fleet management, batter and charger safety, and cable repair.
Contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive warehouse storage and equipment solutions!