An innovative partnership is enabling lift truck manufacturer Linde Materials Handling (UK) Ltd and battery supplier Enersys to optimise power source utilisation and performance for third party logistics provider Norbert Dentressangle Logistics UK. With its ‘Power for Life’ service Enersys is able to monitor and manage batteries to ensure the electric lift trucks supplied by Linde continue to support Norbert Dentressangle’s ongoing operations in the UK with the same levels of performance, efficiency and value for money over the entire length of a five year contract at each warehouse.
“It’s about overall costs and giving value to the customer, “says Richard Sale, Norbert Dentressangle National Account Manager at Linde.
Enersys and Linde worked together for over five years to provide materials handling solutions for European supply chain management specialist Christian Salvesen before its acquisition by the Norbert Dentressangle Group. Starting at a site in Bury the fleet has grown to cover 26 of 36 facilities in the UK. From the outset Enersys and Linde recognised that effective battery management would be crucial in delivering the levels of lift truck performance that was demanded and expected.
Despite recent advances in technology a battery’s performance can still tail off over time if it is not used in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Inappropriate charging, lack of rotation to balance usage, poor maintenance or using the wrong type of top-up water are among the many factors that can adversely affect performance. Power for Life is designed to guarantee lifelong battery availability for lift truck fleets and is ideal for normal to moderately heavy duty applications. Suitable for truck manufacturers and end-users, it delivers all-inclusive five year fully-warranted maintenance and service.
“With Power for Life there are always three companies involved – the customer, the truck supplier and us,” says Eddie Butler, UK Regional Sales Manager at Enersys. “We normally commit to a five year contract and working with the truck supplier we can protect the warranty for all parties. The beauty of Power for Life is that we take on board all aspects of battery supply and management.”
For each new warehouse where electric lift trucks are required Enersys and Linde recommend batteries based on their joint experience, knowledge of similar applications and projected operating patterns agreed in advance with the site’s manager. Although each site is by definition different, most are equipped with a combination of the latest generation of Hawker Perfect Plus batteries and energy-efficient Hawker HF Easicom high frequency chargers. The batteries are fitted with Hawker’s Easy Plus sensing device that provides a range of diagnostic data that can be accessed and recorded via the charger.
“50Hz chargers are not sophisticated enough to monitor performance,” says Eddie Butler. “But with the new generation of high frequency chargers we can do it.”
The aim is to supply batteries that can sustain the operation without being used too much or too little. Optimum whole-life performance is typically achieved with batteries that require an average of 300 regular charges per year (six a week, one a day) assuming recharging after 80 per discharge.
Batteries that are over-specified can be more expensive in up front costs and inefficient during operation. Those that are under-specified will not deliver shift long performance, require recharging at inconvenient times and often need replacing ahead of schedule.
“With HF chargers you can save up to 30 per cent on electricity costs as long as you discharge between 60 and 80 per cent,” says Andrei Maslanyi, Service Technical Manager at Enersys. “But if you don’t use the full charge you risk losing the full life of the battery. We have sites that have run for five years without a problem.”
Power for Life is designed to match handling operations to battery resources so that they work as close as possible to their design parameters. Although experience and planning enable Enersys and Linde to predict the likely utilisation patterns very well, it is important to monitor operations during the first year, in particular to optimise performance and reduce the risk of problems later in the contract.
Enersys engineers visit a new site up to four times during the first year to check the batteries and collect information from the chargers. When fed into the Power For Life analytical software the data allows engineers to produce easy-to-understand graphical reports highlighting issues such as under and over utilisation. Linde and Enersys are then able to sit down with the site manager and show them what they need to do to improve battery performance. This could, for example, involve increasing or decreasing the capacity or number of batteries to ensure that each is used within design specification or lead to additional on-site training to help users understand more about their battery operations.
“The visits allow us to download information direct from the batteries and give us a regular opportunity to go on site and see what’s happening,” says Andrei Maslanyi. “The difference between a basic battery topping service and Power For Life is that we have a complete view of performance across the whole fleet. It’s a powerful piece of information.”
After the first year, the batteries are generally optimised to the ongoing operation. Enersys continues to monitor performance and prepares six-monthly reports for each site. Monthly meetings are held with Linde to review the latest reports and discuss the overall performance of the contract.
At one meeting, for example, the metrics from a site showed an imbalance of battery utilisation. Further investigation revealed that drivers were recharging batteries on their trucks rather than changing them properly in rotation. The simple but effective solution was to shorten charging leads so that they could not reach batteries on the trucks, forcing drivers to revert to the rotation changing. Another review identified that deionised water was not fully available at a particular site. The remedy was to install a self-contained processing unit to ensure constant supply.
“The benefits are that we can offer a proactive and predictive view,” says Richard Sale.
Although maintaining operational and cost efficiency remains the key business driver, responsible end users such as Norbert Dentressangle also appreciate the environmental benefits in better battery management. Matching resources to requirements ensures that there is no waste in terms of the materials and energy needed to produce the batteries in the first place. Once batteries are installed, the use of energy efficient high-frequency chargers, optimised utilisation and other features of the Power for Life service ensure that less electricity is required to get the same performance from the truck fleet over the whole life of the contract. And because batteries generally last longer, there is reduced overall need for replacement, disposals and recycling.
“Power for Life provides transparency across all sites and we can sell to Norbert Dentressangle on investment in the whole fleet, “says Richard
Sale. “This is about managing risk.”
As the UK’s leading fork lift truck manufacturer, Linde fully understands the need to work closely with its customers and supply partners. The company liaises with site managers to train and educate drivers to get the best possible use from the trucks and to understand the batteries better. A series of “point of use” charts and posters created with Enersys illustrates the main battery handling, management and maintenance tasks to help drivers. Certificates are awarded to drivers who complete special battery training courses.
“We believe that without Power for Life the first site could have fallen over after a couple of years,” says Eddie Butler. “If you didn’t look after the batteries you would have problems.”