chaz1Purchase of forklift batteries and their running costs are not cheap so it behoves all truck operators to look for the best package deals, especially in the current economic climate, and reassess truck fleets to see if numbers can be reduced.

As with forklift suppliers, battery and ancillary equipment suppliers are having to become more flexible to accommodate buyers’ needs but they also have much to offer by way of a well-designed energy package. Buyers must also consider the Battery Directive which came into force last September and the effect of their carbon footprint.

An interesting development from CMP Batteries (Exide) is its product rating classification based on labour, carbon dioxide emissions and water consumption which allows customers to make an informed choice on the right energy solutions for their business, taking both the commercial and environmental impacts into consideration.

Powercell Industrial Battery Engineers claims that overall, a well-designed energy package can deliver energy savings of over 30% compared with separate, older systems. A good example of how a full package can cut costs is Jungheinrich’s JiBOS – the Jungheinrich Intelligent Battery Organisation System. This enhances the efficiency of the battery pool by allowing a forklift truck’s fleet battery usage to be monitored and controlled. As a result, big savings can be made over the lifetime of batteries and chargers monitored and controlled. In some circumstances it has also been successful in reducing the battery charging areas so much that it has allowed the floor space saved to be used for additional storage areas.

Jungheinrich also believes there is merit in placing business with just one firm that supplies its own forklifts, batteries and chargers. This, it claims, reduces the `blame game` when trucks fail. “It is not uncommon in the event of an electric-powered truck breaking down,” says Jungheinrich, “for the truck supplier to blame battery malfunction for the problems and the battery supplier to argue that the cause of the malfunction lies with the mechanics of the machine itself”. By offering a one-stop shop for truck, battery and charger, Jungheinrich believes its clients never face such potentially awkward ‘blame game’ problems.

Battery acquisition methods are now much more flexible than they used to be. Norco, for example, offers rental batteries from as little as £5 per week on the basis of a six-months hire plus 90 days notice. They also offer ex rental batteries at significantly reduced costs compared with new assets and they will take back redundant batteries and swap them with a fleet of new or used replacements.

But far more effective than any of these measures at cutting costs is the impact of a fleet reassessment, where the outcome is a substantially reduced fleet size. This can be achieved by looking at the mix of trucks used and assessing their individual productivity in terms of pallets moved per hour or shift. Sometimes, by introducing articulated trucks, which are far more versatile than any other truck type, a fleet size can be dramatically reduced without in anyway affecting customer service.

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