As businesses emerge from the Covid-19 lockdown and get to grips with new ways of working, forklift trucks remain one of their biggest materials handling commitments. In the current recession a reluctance to make major capital investment shifts the focus to getting the best out of existing resources.

Gus Whyte, Sales Director-UK and Ireland at Hoppecke Industrial Batteries, outlines some of the options that will allow businesses to achieve productivity targets.

Longer contracts

Economic and technological factors have influenced the materials handling marketplace to the extent that the average forklift lease rental contract now stretches beyond five years. Eager to capitalise on existing assets over a longer timeframe, businesses are opting to negotiate standard contracts or contract extensions that now cover eight years or more.

Whilst this approach to reducing costs can lead to a big saving, it’s easy to forget about batteries. Taking the purchase price and maintenance into consideration – for powered pedestrian trucks and low-level order pickers as well as forklifts – new replacement batteries can account for 15-25 per cent of the cost of a warehouse truck fleet.

Battery life

Shift duration, frequency and quality of maintenance, charging procedures, application intensity and temperatures. All are factors that can have a bearing on battery longevity. The expected life of a lead-acid battery is typically five years. So, savings made on forklift rental costs could easily be negated by the rising costs involved in running the trucks over the extended contract period.

Replacement options

If truck performance is below par replacing batteries with new for old is not the only choice. Refurbished batteries, using original spare parts, is a one way of maintaining truck uptime whilst minimising operating costs. Another way to enhance overall energy supply is to assess the state of the batteries in use across an entire fleet and replace a percentage of them. This may involve replacing some batteries with new product on a like-for-like basis along with refurbishment so that batteries can be returned for future use.

Access to power

When performance suffers the default option for many is to acquire new or refurbished batteries. However, what businesses really need is access to power. Rental is a cost-effective solution and provides added flexibility. Hiring in lead-acid, FNC or lithium-ion batteries and chargers at short notice and without being tied into a lengthy contract is a sensible way to satisfy business needs at any given time. It also enables fleet managers to plan ahead.

Hoppecke can normally deliver rental batteries and chargers direct to customer premises within a couple of days and with customised contracts businesses choose the hire period that suits them – anything from a few weeks up to two years. Monthly rental fees are paid out of the revenue budget, supporting cash flow management by spreading the cost. Typically, the rental contract includes maintenance, so businesses benefit from experienced engineers taking charge of all servicing needs.

Battery care

Forklifts are only as good as the batteries that power them, so proper battery care pays dividends. A lack of regular maintenance, poor servicing and incorrect charging procedures can have a significant, adverse impact on battery life. A loss of capacity, due to current leakage caused by dirty cell tops for example, can affect truck performance to such an extent that it causes the battery to battery malfunction. Clearly, if trucks are out of action whilst repairs are carried out, productivity suffers.

Service plans

Cost-optimised service plans provide businesses of all shapes and sizes with the best deal for them and are based on the level of support required. Typically, a contract covers watering and cleaning and an inclusive annual inspection and safety check ensure that batteries and chargers are safe and fit for purpose.

Any reputable supplier will take the time to familiarise themselves with the customer’s operation before creating a service package in accordance with key requirements. All servicing and maintenance should be carried out by skilled and experienced engineers with access to the latest diagnostic tools. As well as delivering a cost-effective solution that prolongs battery life, a service plan offers peace of mind because. In the event of a breakdown, support will be available from an expert team that will provide a quick response.

There’s no denying that post-lockdown, with the UK in recession, the business challenge is daunting. However, a reliable energy management programme that answers specific operational demands puts fleet managers in control, enabling them to maximise existing resources and keep costs down.

Hoppecke Industrial Batteries Ltd

t: 01782 667305


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