Manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to increase efficiency and cut costs. When researching the most efficient way to streamline production, many companies don’t stop to consider their forklift batteries as a cost savings opportunity.
Lift trucks are vital to many material handling operations, and maintaining lift truck batteries is crucial to running an efficient and safe facility. Fleet managers are regularly concerned about the time-consuming task of watering batteries, the safety issues related to this process and the cost of human error when watering occurs.
Traditionally, battery watering is done manually, relying on an operator to use a watering gun or hose to water each battery cell individually, setting the water level by eye. With dozens of batteries in the average fleet, watering can take hours of manual labor that could be productively utilized elsewhere within the plant.
Human error can result in the over or under filling of batteries or skipping a cell during the watering process. Every time a battery is overfilled, its capacity decreases by 3% to 5%, permanently reducing battery runtime. Too much water can also cause a battery to boil-over, which can create a dangerous condition of battery acid spillage. Hazardous waste clean-up is costly and requires the added expense of repairing corroded battery trays, racks, floors and other equipment. This also creates a dangerous situation for employees working in the spillage area.
Reduced capacity also can occur if a battery is under filled. With manual watering, it’s very easy for the operator to accidentally skip a cell or to misjudge the water level. Each time a battery is under filled, the battery is permanently affected, decreasing capacity and runtime, ultimately shortening the battery’s life span. As a result, managers face the additional expense of frequent battery replacement.
The simple, cost-effective solution to manual watering problems is a single-point battery watering system. Each cell is outfitted with its own watering valve, connected to a single piece of tubing. Operators attach a water supply hose to a quick-connect fitting on the tubing, release the water into the tube and each cell is filled simultaneously.
A manual battery watering can take five to seven minutes. A single-point system completes the process in 15 seconds to 20 seconds. Depending on the number of batteries in a plant, significant labor savings can be achieved by reducing unnecessary battery maintenance.
Single-point watering systems eliminate the possibility of human error. When the cell is full, a sensing device (either a traditional float-type device or a more advanced water injector with a level-sensing valve) shuts off the water flow, so problems related to operator timing and judgment are virtually eliminated. The fear of electrolyte spillage and the accompanying environmental concerns are also removed.
Battery replacement is another area of potential savings. Manufacturers using single-point watering systems avoid cell damage caused by inaccurate manual watering. This keeps batteries functioning longer at a higher level of performance. Because batteries equipped with single-point systems last longer, the need to buy replacement batteries is reduced, potentially saving the average fleet thousands of dollars in replacement costs each year.
Many manufacturers of single-point watering systems also produce a notification light system, which lets operators know when the cell needs water. For example, Philadelphia Scientific offers the Blinky™ watering monitor for its battery watering systems. A small light, visibly mounted on the top of each battery, glows green until the battery needs water, at which point the light blinks red. Once the battery is sufficiently watered, the light returns to green.
Single-point battery watering systems offer a simple and cost-effective solution to the problems caused by manual watering. For many companies, the labor savings alone will pay for the system in 12 months or less.