This article originally appeared in the October 2014 print edition of Food Manufacturing.
The Food Manufacturing Brainstorm features industry experts sharing their perspectives on issues critical to the overall food industry marketplace.
In the third installment of this three-part series, we ask: What are some areas of investment that food manufacturers should utilize to improve their energy management?
Energy efficiency can have benefits beyond reducing direct energy costs. For example, according to one analysis, energy costs make up 5 percent of the total lifetime operating cost of an industrial electric lift truck, while labor costs make up 72 percent. That might make energy costs seem unimportant, but consider that in many applications, the operator must drive the lift truck to a battery charging or exchanging station — thus absorbing labor dollars on non-billable tasks. In that case, a more energy-efficient lift truck can keep the operator on productive pallet moves for a higher percentage of labor hours, and, as a result, energy efficiency cascades into labor efficiency.
Timing also can be a factor. To minimize labor costs associated with charging lift truck batteries, some operations are converting to opportunity charging. With opportunity charging, lift trucks are only charged during scheduled breaks, such as lunchtime and in between shifts. This can extend the run time of aging batteries and recoup lost capacity that comes with age. But as some utilities base billing rates on peak usage, charging all of your lift trucks at the same time can push your peak rates up. To offset this, consider staggered breaks, or look into whether other equipment, such as chillers, can be cycled off during break times.
Innovative battery monitoring systems provide an indication of lift truck battery condition and help to extend battery life, while making battery changes and maintenance more efficient. To prolong battery life, the module monitors the battery’s status and automatically notifies warehouse managers of various statistics, such as charge and discharge cycles, high and low temperatures, and low battery electrolyte levels. By drawing real-time information from the on-board computers of lift trucks, the system allows for benchmarking of lift truck and operator productivity and optimized maintenance costs.
Arlan Purdy, Product Manager, Energy Storage Systems and Emerging Technologies, The Raymond Corporation