Creating an Optimal Forklift Battery Charging Station
Battery charging can have a major impact on the efficiency of a warehouse.
The extra time it takes to change or charge a battery is time that could be spent on more productive things. Setting up a battery room based on best practices can minimize travel time and reduce wear and tear on an operation’s forklifts and pallet trucks. Knowing the importance of this, we’ll walk through some of the key factors in setting up an optimal forklift battery charging station layout ideal for lead acid industrial batteries.
Selecting the Right Location for the Battery Room
Location, location, location. You’ve heard it in many contexts, and it holds true when it comes to battery rooms as well. The location chosen for the battery room should allow adequate space for the number and size of lift trucks used in your facility to navigate in and out without issues. You’ll also need to account for battery storage, and in this case a location with high ceilings can be helpful. Depending on the number of lift trucks and batteries used, vertical storage systems can save up to 50% of the floor space. It’s also important to choose the location based on potential future growth. If a location has just enough space to manage traffic flow for your existing fleet, but there are plans for expansion, the location should be selected with that future expansion in mind.
Beyond the space requirements, the location should provide for efficient travel between the facility’s main working areas and also provide appropriate electrical service near a main power feed to help reduce costs. When calculating power requirements, take a full inventory of all of the additional equipment needed in the room like ventilation and cooling systems.
It’s also vital that the chosen location can meet the necessary safety standards. For example, it’s important to have appropriate plumbing. The battery room will need to be equipped with safety measures which include eye washers and showers, which will require drainage. Without appropriate ventilation, warehouses can reach dangerous levels of hydrogen gas. Because of this, the room may need hydrogen gas detectors that can activate the ventilation systems. The battery room will need space to store personal protective equipment like acid resistant face shields, goggles, aprons and gloves along with maintenance equipment and spill kits in case of a battery acid leak.
Add Appropriate Battery Changing Equipment
Batteries are extremely heavy, and for efficient changing, maintenance and storage, you’ll want to have your battery room equipped with enough forklift battery changers to allow for quick and easy maintenance. There are a number of factors to take into account when selecting battery handling equipment for your facility. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do your forklifts require overhead or side extraction?
- How much space does your charging room have for changing equipment?
- How often are changes necessary throughout the day?
With answers to these questions, you can review your available choices. While there are more options for equipment with side extraction, there are still a few different options for overhead extraction such as gantry cranes which eliminates the need for a second lift truck. For side extraction operations, depending on the flow of traffic throughout the day, manual or powered transfer carriages or park and charge systems may be good options. In larger fleets, it may make sense to go with a fully powered Operator Aboard Battery Extractor for maximum efficiency.
Inefficient battery rotation is the leading cause of reduced run time and battery life, so it’s important that you have a system in place that optimizes your battery’s usage. One option is a first-in-first-out system that automatically replaces batteries with the one that has been on the rack the longest. Alternately, there are more advanced multiple charger systems that make battery selections based on the current battery status, choosing the order based on when charging was completed, or by which battery is most fully charged. Whichever system you choose, even if it’s simply recording the information by hand, ensure that your changing station gives operators the ability to rotate batteries properly to maximize their life.
Even, Approved Battery Room Flooring
The flooring of your battery room should meet OSHA, EPA and NFPA standards and be able to resist acid damage. It’s also critical that flooring in the battery room is flat. An uneven floor won’t work if you are using an Operator Aboard Battery Extractor as it works on a defined path that requires exact specifications. Outside of those systems, there are further reasons that the floor’s flatness is important.
An uneven floor in a fixed travel path causes vibration, flexing, and stress on equipment resulting in decreased productivity of the Operator Aboard Battery Extractor. Lift heights of battery extractor systems magnify the effect of an uneven floor. As elevation increases, so does the amount of flex and strain on the machine. A floor with an appropriate F-min rating provides for safe and proper operation of your equipment. Consequently, you will save money with fewer repairs, fewer parts purchased, less downtime and less potential for personal injury or equipment damage.
Placement of the chargers themselves is an important aspect to an optimal forklift battery charging station layout. To meet OSHA requirements (and to save floor space) chargers must be mounted on shelves specifically designed for that purpose. All chargers should be mounted securely in all four corners, and if you’re going to stack the chargers, it’s important that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions to allow enough spacing and ventilation. The charger shelves also need to be positioned in such a way that the DC cable leads can connect to the battery while not exceeding the manufacturer’s recommended cable lead length. The final thing to think about in terms of battery charger storage is maintenance. Whether it’s a catwalk or a multi-level shelving system, be sure to provide easy access to the chargers for maintenance.
If you have more questions about setting up the most efficient battery charging station layout for your material handling facility, contact your local MCFA forklift dealer today.