Today’s manufacturing and distribution operations face unprecedented competitive pressures. The challenging labor market, rising commercial real estate costs and e-commerce growth, to name a few, all coming together to mandate greater efficiency. In the quest to make the most of available resources, companies are investing in automation, adjusting workflows, data collection and any other system that can give them a competitive edge.
But what about lift truck power?
The right lift truck power choice can go a long way in improving operational efficiency. Different power sources place varying burdens on labor to replace, charge or refuel. They require disparate amounts of space to house refueling, charging and changing infrastructure, and come with different upfront and long-term costs.
In fact, a change in power source can often inform you of the best ways to invest in additional technology to optimize your operations. Now the question becomes how do you identify the need for an alternative power source and which type is best for your business?
Here are the six signs that your operation may need to re-evaluate lift truck power.
- Substandard Productivity
Lift truck fleets are built and balanced to meet critical operational goals, but the actual output doesn’t always produce enough to meet demand. The cause of this may lie with a labor-intensive power source or one that has declining levels of productivity.
For instance, some batteries lose full power functionality once they reach 50 percent depletion. Your operations are then only running at full capacity half of the time and may cause a bottleneck in charging procedures. Operators may end up spending too much time engaged in complex and time-consuming charging and changing procedures. Your operation is now effected in two ways, compounding the decline in productivity with incurring costs for non-productive activities.
2. Excessive Power Source Inventory
Not having a sufficient amount of equipment to serve demand is a terrible scenario. Having sufficient equipment but leaving multiple lift trucks idle due to a lack of available power sources is even worse. The natural option is to accumulate more power sources to alleviate this issue, but doing so for redundant equipment has its downsides. You’ll have to accommodate for more space in already tight footprints and potentially place pressure on already strict budgets for power sources that may or may not lead to increased productivity.
So the question becomes, how do you find the right balance? If the ratio of power sources to lift trucks reaches two or more - whether because of reliability or short usage periods - then it’s time to evaluate other options. The cost and space disadvantages of carrying an overabundance of extra power sources are too great at this point. Switching to a more relevant power option for your use case will not only minimalize storage concerns but will also help you avoid unnecessary downtime and hazardous work conditions.
3. Not Enough Space
As mentioned in the previous point, space is a luxury that cannot be wasted. Operations must find additional storage room in a market where commercial and warehouse costs continue to rise. In the search for greater capacity, most managers reexamine how existing space is used and where it can be optimized, including refueling infrastructure.
Some power sources require refueling stations that can be located outside, allowing for indoor revenue-generating space to be left untouched. On the other hand, some power options require significant indoor space for storage, charging and changing.
For example, lift trucks in a three-shift, 24/7 application using lead-acid batteries require up to three batteries per day. A constant cycle of one in use, one charging and one cooling. Similarly, liquified petroleum gas (LPG) requires one tank per shift, accumulating the same two excess power units for a three-shift application, but also requires additional space for empty tanks awaiting exchanges.
Some would assume that the need to occupy indoor space or carry excess power sources is simply unavoidable and just a part of doing business. By simply re-evaluating lift truck power it can become apparent that there are available options. More often than not, they are less expensive in the long-term and allow for the reclamation of a significant amount of space for their operations.
4. Declining Labor Efficiency
With record-low unemployment, good help is becoming hard to find and even harder to keep. Operations must now make the most of the labor they do have and conducting complex battery maintenance, charging and replacement to simply power lift trucks is a huge hit on productivity.
Removing and replacing a spent lead-acid battery with a fresh one often takes between 15-20 minutes. It can potentially take even longer if operators have to drive a distance to the charging station or wait in line due to limited space. As an added detriment, many operations may even limit the charging times through a strict charging schedule as a way to avoid utility cost penalties during peak hours.
This can all be avoided. Certain sources allow refueling in as quick as three minutes. Others even allow versatile charging procedures to let the operator charge through a standard outlet whenever they have a free minute. By creating a less time-intensive charging system for employees, it not only avoids unnecessary downtime but keeps the employee from doing menial tasks that may wear on morale.
5. Premature Failures or Equipment Rentals
One of the most important things to consider when choosing a power source is what the true long-term cost will be.
A cheaper acquisition cost doesn’t always lead to paying less overall. Various sources require extensive fueling and charging infrastructure, as well as utility costs that can rapidly accumulate. These same sources can also experience premature failure that leaves operations on the hook for replacement costs. With poor battery charging habits and engine maintenance being the leading cause in unfulfilled warranty claims.
To get the full value out of a lead-acid battery warranty cycle, operators must use the full available charge and then recharge to 100 percent capacity. Any additional charging breaks, such as over a lunch break from 45 to 52 percent, is counted as a cycle. Doing so risks adverse effects including reducing battery longevity and capacity.
In addition, as lead-acid batteries degrade near the end of a shift, the truck will overcompensate due to the lack of power. This leads to a discharge of extra heat that unnecessarily strains the motors, chassis, and hydraulics, potentially causing equipment to breakdown at a much faster rate.
To avoid degradation like this and make up for fleet limitations, some operations rent forklifts to cover peak periods. This temporary equipment redundancy only accumulates added expense and takes up additional space that can be rendered unnecessary by simply having existing trucks performing at full-power for the entire shift.
6. New Regulations for Emissions and Hygiene
Certain states have stricter emissions and health regulations than others. Even organizations in states with lighter regulations may want to consider alternative solutions to get ahead of potential legislative changes.
The challenge is to maintain performance while avoiding fines and other sanctions. For industries that deal in food, beverage, and pharmaceuticals this challenge is compounded by additional hygiene standards, including airborne contaminants. Lastly, sustainability initiatives often come from the top-down, leaving managers scrambling to find reasonable ways to actually implement on the ground.
What are the sources of these potentially compliance-busting contaminants? Internal combustion engines – diesel, gas, LPG – are the usual suspects, but perhaps surprisingly, not all electric options are squeaky clean. As part of regular maintenance, lead-acid batteries require off-gassing, which can contaminate sensitive products and violate emissions standards.
What Are Your Options?
The lift truck power source market is now more robust and diverse than ever. With newer technologies like the thin-plate pure lead batteries, hydrogen fuel cells, and lithium-ion batteries now proven in the field; there are now more fine-tuned solutions than ever before to address your needs.
Making the right decision requires analyzing the unique requirements and competitive pressures facing each operation. The right partner will have expertise in lift truck applications and all available power options but with no allegiance to one specific solution. Rather their only allegiance will be to you and your needs, enabling a decision that considers the broadest range of power options available. Based purely on operational needs.
Working with Papé Material Handling’s Product Support Team offers the industry’s broadest range of power options and the expertise to match operations with the best power solutions for your specific application.
For a consultation from a product support specialist, reach out to your nearest Papé Material Handling location. To look into potential power options for your fleet online, take either the Hyster or Yale Power Match test. These should give you a better idea of what power options to look into before consulting with
In addition, Papé provides an entire suite of solutions alongside power matching. These services include everything from the purchase of new and used equipment, warehouse design, automation, fleet management, and ongoing maintenance. Meaning that we can help you optimize every aspect of your material handling operations and can easily add solutions as needed. For a full list of services and available support, check out our Product Support page.