How Reactive Power (and Unneeded Downtime) Hurts Your Facility

by Ryan Lynch | Wed, Feb 12, 2020

Proactive Forklift Power ManagementHere’s a scenario that may seem familiar: You are a growing facility with reasonably new high-frequency chargers that can handle opportunity charging. You make a decision to buy new forklifts. Excellent!

After you decide on the forklifts, the forklift dealer makes a battery selection for you. Since you know you are going to grow, the dealer chooses the biggest battery for the application; they do this in partnership with the best battery distributor in town. Since you already have good chargers, they don’t feel like they need to make a charger selection.

The day of deployment comes. The forklift dealer sends in the battery distributor to update your current chargers for the new, improved battery. They don’t put the charger up to its highest charging potential (aka fast charge) because, in year one, you are still ramping up production. Things go great for 18 months. 

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Over the course of 18 months, your throughput ramps up as expected. One day, a forklift ends up without enough power. A few days later, it happens again. What is going on?  You’ve taken care of the equipment. You’ve had PMs done recently—they told you the batteries were in great shape and the watering program was being done well. What is wrong?

Over time, the power being consumed by that forklift has grown, and while that battery and charger is capable of dealing with the increased usage, no one has been at the wheel making the necessary changes. In other words, your system failed, not because it wasn’t powerful enough or new enough, but because your system wasn’t adjusted as your needs changed. That’s the reality of forklift power system management today—it’s highly reactive. 

At this point, you just need to figure out how to solve this issue to avoid even more downtime. You call in the forklift company and the battery distributor, and they check the equipment. They figure out that the battery is fine, but changes need to happen. They need to dial up your chargers closer to a fast-charge start rate. That has repercussions for your facility:

  • Maintenance - Your watering program will need to change as your batteries will need watering more frequently.
  • Operator Compliance – Your operators may need to drastically change their plug-up standpoint. Right now, they may sometimes forget to plug up—but that can’t happen anymore. They will need to plan their work schedule and breaks to ensure that those forklifts are being plugged up as much as possible. Your facility may even have to consider operational changes to make that happen.
  • Asset life/cost – Running the trucks longer ages them faster and drives up repair costs. What about batteries? Fast-charging batteries can reduce asset life by several years. This means you will need to regularly receive the right data that tells you information about your batteries and when they need to be replaced. How could you ensure that planning happens proactively rather than reactively?

A scenario like this—where you have to adjust your power system on the fly to make things function correctly—is called reactive power management. It is not only typical, there are quite a few other situations that can cause similar issues—for example, many customers have two-month peak shipping periods, seasons of high heat, cold storage applications, etc. 

If you want to learn more about how to address these kinds of situations, read our white paper on Pro-Active Power Management, which explains how to transform your existing operations. You also may want to learn more about how to build the right system the first time through the right assessment process.

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