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The Importance of Having the Right Battery Monitoring System

by Eric Schlau Eric Schlau | Tue, Jun 28, 2022

RAAMS_powermanagementsoftware

If your company uses industrial power, it's time to ask yourself whether you have a capable battery monitoring system, one you can rely on and trust. This is an important question whether your use of batteries is to power a fleet of forklifts or to maintain critical power in telecommunications, a data center or any other industrial setting.

As power technology becomes more advanced, with lithium ion and battery usage on the rise, the need for battery monitoring is becoming increasingly urgent. Monitoring batteries and having an effective way to analyze the resulting flood of data is important for ensuring safety, boosting efficiency, optimizing total cost of ownership and more.

At its best, battery monitoring is part of an overall power management system that will use the resulting data as a natural part of workflows. A comprehensive set of tools and processes suited to your company's power needs is a worthy goal, and battery monitoring plays a central role in such a solution.

How does battery monitoring work?

The actual data points recorded by battery monitoring sensors cover numerous variables. These include:

  • System and cell voltage

  • Load and/or float current

  • Internal resistance (ohmic values)

  • Unit/cell/bloc temperature

With access to such information, automated algorithms can point the way to ideal strategies for charging, proactive maintenance and more. Inspecting batteries can become a more precise, efficient process. Despite consuming fewer employee hours, such a highly automated approach to battery monitoring is primed to deliver better results.

Whether you're implementing automated battery monitoring for the first time or considering a refresh of your current system, you can get started by reviewing why these solutions are so important today.

What is the importance of battery monitoring?

Having an automated battery monitoring system, with real-time data coming in from your powered vehicles' or critical power system batteries, is a way to replace inefficient, heavily manual workflows with a consistent flow of potentially useful information.

The precise uses of that data will differ depending on what you're powering with your batteries, but the concept remains very simple: The more you know about the status of power systems, the more proactively you can manage them.

In forklift power

Battery monitoring is so important in forklift power management solutions because it enables a more active, efficient approach to servicing batteries, lowering the risk of downtime and enabling the fleet to operate at peak levels.

Combining battery monitoring equipment — which is easy to deploy and set up — with an overarching management framework can let your company unlock advantages such as:

  • Forecast end of life - Done right, prescriptive battery monitoring can help you forecast end of life for your forklift.  Eventually, even the best maintained batteries have an end of life.  KNowing what that is in advance so you can plan for a refresh of equipment (over time) is important to keeping your forklifts running at a similar speed over time.
  • Optimize charging: When there is a constant view of battery status, it's possible to automatically charge batteries to meet needs. By differentiating between peak and nonpeak times, the system can suit the pace of work in the facility.
  • Proactive maintenance: Rather than waiting for asset failure and the downtime that comes along, maintenance technicians can act on automated alerts tied to battery performance warning signs, all picked up by the battery monitoring sensors. It can proactively identify where poor charging, usage, watering or other maintenance practices are damaging your batteries so you can course correct before your batteries fall off a cliff--costing you thousands in repairs or battery replacements.
  • Better-understood total cost of ownership: With sensors generating a historical log of data, your organization can develop a clear picture of asset life span and total cost of ownership. These highly accurate projections are a boon for long-term budgeting.

The larger your forklift fleet, the more value a monitoring system can help you gain Total Control over your power system.

In critical power

In critical power settings, battery monitoring as part of an overall battery management system can save employee time and effort while ensuring the batteries are capable of delivering the promised uptime, reliably and safely.

Whether your organization has opted to adopt a lithium-ion battery solution or is working with lead acid batteries, a battery monitoring system can produce the actionable data necessary to keep your critical power infrastructure operating at peak effectiveness. Capabilities that come with such a system include:

  • Less need for travel to inspect geographically dispersed systems: If your organization manages critical power for several locations, such as telecommunications infrastructure, battery monitoring can save untold time and effort. The data flowing in from these systems means fewer in-person inspections.
  • More accurate trend reports: Proactive maintenance decisions and total cost of ownership calculations are easier to make with an automated flow of real-time data coming in from all battery resources.

  • Safe operations for lithium-ion battery systems: Battery monitoring units go beyond nice-to-have when paired with lithium-ion batteries. These relatively new and promising power cells have to be monitored at all times, making battery management a compulsory part of a continuous power deployment.

How to avoid common pitfalls and gain the battery monitoring value you seek

Many organizations have invested significantly in battery monitoring or forklift telematics systems only to have them be worthless two years later due to a variety of issues including change in leadership, mismanagement, etc.

But working with a battery monitoring system doesn't have to be complicated or difficult!  Especially when the monitoring technology is used as part of an overall power management system and thought process. 

The processes involved in deploying sensors, integrating them into automated workflows and acting on the data will differ somewhat between industries and use cases, but both the underlying theories and the hands-on practices are easy to understand.

Common pitfalls to avoid include:

  • Letting “big data” become a big problem.  Upfront, consider what service alerts and/or reporting KPIs actually matter and only implement or use those.  Define what good will look like at the onset.  

  • Implementing with great intentions but no clear owner.  Who will decide what KPI(s) or reports matter.  Who will hold maintenance, a vendor or operators accountable if charging practices or maintenance practices need to change?  Agree on this upfront.  

  • Set a reporting or review cadence.  Build a personal habit or a team habit of looking at the data on a time-based basis.  Stick to it over time.

  • Not addressing battery monitor repairs.  These sensors are sitting on moving, hot batteries that may get washed or swapped out of equipment.  The chances that maintenance technicians will need to reconnect them is real.  Make sure their is monthly update plan for disconnected monitors.

One way to address the above is to spend time with your supplier partner upfront that is familiar with these tools to help you set them up right and develop your management cadence.  Better yet--outsource the management and service of your battery system!  More details below.

In forklift power

Deploying a modern, comprehensive battery monitoring system to oversee forklift operations often occurs in tandem with a more comprehensive forklift power management system that includes chargers as well as batteries.  However it happens, it's important to remember that the initial implementation is the easy part. There must also be a plan to use the data generated.

  • Installing sensors: Sensor deployment will differ somewhat depending on whether your company is working with a power management partner or handling maintenance in-house. In the former case, installation of charging and sensor equipment is part of the contract, as is ongoing analysis of the data. In the latter, your personnel will position the sensors themselves and have to make sure there are management processes in place to use the data.

  • Collecting data: Once sensors are in place, data will begin flowing in. How the organization deals with this information is largely down to its chosen power management model. With automated algorithms, it’s possible to create service alert reports, trend analysis and reports on downtime patterns--more sophisticated systems can even predict end of life and show total cost of ownership. It's good to minimize manual actions as much as possible when dealing with the data to derive more insights with less employee effort expended.
  • Acting on the information: There are numerous ways to integrate data from battery sensors into everyday workflows to make forklift fleet operations smoother and more effective. Dispatching proactive maintenance technicians based on fluctuations in readings is one way to minimize downtime. Enabling chargers to modulate the level of power they provide based on requirements is another helpful long-term outcome. While these policies can be set at the organizational level, they may be more effectively administered as part of a power management strategy.

In critical power

Critical power deployments may vary widely based on your company's layout. Providing a lithium-ion battery backup for a single data center is naturally very different from overseeing lead acid battery backups attached to telecommunications infrastructure across an entire region. With that said, the processes behind setting up and using a battery monitoring sensor network follow familiar patterns.

  • Installing sensors: The exact model of battery monitoring system attached to your critical power systems will depend on the number and size of cells in question, with more advanced models able to concurrently process data from multiple battery strings and string cell counts from 12 to 240 cells. Industry-leading equipment is designed to be so easy to install and maintain that you don't have to take your power systems offline to continuously obtain vital data.
  • Collecting data: The process of collecting data from critical power battery systems is radically different when your team no longer has to perform these tasks on-site. You can drastically scale back in-person inspections of power resources as information flows in from the battery monitoring system and its onboard software. This data enables historical trend analysis and real-time alerts when a battery shows warning signs due to aging, wear or any other type of fault. It's important to have a plan to use this information strategically.
  • Acting on the information: Becoming more intentional and proactive about inspections and maintenance is a major positive outcome for battery monitoring systems in critical power. Battery management software attached to monitoring sensors allows personnel to zoom in on individual discharge and recharge events or create maintenance schedules based on long-term trend analysis. Managing these new operational priorities is simplest as part of a fully featured power management strategy.

What is the connection between battery monitoring and power management?

While you may not immediately consider battery management the type of service that can be outsourced, there are plenty of benefits to taking such an overarching approach to your power needs.

The reasons to opt for power management as a service are largely the same forces that have driven companies to entrust ever more aspects of their day-to-day operations to third party partners. Namely, these systems can give you:

  • Predictable operating expenses in place of capital expenditures

  • Subject matter expertise from trained personnel

  • A connected infrastructure of technology and systems

  • Detailed analysis and operational approaches informed by it

Treating power as a service and creating the whole battery management system in tandem with an expert is a way to maximize this aspect of your business. Battery monitoring systems fit neatly into this power management ecosystem, providing the raw real-time data that drives decision-making and strategy, both day-to-day and in the long term.

Power management lets your employees keep up with their value-adding work while keeping your batteries maintained to industry-leading standards. Such a program is based on your needs, and power management offerings from Concentric will look different in a forklift power or critical power context.

In forklift power

Power management for your forklift fleet will use the data from battery monitoring systems to ensure every battery is charged for maximum usable life and performance, and ready on time to keep operations moving. Costs remain low because the system is optimized to work with a minimal number of batteries and chargers.

Every environment that uses powered forklift assets has its own unique requirements based on the size and purpose of the facility, as well as the number of vehicles in the fleet. A GuaranteedPOWER® strategy created with Concentric will deliver the exact number and type of batteries to deliver optimal effectiveness, with watering, charging and proactive maintenance plans based on hard data analysis.

In critical power

Whether you need battery power backup for a data center, communications network, a health care facility, a financial business, a utility provider or any other application, battery monitoring systems are a cornerstone technology. With the data provided by these sensors, the highly automated PerpetualPOWER™ solutions developed by Concentric can meet all your needs for a predictable monthly fee.

Each step in your strategy is taken care of professionally and tuned to meet your needs, from the procurement of new assets to the decommissioning of equipment that has reached its end of life and everything in between. Crafting a right-sized strategy for your exact use case builds peace of mind for your most important powered assets.

Ready to investigate battery monitoring systems as part of a power management strategy or as an independent technology deployment? Get in touch today and a Concentric representative will contact you shortly.

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