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New tech to tackle downtime

19 February 2018

There is always enthusiasm around new technology but for me, the more interesting time is when such technologies find a market rationale.

Lithium battery technologies have been emerging for a number of years now, but with the first big fleet in the UK investing in it, it seems to now have found a solid business case.

Fowler Welch have a number of reasons for investing in Linde lithium-ion powered forklifts, but the main driver was reducing downtime.

The food transport specialist has a number of very busy locations and works its trucks hard.

Too often forklifts were not pulling their weight due to issues around lead-acid batteries, and how they were managed.

In fact, operational meetings came to be dominated by battery problems and the company decided enough was enough.

Fowler Welch is looking to lithium-ion powered forklifts to have much better uptime and so far the outlook is good.

Lithium-ion technologies are said to be longer lasting, with manufacturers often claiming that ten year lifetimes will be possible, with less power degradation over time than with lead-acid batteries.

They are also maintenance-free and faster to charge.

This saves time in itself, and without battery maintenance, the potential to introduce error during maintenance is removed.

This is a significant step, but lithium-based solutions won’t be optimal for everyone.

Lead-acid has been around for a long time and works effectively, particularly when accompanied by joined up battery management and a methodical approach to maintenance from warehouse staff.

The threat of Amazon

Much of the talk at The Delivery Conference this year was on Amazon and the growing threat it poses to the rest of the retail industry. This got me thinking. Is Amazon too big? Is it time to break it up?

There is precedent. Standard Oil was broken up into 34 companies in 1911 after being judged by the US authorities as having a monopoly.

However, while there is no doubt the scale of Amazon is having a massive impact on across logistics, logistics property, retail and other sectors, it’s hard to see this happening to the retail behemoth any time soon.

The main rationale for breaking up a company is to promote better prices for consumers. And, say what you want about Amazon, its approach is driving value for consumers.

The conference also featured a wide range of speakers offering interesting advice. One was Accenture Strategy MD Harry Morrison, who urged end users [in the context of Brexit uncertainty] to think of ‘no regrets’ moves such as increased investment in automation to mitigate costs in the future.