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What role for the battery in the smart warehouse?

11 September 2019

The case for smart power management in electric lift truck fleets in a world of warehouse digitisation.

Many of the connected digital technology applications pioneered in the smart factory can benefit warehouses too. There is great potential for increasing productivity and reducing costs by connecting motive batteries and charging equipment into an integrated power management system. 

Well-maintained motive batteries and chargers cut energy consumption by performing more efficiently and giving longer runtime, which means less spending on end-of-life replacements. In addition, they are more reliable, so the expense of battery-related truck downtime is minimised. There are further operational improvement to be made with an efficient power management.

The main threats to battery health include excessive operating temperatures, inadequate water top-ups and underperforming chargers. With insufficient information, an operator may also underuse or overuse some batteries in the fleet. Incorrect battery sizing and specification can affect performance and operating economy.

To address these challenges, users need a way of collecting large amounts of real-time data from their batteries and chargers. In addition, they need a user-friendly system, which can analyse the data to produce actionable alerts, understandable reports and advice so their processes can be improved.

A system of this kind, based on IoT technology and cloud-based software, and capable to gather power data from the vehicle, exists. The system can be tailored to meet the needs of the two main different sets of warehouse companies. For those relatively new to IoT, it offers an entry-level solution for exploring this new world. For those further along the smart warehouse road, but not yet aware of cloud-based lift truck power management, it gives another and more advanced solution.

Battery monitoring

Users desiring a modest level of engagement could use a tool, such as Wi-iQ - battery monitoring device - from EnerSys, which collects data wirelessly from sensors in each battery. Battery parameters monitored by these types of devices include temperature, water level, charge and discharge currents, cell voltage balance, state of charge, and other measurements of efficiency and condition. This data is accessible on PCs via the Wi-iQ report suite, or on tablets and smartphones through the E-connect APP that enable users to view and forward historical data. Also available is Truck IQ smart battery dashboard that provides live insights on battery status to drivers. 

Deeper analysis

For users seeking an integrated and cloud-based lift truck power management platform, EnerSys has designed the Xinx battery operations management system. The Xinx System reads each Wi-iQ monitoring device and transmits all the data to a cloud server. 

Xinx battery operations management system has a cloud-based software that analyses all data and presents outputs such as warnings on potential risks, developing problems and impending failures in individual batteries. The system identifies optimal times, practices and locations for charging. Its guidance helps optimise use of fast charging, opportunity charging and partial-state-of-charge operation. Daily usage and rotation are also recorded.

Wrongly sized and low-runtime batteries are quickly spotted, efficient water top-up levels and intervals are set, and energy consumption in operation and charging is assessed on an individual-truck and whole-fleet basis.

An EnerSys analyst assigned to the user’s account can assess comprehensive information on the Xinx battery operations management system online portal. The analyst will evaluate process and asset issues, identify root causes, specify corrective actions and produce efficiency optimisation plans. In addition, analysis can be used for forecasting, to assist in annual battery budgeting.

Although components may be bought separately, a power management system can only achieve its full benefit when supplied as a service. For maximum increase in efficiency and profitability, the supplier must offer innovative batteries, chargers and digital technology, along with deep system knowledge and strong support.  

Matteo Todesco, EnerSys