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Reasons why you should automate your forklift battery charging in warehouses

3 Reasons Why You Should Automate Forklift Battery Charging

May 18, 2021  |  Jeff Christensen

Technology and automation are the keys to a safer, more productive, and more cost-efficient warehouse. Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and autonomous forklifts have proven to be safe, reliable, and consistent. Increasingly, more companies are seeking a seamless, end-to-end solution that automates workflows across entire facilities, including the battery charging process, to further drive efficiencies and remove potential safety risks.

Here are three key benefits you can expect when you automate your forklift battery charging.

1. Safety

The dangerous reality of warehouses is they are dynamic environments rife with manual, human error-prone processes. Fatigue, distractions, and simple mistakes can cause accidents, and manual forklifts are at the center of 97,000 injuries annually, according to OSHA. Battery charging stations are a hot spot for accidents and injuries. The more processes you can automate in your facility, the safer everyone will be.

First, the batteries themselves are hazardous. A lift truck lead acid battery is incredibly heavy and can lead to a crushing accident during battery changing, removal, and replacement procedures. Inside the battery, there are harmful levels of sulfuric acid, battery acid, and electrolytes. These substances can splash and result in chemical burns. The high voltage and incredible amounts of electricity at the charging stations pose electrocution and explosion hazards. Also, a facility’s charging area is often crowded with people and heavy machinery, so crashes caused by manual forklifts can occur. Human drivers have so many variables to pay attention to that one second of lapsed concentration can prove dangerous.

Distractions and errors in forklift battery charging procedures endanger human workers and can lead to OSHA-recordable safety incidents for the facility. Being a process prone to accidents, facilities typically dedicate trained employees to this specific task, which is becoming increasingly difficult amidst the ongoing labor shortage for skilled laborers. 

Automation is more consistent, reliable, and predictable than human-operated processes. When autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) direct themselves to a battery charging station and take human touchpoints out of the process, potential risks can be eliminated by keeping workers away from dangerous environments. Removing human error from the charging process greatly improves the safety and effectiveness of the charging process and allows skilled workers to be reassigned to safer, more valuable positions.

2. Productivity

Your facility’s productivity will improve in several ways when you introduce AMRs into processes and automate forklift battery charging. Time is money in a material handling facility, and an automated charger makes the most out of downtime and your workers’ time. Manual battery charging is time consuming and requires dedicated workers to oversee the process. When you automate charging, you can redistribute those workers elsewhere where they can contribute to your facility’s productivity.

Also, automated charging can keep your fleet running 24/7 by scheduling AMRs to charge when they’re not currently doing a job—in between shifts or while waiting for a job in the taxi stand/queue. Opportunity charging keeps your AMR fleet powered up and on the job with automated charging directed by fleet management software like Supervisor, part of the Seegrid Fleet Central enterprise software platform. It boosts productivity by automating scheduling, dispatch, and charging to keep operations continuously running. 

Supervisor acts as your automated battery manager, monitoring battery levels and autonomously sending Seegrid Palion AMRs to and from the Auto-Charge synchronized self-charging station as needed, eliminating reliance on dangerous manual battery charging. Supervisor can direct Palion AMRs to the nearest Auto-Charge station when they reach a certain battery level and set timers to keep AMRs moving and product flowing.

Facilities can choose to install Drive-In or Drive-Thru Auto-Charge stations for Palion AMRs. Auto-Charge is specifically designed to integrate seamlessly within your facility’s space and complement your workflows. Drive-Thru configurations allow you to charge while the AMR is carrying a payload, like an empty tote, while the Drive-In configuration is ideal for customers with dedicated charging areas.

Supervisor monitors the pulse on traffic and material flow and ensures that production keeps moving even when a robot is at the battery charging area. Automating as many processes as you can, including battery charging, will streamline your material flow, drive efficiencies, and boost productivity with a reliable, consistent solution.

3. Cost

Finally, your bottom line will benefit from automated AMR and autonomous forklift battery charging. When human error and distractions are removed from the equation, you’ll find that your facility runs more cost-efficiently, reliably, and with fewer errors. 

Automating battery charging and changing will save your facility from the additional cost of battery PPE. Because batteries are so volatile and heavy, workers must be equipped head to toe in PPE, including goggles, rubber gloves, face shields, hard hats, aprons, and steel-toe boots. Plus, the more humans are involved in the process, the more likely there is to be an accident or error, which are costly. Human error may also result in damaged batteries, equipment, and products.

AMR technology and automated battery charging may seem like an expensive, unattainable, futuristic technology at first glance, but automation actually drives down operational costs and creates opportunities for human workers to focus on more engaging, safer positions that require human input and decision making. When all is said and done, the technology is definitely worth the investment.

Automation Is the Way of the Future

A facility's manual forklift battery charging station is an expensive and dangerous human touchpoint. Luckily the technology is available to remove hazards from your facility to protect your employees and your bottom line. Switch to automating workflows within your facility, including AMR and autonomous forklift charging, for a stronger, safer, and more productive tomorrow.

To learn how Seegrid Palion AMRs can complement your human workforce to drive a strong and fast ROI, download this infographic. 

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