March 10, 2021

How to Reduce Forklift Maintenance Costs in 2021

By Maria Cloud

How to Reduce Your Forklift Maintenance Expenses

Forklifts are a substantial investment for any company and keeping up with regular maintenance of that equipment is crucial for maximizing its lifespan and performance. 

Maintenance represents a good amount of the average warehouse’s annual spend and it is not an area to skip out on to maintain your fleet’s longevity.

However, there are certain steps you can take that will reduce the need for spending hours on forklift maintenance. 

In this blog, we will discuss five ways to reduce forklift maintenance costs in 2021:

1) Prioritize safety

2) Go electric

3) Use lithium-ion batteries

4) Practice opportunity charging

5) Optimize battery temperature

 

Prioritize Forklift Safety and Operator Wellbeing

In order to keep worker safety at the top of the priority list, many warehouses consider their safety checks a part of general forklift maintenance, as the two are closely related.

OSHA has performed safety studies and found that companies were able to reduce costs by 20-40% after the implementation of safety plans. 

Use a daily forklift operator checklist to ensure that the equipment is functioning properly. 

Forklift batteries and the battery charging process present a host of potential safety risks as well. Lead acid batteries contain sulfuric acid and when charging they emit flammable hydrogen gas.

Lithium-ion batteries do not have the same risks in the charging process that lead acid batteries do, around the workplace. 

Additionally, using forklift batteries that are UL Listed improves safety for the operator. A UL Listing means a battery has met stringent safety testing requirements. 

 

Go for Electric Forklifts Over Internal Combustion

One easy way to reduce forklift maintenance is to opt for electric powered lift trucks over internal combustion ones. 

The industry is already moving in the direction of electric forklifts. A report done by the Industrial Truck Association (ITA) showed that the ratio of electric forklifts sold compared to internal combustion units was 66:34 in 2019 and that ratio increased to 73:27, for the first eight months of 2020.

Although electric forklifts generally require a higher investment up front, the total cost in ownership for an IC forklift is far greater in the long run.

Additionally, IC forklifts have many more internal parts that are subject to wear and tear compared to electric forklifts. An internal combustion engine has numerous parts requiring adjustments as well as a fluid filled cooling system that must be inspected regularly. Regular servicing costs can add up.

 

Opt for Lithium-Ion vs Lead Acid Batteries

Lithium-ion forklift batteries require less maintenance than lead acid batteries

  • Can’t be accidentally overcharged
  • Don’t require transport to a separate ventilated charging room
  • Don’t require watering to maintain their performance and lifespan

Additionally, lithium-ion’s higher energy density and longer lifespan delivers for increased warehouse productivity.

A battery with a high energy density has a longer battery run time; lithium-ion batteries can last throughout multiple shifts in a day. At 2000-3000 cycles, llithium-ion forklift batteries have nearly double the lifespan of a lead acid battery.

 

Practice Opportunity Charging not Equalization Charging

Lead acid batteries come with specific manufacturer requirements for charging that makes maintaining the battery more costly.

Lithium-ion batteries do not require an equalization charge. This allows you to avoid the labor costs and the electricity costs associated with equalization.

Lithium-ion batteries do perform better with opportunity charging. Opportunity charging is when a battery is charged for short periods of time throughout the day instead of all at once after the battery is fully discharged

In general, the depth of discharge along with frequency of forklift use determines the battery’s lifespan, or cycle count. It is better to avoid fully discharging the lithium-ion battery. Instead, make opportunity charging a practice in operations.

Opportunity charging can increase battery cycle life which reduces forklift maintenance costs.

 

Optimize Forklift Battery Temperature

One of the biggest culprits for forklift battery degradation is exposure to extreme temperatures, both cold and hot. This applies to all types of batteries, not just lithium-ion.  

For lithium-ion batteries, the recommended operating temperature is around 68° F. The higher that temperature rises, the more its performance might increase, but its lifespan will decrease.

When the temperature is too low, battery performance will be degraded. With the loss of battery performance, the increased internal resistance will have a warming effect caused by the voltage drop. A heater will allow the battery to work in colder temperatures as low as -4°F.

Without heaters, lithium-ion batteries can be safely discharged within the recommended range of 32°F to 131° F. They may experience some degradation to their lifespan if temperatures are higher than the recommended operating temperature. 

For lead acid batteries, the general benchmark is that each 15° F rise in temperature cuts the battery lifespan in half, permanently, and 122° F is their highest limit. When the temperature is too low, the electrolyte can freeze and expand, cracking its container and damaging the battery permanently. 

Managing battery temperature and keeping it in the range is the number one way to ensure that your batteries do not sustain damage that can shortened lifespans. Maximizing the lifespan of your battery is one way to reduce the maintenance cost of putting a replacement battery in service.

 

Reduce Maintenance Costs without Risks

Forklifts are an important investment which require maintenance to maximize it’s working life. If you are looking to reduce maintenance cost this year, there are many ways to do so.

Skipping maintenance is a bad idea and can compromise safety for equipment operators. Neglecting maintenance could also minimize the lifespan of forklifts. Lithium-ion batteries can play a huge role in reducing forklift maintenance expenses 2021.

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Maria Cloud

Maria Cloud

Maria Cloud is the Marketing Coordinator at Flux Power. She graduated with a BS degree in Business Management from California State University, San Marcos. She is responsible for generating marketing content, along with market research & customer initiatives.