EnerSys has supplied its Hawker Motive Power brand of batteries and chargers to power the lift truck fleet operating at Peugeot's manufacturing plant in Ryton, Coventry.
One hundred and thirty Hawker batteries have been specially modified to enable them to be changed by a counterbalance forklift truck. The Hawker battery system, says Peugeot, is vital in maintaining uptime throughout the plant's 104-hour working week. The performance of the batteries and chargers also optimises the number of batteries that Peugeot currently requires.
Peugeot, part of the PSA Group, manufactures its highly-popular 206 model at the Ryton plant, which has been making cars since 1939 when it started producing the Humber marque. Today the Peugeot 206 is the best-selling retail car in its sector and the plant makes all models in the range, except the 206CC cabriolet, for markets worldwide. The plant produces more than 4,000 cars per week, with all models and all their variants made on a sophisticated and highly flexible single assembly line.
The Hawker batteries – WF200 models – are used in all the electric lift trucks, which provide materials to the assembly line. Most of the handling is undertaken by counterbalance forklift trucks, from 1.6 to 3.5 tonne capacity.
The components, mainly in stillages, are unloaded from incoming delivery vehicles and warehoused. Full stillages are called off as required and transferred to line-side storage areas. Smaller parcelled components are handled by low-level order pickers and directed to the assembly line via a Kanban system.
With line supply operating on virtually a just-in-time basis, Peugeot has to maintain a constant flow of materials from goods in, through the holding warehouse to the trackside storage zones. Maximum lift truck uptime is therefore critical.
“The vital link in the materials handling chain is the battery charge and change operation,” reports Roger Pettit, Fork Truck Pilot, Internal Logistics. “And Hawker has devised the ideal solution, specially adapted to our method of operating. ”
Battery charging areas are installed in three strategic locations around the plant. It was prohibitively expensive in the past to use overhead cranes (OHCs), the conventional method of changing counterbalance lift truck batteries, in all of them. “In any case, changing batteries using an OHC is a labour intensive operation and would probably have been too slow, incurring unacceptable downtime,” Roger Pettit explains.
Hawker has therefore supplied the batteries with specially-built containers which have integral fork pockets on the upper edge. For the E35 3.5 tonne-capacity trucks, on which the batteries are removed from the rear, the pockets have been fitted on the underside of the container. The fork pocket arrangement enables the batteries to be lifted out by a conventional counterbalance forklift, and a dedicated truck is permanently parked in each of the battery charge areas.
All lift truck drivers are fully trained to use the forklift, making battery changes a rapid, one-man job. Average battery changing time is approximately four minutes. Drivers are instructed to change batteries whenever the battery discharge indicator on their trucks registers 80 per cent discharge.
The battery change areas throughout the plant have been equipped with approximately 60 of Hawker's LifePlus high frequency chargers, which offer outstanding energy efficiency, as much as 20 per cent higher than 50 Hz chargers. The LifePlus charger automatically detects the battery's level of discharge and will supply only the amount of power needed – and no more – to restore full charge. This means less mains power is required to charge a battery. Thus the energy costs per charge are considerably reduced, leading to significant savings in electricity costs.
The LifePlus charger is very versatile. It will automatically accommodate batteries of different capacities, and is easily programmable for all battery technologies. The LifePlus models will also operate with various battery voltages, offering an ideal solution for users with mixed truck fleets. The chargers are also light and compact, enabling them to be wall mounted. This is an important benefit at the Ryton plant where space in the battery change areas is limited.
Each of the LifePlus chargers is fitted with an easily-read red and green 'traffic light' system, with the green light showing only when the charging cycle has been completed. Drivers will therefore only select a fully charged battery. This ensures that all batteries in the fleet receive full and regular charges. Battery longevity is further improved by Hawker's Aquamatic system, which automatically ensures regular and correct topping-up.
Hawker has assigned a dedicated on-site engineer to oversee all service and maintenance tasks, which means that Peugeot staff can concentrate on their core operations. This option now offered by Hawker is proving increasingly popular with end users and lift truck suppliers alike.
Contracting the operation to Hawker specialists ensures that batteries are maintained and eliminates any potential errors such as under- or over-filling resulting in loss of performance and shortening of battery life. It also ensures that health and safety issues are properly addressed.
“The Hawker system works very well,” Roger Pettit reports. “The performance of the batteries and chargers, the speed and ease of changing, and the excellent on-site training and service support that Hawker provides has all ensured that we have experienced minimal problems, which makes an enormous contribution to sustaining high uptime.
“Another major benefit is that with high performance batteries and ultra-efficient chargers we have better utilised the number of batteries needed to run the lift truck fleet.”