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Zero mainenance, zero emission batteries for Link

Link Logistics has installed EnerSys's Hawker Evolution batteries, with high frequency (HF) chargers, for the lift truck fleet at the distribution warehouse operated on behalf of the frozen produce retailer Farmfoods. Hawker has also supplied Link Logistics with a Battery Management System to ensure that all batteries are correctly charged and rotated, along with a Battery Handling System to speed-up battery changing and eliminate risky manual handling. Link Logistics says Hawker has provided “the best solution possible.”

The Hawker Evolution sealed gel battery was specified because it is totally maintenance free. Evolution requires no topping-up throughout its life, and its highly efficient valve-regulated re-combination technology reduces gas emissions to an absolute minimum. This means that Link Logistics has avoided the heavy investment required to build a special vented charging room, using instead space already available within the warehouse. Combined with the Hawker HF chargers Evolution also enables dramatic savings on the mains electricity used for charging – as much as 30 per cent less than conventional batteries and chargers.

“The zero-maintenance Evolution battery eliminates human error and avoids all the spills and emissions commonly associated with wet-cell battery operations,” says Link Logistics' Depot Manager Phil Bradley.

“And because of its zero emissions we were able to create a charging area that was a perfect fit with the existing building – there simply wasn't the space to build a charging room with all the venting equipment and water supply that conventional batteries would need. With the compact size of the HF chargers, too, we were able to make optimum use of the space available.”

Link Logistics' 20,540 sq m facility at Solihull – comprising 11,618 sq m of frozen storage and 8,922 sq m of ambient, providing a total of some 5,500 pallet locations – operates as Farmfoods' regional distribution centre (DC) for the south of the UK, serving more than 90 stores. The warehousing facilities were recently expanded to cope with Farmfoods' growth in the region. The new 26-strong truck fleet comprises pallet transporters, order pickers, and reach trucks.

Working round the clock seven days a week, and delivering daily to Farmfoods outlets in the region, the Solihull DC despatches around 2,000 pallet-loads of goods each week. The reach trucks and pallet transporters work three shifts, the order pickers two shifts.

To maximise availability Hawker has supplied two batteries for each truck, plus extra spare batteries to ensure that regular equalisation charges can be undertaken. All the batteries are equipped with the Hawker 'Smart' electronic device that communicates battery status data to the charger when plugged in. Hawker's HF chargers offer outstanding energy efficiency, as much as 20 per cent higher than 50 Hz chargers. The chargers automatically detect 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 – as much as 30 per cent when the HF chargers are used with the Evolution battery. As Phil Bradley observes: “With a fairly large fleet operating round the clock the savings are not insignificant…”

Link Logistics uses the communication facility between the Smart devices and the chargers to operate a Battery Management System. The 'intelligent' diagnostic software in the chargers, processing information from the Smart device, transmits data to a large display screen installed in the area where the 34 Hawker HF chargers have been installed. The display clearly indicates the order in which batteries, for each type of truck, should be retrieved, ensuring that only fully-charged units are taken.

“The Hawker Battery Management System again eliminates human error,” Phil Bradley reports. “It ensures that all batteries receive the correct amount of charge before being used, and that the batteries are systematically rotated. The Hawker system overcomes the potential problem of truck drivers simply taking the nearest available battery, regardless of its true state of charge. Proper rotation also prolongs the life of the batteries.”

For changing the order picker and pallet transporter batteries Hawker has supplied a transfer cart with a roller bed, enabling the batteries to be smoothly rolled on and off the charger stations (also fitted with rollers), requiring minimal manual effort. For the reach truck batteries Link Logistics uses Hawker's Pro-Series Tugger, a system based on an easily manoeuvred powered pallet transporter that uses a magnetic ram to extract the battery from the truck and transfer it to the charging station, and vice versa. This requires no manual handling at all.

Phil Bradley says: “The health and safety benefits of the battery handling system are obvious. There are now several EU directives concerning manual handling, and the Hawker system enables us to comply with ease. All round, the Hawker package – the batteries, chargers, Battery Management System and Battery Handling System – has quite simply provided us with the best solution possible.”

The Hawker system at Solihull has proved so effective that Link Logistics has now installed Evolution batteries, 'smart' HF chargers and a Battery Management System at the recently-opened Farmfoods northern distribution centre in Warrington.

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