Embrace an energy management mindset for material handling equipment

Embrace an energy management mindset for material handling equipment

Answers to simple, straightforward power management questions highlight problems and reveal opportunities for improvement.

By TJ Shelters

Jhe country faces a debilitating supply chain crisis, and aging forklifts and electrical equipment cannot meet the growing demands of most manufacturing and distribution facilities. This creates a serious problem for facility managers and heads of operations as they line up – for months or even years – to access desperately needed replacement equipment.

forklift loader stacker truck equipment at warehouse

More forklift chassis were ordered in 2021 than in any other year in history. This equipment is essential to the services our industry provides – it literally keeps our facilities and the US supply chain – running.

But when you combine the growing demand for forklifts with our current shortages in the supply chain, it adds up to a long and headache-inducing wait time for new or refurbished equipment. Current lead times range from six to 24 months for forklifts and other critical equipment.

And as facility managers line up for what they need, they face rising maintenance expenses, rental expenses and declining productivity. This is the sad reality we face today in our industry.

However, the news is not all bad. I see a great opportunity emerging from this tumultuous waiting game. For facility managers willing and able to pick up and see the big picture, there is a way to capitalize on the opportunities here.

For those who want to look at the situation through the lens of power management, there is an obvious workaround to this problem of long equipment delays.

What most facility managers don’t realize is that the productivity and efficiency of operations, including the effective maintenance and management of equipment, is still 100% dependent on how we manage – or fail to manage – our power supply.

Specifically, the lifespan and efficiency of the power we supply to the frames of our forklifts directly determines whether and to what extent our operations remain operational.

The power-focused perspective and lens is what facility managers and leaders should embrace for their operations – but too few are able to step back and see that view from 30,000 feet away from their facilities. It’s easy and understandable to get bogged down in the reactive mindset of dealing with issues as they arise, clinging to old equipment maintenance processes, and generally hoping for the better. Today’s demands on our productivity are greater than ever, and who could blame a facility manager for simply doing their best to keep their heads above water?

But when we fail to step back and see the bigger picture through the lens of a power-driven mindset, we miss the point.

Without efficient, reliable and sustainable power as the foundation of our equipment, operations and productivity, we have nothing at all.

In contrast, facility managers who take a power-centric view of their operations succeed in building resilience and flexibility into their material handling operations. In most cases, they don’t fall prey to endless, drawn-out wait times — they don’t queue because they never had to queue in the first place. Their forklifts run more efficiently and smoothly for longer periods of time because their battery power systems don’t malfunction or require replacement. The battery-powered approach prevents this conundrum from popping up unexpectedly, as they had a plan and system in place to get ahead.

These installations ask critical but revealing questions such as:

  • Does our electrical system work?
  • Do we have challenges for forklift operators?
  • Does our drum room look ugly?
  • Do we have less life later in the life cycle of our equipment?
  • How long do our batteries last?
  • Do we have updated recharging equipment that is efficient and saves us money?
  • Is our organization flexible in the face of power demand peaks?
  • Does our electrical equipment last the life cycle of our forklift equipment?
  • Do our operators sometimes start their shift on a dead truck?

Answers to these simple and straightforward questions will shed light on power management issues that were probably overlooked before, but will reveal where immediate improvements can be made.

If you’re asked to stand in line, don’t. Take a fresh approach and build a new course of action centered on fortifying and expanding your power supply. Your operations can’t afford to wait.

TJ Shelters National Vice President of Sales at ConcentricTJ Shelters is National Vice President of Sales for Concentric, a DC power management provider for the material handling and critical power industries. He has spent the past decade helping manufacturers and distributors transform their operations to provide safer, more durable and higher throughput material handling solutions.

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Alan A. Seibert