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Operational Competitiveness in a Cold Store Environment

A story about a company that has found the key for effective cold store material handling. They gained 36 extra minutes of operation time per truck in their fleet and reduced battery investments by over 50%. 

A Harsh Environment

Cold store is by far the most demanding sector of the supply chain, as both operators and machines face cold temperatures and a harsh working environment.

Imagine an electric battery-powered forklift in around-the-clock operation, in a cold store (-25⁰ C) with no maintenance or battery change needed…

Sounds like science fiction?

Well, it is a reality for leading truck supplier and their major customer Dagrofa Logistik.

A global leader in material handling solutions is offering a lithiumion powered reach truck for use in cold stores (down to -30⁰ C). The lithium ion power drive allows for cost and energy savings, longer operating hours and improved performance.

The Business Challenge

A major supplier to the European “cold chain” is supplying to some of Europe’s largest cold store distribution companies. One of these companies is Dagrofa Logistik. Dagrofa Logistik has a large inventory of counterbalanced trucks, stackers, reach trucks, order picking trucks and other types of warehouse trucks and specialist vehicles.

Their pain is efficiency and cost of operations. The extreme, low temperatures have a negative effect on truck performance as the traditional Lead/Acid-batteries have reduced charge and discharge performance at low temperatures. The batteries have to be changed frequently and the cost of maintenance is high.

Significant resources are bound up in the replacement battery packs, personnel and equipment servicing the trucks and packs. Shifting to lithium-ion was aimed at addressing these issues and enable better economy and efficiency of operations.

“One pack per truck policy means that we reduced the number of packs by 50% and save time on battery changes. Longer cycle life and no maintenance give an impressive ROI and TCO.” – Logistics & Operations Manager, Dagrofa Logistik A/S

Huge Wins in Cold Store Material Handling

The Logistic & Operations Manager in Dagrofa Logistik is a happy man. The new lithium-ion battery technology is revolutionizing his distribution centre’s efforts to optimise operations and reduce costs:

“There is no doubt in my mind the economic benefits are huge. With lithium, only for the battery change (i.e. the absence of it) we are saving 36 minutes per truck per day (6 changes of 6 minutes). Moreover, we do not need to purchase replacement battery packs. In this way we can save 50% on the initial battery investment”

The significantly longer life-cycle of a lithium-ion battery pack allows for even more savings. Li-ion can outlive the Lead/Acid battery by 3-5 times. Every reach truck is equipped with 2 Lead/Acid packs – one in operation the other at charging.

Considering that lithium-ion pack can deliver 3-5 more cycles than a Lead/Acid, a single lithium-ion pack delivers energy corresponding to multiple Lead/Acid packs during its long life. This, multiplied by the total number of trucks in a big distribution centre like Dagrofa Logistik, makes the potential positive impact  on savings and operation effectiveness impressive. 

Operational Benefits

The list of benefits does not stop here. An experienced truck operator at Dagrofa Logistik was selected to be the test driver of the lithiumion truck: “What I like about it is the ease of use”, he says.

And he continues:
“I do not need to change battery, which takes lots of pressure from my shoulders. With the new battery – when fully charged – I can drive almost 9 hours, whereas with the Lead/Acid-battery the range was between 4-5 hours. (…) We also introduced the routine to opportunity charge the battery during breaks and now we are able to operate the machine non-stop, i.e. for 3 shifts.”

In terms of measurable benefits, he highlights the increased production capacity, time and money savings because of no battery-change, one battery per truck policy and no need for maintenance of the lithium-ion batteries.

The Solution

The designed solution was based on the LiBAL s-BMS™ Battery Management System (BMS) from Lithium Balance as the reach truck’s battery interface.

One of key advantages of the BMS is that it is cell type and chemistry agnostic. In other words, the battery interface allows for full flexibility in terms of choice of lithium-ion chemistries, types of cells and battery suppliers. In this way battery becomes a commodity.

The flexibility gives independence and security to truck manufacturer and to end-customer as they both can choose the best battery currently available on the market for their application (i.e. best technical and economical fit).

With a flexible and standard BMS-truck interface, battery multi-sourcing becomes possible without compromising safety, reliability and performance of the trucks. The standardised interface reduces the risks of technical issues; it ensures constant performance and reliability; facilitates service and support; and allows for extended warranty of the pack.

Considering the longevity and better performance of the lithium-ion batteries, it is now possible for the truck manufacturers to supply total solutions, i.e. trucks equipped with a native battery pack.
By doing this, the OEMs have a golden chance to grasp new strategic growth opportunities and increase turnover and revenue.

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