Lean manufacturing consultant The Hands On Group recently published an article on the benefits of moving a manufacturing facility from a single shift to multiple shifts. According to HOG, such a move can result in cutting manufacturing lead times in half, freeing up cash and space through inventory reduction, and effectively doubling the facility’s tooling and equipment.
The full article and their rationale can be found at http://www.handsongroup.com/lean-manufacturing-topic-of-the-day-making-the-case-for-multiple-shifts/
Although they make an excellent case for multiple shifts, there is one important point we believe that they overlooked. It’s easy to see that some equipment—say, a drill press—can be run sixteen hours a day as easily as eight, you probably can’t make the same assumption for the battery-powered equipment such as burden carriers, stock chasers, tow tractors, and personnel carriers. Most single-shift plants use the off hours to recharge these vehicles.
Because we specialize in serving high intensity, multi-shift industrial operations, we’ve already helped a number of our customers meet the challenge of keeping battery-powered vehicles running two or even three shifts. Here are some of the solutions we’ve found:
- Use higher/amp hour batteries that will last through multiple shifts.
- Replace the batteries between shifts.
- Move to high-frequency, opportunity charging.
Each of these solutions comes with its own benefits and costs. Briefly, they are:
1) Using higher amp/hour batteries is an obvious first consideration since it doesn’t require a significant investment. Pack Mule machines come standard with 245 amp/hour batters, providing more than 20% more battery power than our competitor’s standard batteries. They average standard batteries delivering about 200 amp/hours. For a two shift operation where the intensity of use is not too great, this added 20% may be enough to make the difference.
2) Replacing batteries between shifts using roll-out battery systems ensures that the vehicles will always have enough power to do the job. However, changing batteries takes time, requires investing in a second set of batteries, and creates possible safety and environmental risks because of the extra handling of heavy, acid-filled batteries.
3) Moving to high-frequency, opportunity charging means that any time the vehicle is idle (breaks, lunch, etc.) it can be recharged. This has become our top recommendation for multi-shift, heavy industrial applications. There are several ways to get to opportunity charging. One is to use industrial batteries, and we’ve found that a number of our customers who use forklift trucks as a significant part of their material handling strategy already have these batteries and are using high-frequency charging. Two newer alternatives for the same result are pure lead acid battery systems and lithium ion batters. Both of these battery types can be charged from readily available 110 current and standard electrical outlets, eliminating the need to provide special circuits for charging.
Pack Mule now offers both pure lead acid batteries and lithium ion batteries as factory installed options. The initial cost is significant, but in applications that depend on their vehicles for two or three shifts a day, the payback is very quick.
If you’ve adopted multi-shift operations or are seriously considering it, we’d like to talk with you about making sure that your electric industrial fleet is equipped to do its part of the job. We specialize in finding the right electric burden carriers, tow vehicles, stock chasers, personnel carriers, and maintenance vehicles for each individual application and helping you choose the power options that’ll work best for you.
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