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How to Make Battery Charging Rooms Safer

Many warehouses are beginning to switch from combustion engine forklifts to electric forklifts in order to lower operating costs and improve environmental impacts. While electric forklifts have a longer lifespan than gas forklifts, they require proper care and maintenance. Lead-acid batteries can take up to eight hours to charge fully, so it’s important that the warehouse has a safe and efficient battery charging room. Here are four ways to make battery charging rooms safer.

Proper ventilation

Forklift batteries can emit hydrogen gas while they are re-charging, and for a short time afterwards, so it’s vital that the charging rooms are properly ventilated. The hydrogen gas level in the charging room should be below two percent to mitigate possible risks of explosion. Installation of exhaust fans, or providing an opening in the roof of the warehouse, will further reduce this risk.

Acid-resistant flooring

The flooring of the charging rooms must be resistant to acid because battery acid is highly corrosive. Unfortunately, spills do happen, but if floor is acid-resistant the spill will be easier to clean up. Without acid-resistant flooring, the corrosive battery acids could result in structural damage to the warehouse.

Availability to safety equipment

All charging rooms should be fitted with a washing area and a Class E fire extinguisher. Forklift operators may need to be able to quickly extinguish an electrical fire, and/or perform an emergency wash. First-aid kits and personal protective equipment (apron, gloves and eye protection) should also be available in the battery charging rooms.

Correct installation of electrical breakers and charging points

Chargers should be mounted on the wall and fitted with an electrical breaker to stop the flow of electricity in an emergency. When charging multiple forklifts, the distance between each truck should be at least three feet. The distance between forklifts provides safe and easy access for operators.

At KION North America, we care about the safety and efficiency of your warehouse. Follow these four steps to make your battery charging rooms safer. If you’re looking to purchase an electric forklift, our Linde and Baoli brands offer solutions for every application. Have more questions? Contact us at 843-875-8000.

Three Tips to Improve Electric Forklift Battery Life

The majority of warehouses are making the switch from internal combustion forklifts to electric forklifts in order to reduce their carbon footprint. Electric forklifts, such as the Linde 346, produce zero emissions, have a longer economic life and more precise truck control than typical internal combustion forklifts. However, while electric forklifts are more efficient, they require proper maintenance; especially when it comes to the battery. Here are three ways to improve your electric forklift battery life.

Don’t over-charge

Flooded, lead-acid forklift batteries have a limited number of charge cycles. You should charge the battery after an 8-10 hour shift, or when it’s discharged more than 30 percent. Don’t charge the battery during lunch break, or “when it’s convenient” because it will reduce the battery’s lifespan. This kind of opportunity-charging requires a specific battery and charger combination that also needs formal training.

Check the water level

Water plays a pivotal role in the life of the battery, so make sure to check the fluid level of the battery every five charging cycles. The water should only be refilled once the battery is fully charged. Also, keep in mind that you only need enough water to cover the plastic battery element. For additional details, refer to the manual provided by your battery manufacturer.

Keep the batteries cool

Temperature is important in keeping your forklift battery healthy. For optimal operation, keep the temperature in the charging rooms below 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius). If the battery is overheated, the lifespan will be decreased, so you need to make sure that the battery is well ventilated when it’s charging and in use.

Follow these three steps to ensure a long battery life for your electric forklift. Check out our Linde and Baoli products if you’re looking to purchase an electric forklift, or contact your local authorized dealer. At KION North America, we understand the importance of an efficient forklift. Please contact us if you have any further questions at 843-875-8000.

Identifying Forklift Wear and Tear

Forklifts are designed to last, but wear and tear inevitably occurs with use of the machine. Similar to cars, forklifts require regular service and maintenance, so you want to avoid reckless driving and handle your machine with care. But no matter how careful you are, forklifts will wear down over time.

It’s crucial to know if your machine needs to be repaired or removed from service to get as much life as possible out of the lift. Here are five places to look out for signs of forklift wear and tear.

1. Tires

Forklift tires are built to withstand a lot of weight, but like your car’s tires, will need to be replaced at some point. There are a few ways to tell when it’s time to replace a tire or two on your lift:

  • Worn low: Most tires have a defined line to let you know when it’s time to switch them out, sometimes referred to as the 50% wear line. If this line has been breached, it’s time to change the tire.
  • Chunking: Chunking refers to losing pieces of the tire rubber peeling away from the tire. Not only is chunking unsafe, but also renders the wheel useless, and the tire should be replaced immediately.
  • Flattening: Flattening occurs as a result of misalignment the forklift coming to a sharp halt. Change the tire if you notice it has any bald spots.

2. Forks

To get the most out of a forklift, the forks must be in good condition. Forks that are bent or cracked from picking up, transporting or unloading pallets cannot successfully transfer a load. As soon as you notice any of these issues, stop using the lift and take it for servicing immediately.

3. Chain

When properly lubricated, forklift chains can perform up to 6,000 hours of work. However, if you notice protruding or turned pins, plate cracking, misalignment, broken links, rust, or erosion, the chain needs to be replaced. Prevent these issues by keeping the chain lubricated.

4. Mast

The mast is the vertical assembly on the front of the forklift that’s responsible for raising, lowering, and tilting a load. One sign of wear and tear on the mast is metal on metal contact. Grinding sounds during operation, or visible scrape marks, are the result of metal of metal contact and serve as a sign to replace the mast.

5. Oil

Keeping proper levels of oil and immediately repairing oil leaks will protect your machine, as well as your facility as a whole. Oil lubricates the forklift’s mast when it is extended, and too little oil can result in increased friction and temperature that will most likely destroy other parts of the machine. Not to mention, an oil leak is hazardous to operators and pedestrians.

If you notice any of these signs of wear and tear on your forklift, you need to call for service. It’s important to catch these signs early in order to get as much life as possible out of your machine. At KION North America, we ensure quick delivery of parts and a range of services designed to fit your needs. Contact your local authorized dealer if you have any further questions about forklift maintenance.

Is It Time to Replace Your Forks?

Forklifts are an invaluable tool in warehouses and manufacturing facilities. Without them, most operations could not continue. And the most important part of a forklift is the forks themselves, which carry the lift’s load.

When a forklift’s forks are worn, bent, broken, or damaged, it not only affects the lift’s ability to function properly, but can also put your product and the personal safety of your employees at risk. To ensure that your forklift is in top working condition, the lift’s forks should be inspected regularly and replaced if any damage is found.

Conduct the following inspections to determine if it is time to replace your lift’s forks:

Wear

First, check the forks for normal wear. The thickness of the forks wears down over time as the lift carries loads. You can use a special fork caliper tool to measure the forks for wear. If the wear reduces by 10% or more of the original thickness, it is time to replace the forks.

Surface cracks

Inspect the top and bottom of the forks for cracks. Cracks occur over time with normal operation, or more frequently if the forklift carries a load beyond its load capacity. If there are any cracks, the forks need to be replaced.

Make sure to carefully check the areas where the area where the forks attach to the lift truck, as cracks often develop there.

Evenness of the forks

If you operate a lift with uneven forks, you run the risk of damaging the load or even tipping the forklift. Carefully inspect the forks to make sure they are even. The difference in the height of each fork tip should not exceed 3% of the length of the blade.

Straightness of the blade and shank

If the blade or shank of the forklift has been distorted or bent, they need to be replaced. The blade refers to the blades that the load sits on. The shank is the vertical component of the forks that attach to the carriage.

If the straightness deviates from 0.5% of the length of the blade, or 0.5% of the height of the shank, the forks must be repaired or replaced.

Fork angle

In addition to the checking that the blade and shank are straight, you should also check the fork angle where the blade and shank meet. If the angle exceeds 3° from the original angle, the forks should not return to service.

If any of the above do not fit the specifications for your particular forklift, it is time to replace the lift’s forks. General forklift inspections should be performed before every use, while federal law mandates that forks are inspected by trained personnel once a year.

There are a few things you can do to ensure that you get the most life possible out of your lift’s forks. Never push your lift beyond its limits. Pay attention to load capacity, and do not carry loads that extend too far out on the forks. Additionally, you should only use forklifts for their intended purpose.

While you can replace forks to get more life out of your lift, forklifts do not last forever. But by performing the inspections above and conducting the appropriate repairs or replacements, you can ensure optimal performance for your forklift.

How to Prevent the Most Expensive Forklift Repairs

Forklifts are powerful machines with many working systems and moving parts. When a forklift and its various systems are not properly cared for, the resulting repairs can cost you thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. And not only are repairs themselves expensive, but performing forklift repairs can also mean time off the floor, resulting in decreased productivity for your operation.

Luckily, there are ways you can prevent large repair expenses from incurring and keep your forklift operational. The following are tips for preventing the most expensive forklift repairs.

Perform the proper checks

Before every shift, forklift operators should perform preliminary checks on the lift. By performing these checks, forklift operators can identify potential repairs early and avoid causing further damage to the lift during operation.

The operator should perform both a visual and operational check. During a visual check, the driver should look out for fluid leaks, make sure the battery is charged, check for any missing or loose nuts and bolts, and check for general damage and conditions.

During an operational check, the driver should test that the forklift’s mechanisms are operating properly, from the brakes and steering to lift mechanisms and so on. If the operator encounters an issue during either the visual or operational check, they should not operate the forklift and immediately notify a manager or supervisor.

Keep the warehouse clean

Inspection of the warehouse facilities and floor is also important to a forklift’s operation. A forklift and its parts, especially the tires, can be severely damaged by debris on the warehouse floor. Operators should also look out for potential obstructions that could cause an accident, either on the floor or overhead.

Repair costs incurred from a disorganized or untidy warehouse are perhaps the most easily preventable costs, so make sure that your facilities are optimized for proper forklift operation.

Pay attention to fluid levels

A very important aspect of a driver’s daily preliminary checks is to check and fill the lift’s fuel levels, including the fuel level, transmission and hydraulic fluids, coolants, and more. These fluids are essential to proper, safe forklift operation.

Fluid checks are especially important for making sure the battery operates efficiently. Ensuring that fluid levels are correct is another easy way to prevent expensive forklift damages.

Practice regular maintenance

The best way to prevent expensive forklift repairs is to catch problems early on. And while daily inspections can help, you should also have regular, comprehensive maintenance checks performed on your machine. A forklift technician can catch early signs of trouble that will prevent larger expenses in the future. Small repairs can often be serviced on site without much down time, saving you money without affecting productivity.

Why You Should Invest in a Warehouse Manager

When it comes to improving productivity in the warehouse, many experts will tell you to invest in a warehouse manager. Having a manager is key to running a successful operation. From day-to-day operations to implementing strategic warehouse management systems, a manager will ensure that your warehouse operations run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

A warehouse manager is responsible for organizing and coordinating the receipt, storage, and dispatch of goods in a safe and efficient manner. A manager must preside over all activities within the organization that engage with the packing, storing, and handling of materials. Such activities might include enacting safety procedures and performing training, supervising employees and tracking employee engagement, and researching new trends and technologies for warehouse operations.

A good warehouse manager should be trained and experienced in a few areas, including but not limited to logistics, distribution, transportation, and of course, management. With expertise in a variety of fields, a manager will better be able to handle all aspects of warehouse operations and assure the most productive methods are in place.

Some might argue that technological advancements in the warehouse are a cheaper alternative to hiring a manager. Warehouse management systems and other helpful technologies are extremely useful tools, but what if these methods fail? A warehouse manager will know how to handle these situations and ensure that productivity does not suffer as a result of failed technological systems. Additionally, a good manager will be on top of the latest trends and be responsible for enacting such technologies.

In addition to technology’s tendency to fail, technological systems cannot form relationships with employees and effectively encourage team-building. A warehouse manager, on the other hand, sets the expectations for his or her workers’ attitudes, work ethic, and ultimate success. The happier employees feel and the more connected they feel to their coworkers, the more productively they work. A warehouse manager is an irreplaceable tool when it comes to developing a strong team and boosting morale.

Overall, a warehouse manager will make sure that the warehouse is operating at optimal speed and efficiency without sacrificing safety. When it comes to running a productive warehouse, hiring a trained, competent manager is one of the best investments you can make.

Tips for Properly Cleaning a Forklift

Forklifts make life in the warehouse easier in so many ways. In order for forklifts to keep doing their job, it’s important to keep these machines well-maintained, which includes keeping them clean. Proper maintenance and cleaning will also help prolong a forklift’s lifespan. Here are a few tips for properly cleaning a forklift.

Use a pressure washer

Soap and water just won’t cut it; a pressure washer is the only way to completely clean a forklift. Using a pressure washer is also safer than soap and water, as you can keep a safe distance from the machine. And in environments where forklifts come into contact with potentially hazardous chemicals, mixing these chemicals with soap could be dangerous.

Get rid of loose dirt and debris first

Before putting the pressure washer to use, get rid of any loose dirt, debris, and rust that can be removed with a broom or duster. Doing so will help get the forklift as clean as possible before you pressure wash the vehicle. Additionally, dirt, dust, and rust can hurt the performance of a forklift if left to build up over time.

Start at the top

When you begin cleaning, start at the top of the forklift. Since grime and dirt will flow downward, starting at the top and working your way towards the bottom of the forklift will prevent you from dirtying an already clean area. That way, you create a much more efficient cleaning process

Make sure it’s dry

While forklifts are durable, not every part and component is waterproof. Once you have finished cleaning a forklift, leave time for it to dry completely. Make sure that before its next use, every component is dry and there is no excess water hiding in hard to see or reach areas.

Wear protective equipment

Last but not least, practice safety first, even when simply cleaning your forklift. A pressure washer keeps distance between you and the forklift while cleaning, but that does not mean injuries cannot happen. At the very least, wear protective goggles, boots, and gloves to protect some of the most vulnerable areas.

Letting your forklift build up dirt and grime will not only harm its performance, but the performance of your warehouse operation as a whole. Save time, energy, and money by properly cleaning and maintaining one of your most essential warehouse assets.

How Technology Can Improve Your Warehouse Operations

The benefits of technological advancements touch nearly every aspect of our lives and daily activities, including warehouse operations. For anyone looking to increase the productivity of their warehouse while saving time and money, adding certain technological methods is the way to go. Here are just a few of the ways that technology is making warehouses more productive and efficient than ever.

Warehouse Management Systems

WMS is a special software that helps better manage products when it comes to packing, handling, and stocking inventory. The software allows you to keep track of items and easily find the location of a product. WMS requires less hands on labor when it comes to finding, sorting, and handling inventory.

Dock Door Scheduling

Another helpful technology in the warehouse is dock door scheduling software. This technology helps schedule and assign doors to trucks carrying product. Truckers often spend longer waiting for a dock door to open than it takes to unload items for the truck. Avoid more traffic jams at your dock doors and save both your warehouse and truck drivers time and money.

Scanning devices

Most warehouses likely already use scanning devices in their operations, and for good reason. This simple technology locates and keeps track of inventory, therefore increasing productivity as workers do not have to take the time to locate an item manually. These devices also allow for more visibility for workers, telling them where a package has been or is supposed to be. The portability of these devices also makes for easy, convenient usage.

Communication

Warehouses can be quite large, but thanks to mobile communication devices, individuals do not have to search the stacks and various areas to communicate with a coworker. With mobile communication, employees from opposite ends of a warehouse can have instant, efficient access to one another. Just make sure that communication devices or methods are consistent across departments to ensure efficiency.

By implementing just one or two of these technological methods in your warehouse can help save you time and money. With easy access to information about inventory, instant communication tools, and systemized scheduling and tracking, your warehouse can be more productive than ever.

When adopting technology into your warehouse operations, remember that proper training is necessary to properly utilize the advantages that such systems offer. You should also consider putting training and alternate systems in place in the event that any of these technologies fail. Technology is evolving everyday, so take advantage of the technological methods available to warehouse operations and help make your warehouse more productive and efficient.

Forklift Maintenance Checklist

Unsafe forklift operations are one of the biggest safety hazards in warehouses. Whether due to improper training or lack of maintenance, forklifts can cause damage, injury, or even death when used improperly. That’s why regular maintenance and operational checks of forklifts are extremely important. OSHA requires that forklifts be inspected daily. In order to create a safe warehouse, make sure you look for these issues when conducting a pre-operational inspection:

Firstly, perform visual checks

  • Tire condition and pressure
  • Visible spills or leaks, including underneath the forklift and near hoses
  • Obvious signs of damage, such as cracks or other visible defects
  • Condition of gauges
  • Safety decals and nameplates are visible and legible
  • Examine the forks for signs of damage and appropriate height and thickness
  • For electric forklifts, there are no exposed or fraying wires

Next, conduct physical checks

  • Brakes and steering controls are operating properly
  • Safety devices like seat belt and horn are functional
  • Other operations and controls are working

And lastly, check liquid levels

  • Fuel
  • Brake fluid
  • Hydraulic fluid
  • Engine oil coolant

In addition to pre-operational checks, forklifts should undergo further inspection and maintenance based on days, months, or hours of operation. The following are the best practices for conducting more comprehensive maintenance checks:

Conduct forklift maintenance or service in safe conditions

  • Area of service is clean and free of clutter
  • Forklift engine is off and battery disconnected
  • Emergency brakes are set and wheels are blocked

After making sure the area is clean, begin servicing the vehicle

  • Change engine oil based on manufacturer’s specifications
  • Replace air filters
  • Examine brakes and replace brake fluid
  • Examine the cooling system, checking radiator hoses and clamps
  • Replace tires if damaged
  • Inspect chains and other parts for rust, damage, or misalignment

Protect your warehouse and employees by following these simple steps for forklift maintenance. This checklist is just a starting point for conducting appropriate forklift maintenance inspections. Read the manufacturer’s manual, look at OSHA’s guidelines, and contact professionals when servicing your forklift in order to prevent damage and injuries. In doing so, your warehouse can enjoy a safe and productive year in 2017.

Caring for Your Forklift Battery

In order to get the best possible use out of a forklift, it is necessary to practice proper maintenance so that it lives a long, productive life. One of the keys to helping your forklift live a long life is to care for its battery. A well-maintained battery should last a number of years, meaning you should get good use out of the forklift for that long. Here are a few steps for caring for the battery to help keep your forklift running for years to come.

Charge properly

Correctly charging a forklift battery is one of the most important factors when it comes to ensuring its longevity. You do not charge the battery when it is convenient for you or the opportunity happens to present itself. Charging a forklift battery drains its life cycle, and charging when you feel like it can reduce a battery’s lifespan significantly. The battery should only be charged at certain times and to a certain extent. It is recommended that you only charge a forklift battery at the end of an 8-hour work day or once the charge goes below 30%. Do not allow the battery to totally die before charging, as it could take up to three days for the battery to reach full charge. If you follow correct charging practices, your forklift’s lifespan should reach 5 years. OSHA recommends that users find and designate a battery-charging area. The area should be well-ventilated and neither too hot nor too cold.

Consistently check fluid levels

In order to work properly, batteries need to have the right amount of water. Most experts recommend you should check fluid levels every five to ten uses. If fluid levels need to be topped off, fill until the water covers the plastic element protector. Be careful not to overfill, as this can cause damage during the next run. Only cover the element protector by about ¼ of an inch. If fluid is running low, only fill with water after the battery has been charged, not before.

Practice safe storing and handling

As in all aspects of the warehouse, safety is extremely important when it comes to caring for and handling a forklift battery. While batteries can handle extreme environments, using and storing the forklift in harsh temperatures, especially extreme heat, can diminish battery life. The battery needs to have plenty of air circulating around it to ensure it cools properly and does not overheat. Batteries are designed to be safe, but as battery acid can be very dangerous, it is important to practice safety and caution when working with or handling a forklift battery. Be sure to wear protective gear, and take the recommended safety precautions.

Even the most effective and recommended batteries require proper care and maintenance in order to function to the best of their abilities. By following these steps, you can ensure that you are getting the most out of your forklift’s battery, helping make operations in your warehouse as productive and efficient as possible. Read our Forklift Maintenance Checklist for even more tips to improve your operation.