11. Maintaining Fleet Batteries
Unlike individual battery users, who come to know their batteries like a good friend, fleet users must share the batteries from a pool of unknown packs. While an individual user can detect even a slight reduction in runtime, fleet operators have no way of knowing the behavior or condition of the battery when pulling it from the charger. They are at the mercy of the battery. It’s almost like playing roulette.
It is recommended that fleet battery users set up a battery maintenance program. Such a plan exercises all batteries on a regular basis, reconditions those that fall below a set target capacity and ‘weeds out’ the deadwood. Usually, batteries get serviced only when they no longer hold a charge or when the equipment is sent in for repair. As a result, battery-operated equipment becomes unreliable and battery-related failures often occur. The loss of adequate battery power is as detrimental as any other malfunction in the system.
Implementing a battery maintenance plan requires an effort by management to schedule the required service for the battery packs. This should become an integral component of an organization’s overall equipment maintenance and repair activities. A properly managed program improves battery performance, enhances reliability and cuts replacement costs.
The maintenance plan should include all rechargeable batteries in use. Large organizations often employ a variety of batteries ranging from wireless communications, to mobile computing, to emergency medical equipment, to video cameras, portable lighting and power tools. The performance of these batteries is critical and there is little room for failure.
Whether the batteries are serviced in-house with their own battery analyzers or sent to an independent firm specializing in that service, sufficient spare batteries are required to replace those packs that have been temporarily removed. When the service is done on location and the batteries can be reinstated within 24 hours, only five spares in a fleet of 100 batteries are required. This calculation is based on servicing five batteries per day in a 20 workday month, which equals100 batteries per month. If the batteries are sent away, five spares are needed for each day the batteries are away. If 100 batteries are absent for one week, for example, 35 spare batteries are needed.
Manufacturers of portable equipment support battery maintenance programs. Not only does such a plan reduce unexpected downtime, a well-performing battery fleet makes the equipment work better. If the recurring problems relating to the battery can be eliminated, less equipment is sent to the service centers. A well-managed battery maintenance program also prolongs battery life, a benefit that looks good for the vendor.