15. Caring for Your Batteries from Birth to Retirement 5

GUIDE: Batteries in a portable world. 15. Caring for Your Batteries from Birth to Retirement 5

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15.4 To the Service Counter, and No Further

Not all manufacturers and dealers offer battery-refurbishing centers. If not available, a program is gaining popularity in which the battery is serviced at the store level. When a customer returns a faulty battery, the pack goes no further than the store that sold the equipment.

The customer service clerk checks the battery on site with approved test equipment. An attempt is made to restore the battery. If not successful and a warranty replacement is needed, a service report is issued, which is sent to the manufacturer by fax or e-mail. After verifying the report, the manufacturer offers replacement batteries as part of the warranty replacement policy.

Warranty replacement can be further streamlined by using the Internet and compatible battery analyzers. Such a process will operate with a minimum of human resources and run independent of office hours and time zones. Here’s how it works:

The manufacturer first sends each participating store an appropriate number of replacement batteries. When a customer returns a faulty battery, service personnel test the pack with the in-store analyzer. If restoration is unsuccessful, the analyzer e-mails a report to the manufacturer, stating the nature of the deficiency. Other information, such as the date of purchase, battery type and customer name are also included. The computer at the manufacturer’s headquarters verifies the claim and, if valid, issues an inventory adjustment against the spare batteries allocated to the store. When the stock gets low, a re-stocking order is generated and additional batteries are sent out automatically.

Besides lowering overhead costs, a fully integrated warranty replacement system provides the manufacturer with accurate information regarding the nature of battery failures. User patterns leading to battery failure can be evaluated by geographic region. For example, a temperature related failure might be more likely to occur in warm climates than in cool ones. Batteries with higher temperature resiliency can be allocated for these regions. Recurring problems can be identified quickly and corrective measures implemented within months rather than years. Such measures can be as simple as providing the customer with better operating instructions in preparing a new battery before use.

One of the most difficult problems in servicing batteries at store-level is a lack of technical know-how by the customer service personnel. With the ever-increasing number of battery models, the task of identifying a battery type and setting the correct parameters is becoming increasingly more complex. Technology is not keeping pace in supplying the battery market with suitable test equipment that is both cost effective and easy to use.

To bring battery testing within reach of the untrained user, battery analyzers must be simple to operate and allow easy interface with all major battery types. Setting the correct battery parameters should be clear and concise. Uncertainties that can lead to errors must be minimized. The manufacturer of the battery test equipment should be aware that the task of operating a battery analyzer is not part of the clerk’s job description.

The Batteryshop™ software by Cadex has been developed for the purpose of simplifying battery maintenance. When installed in a PC, the operator simply selects the desired battery from the database of over 2000 battery listings. With the Cadex 7000 Series connected to the PC, the analyzer programs itself to the correct parameters with the click of the mouse. The user only needs to insert the battery into the appropriate battery adapter and everything else is done automatically.

Some batteries, such as those manufactured by Motorola, are equipped with bar code labels. If bar coded, the user can simply scan the bar code label and insert the battery into the analyzer. Here is how it works:

The scanned battery model number is matched with the battery listing in the database. Cadex Batteryshop™ then assigns the appropriate battery configuration code (C-code) to the battery and downloads it to the Cadex 7000 Series. The analyzer is now programmed to the correct parameters, ready to service the battery.

Not all battery packs come with bar code identification. If not available, a label printer connected to the PC can generate the missing bar code. These labels can be attached to a separate sheet on the service counter. The bar code labels may also be placed next to an illustration of the battery. The clerk simply refers to the correct battery and scans the bar code label associated with the battery. The system is now set to service the battery.

In the near future it will be possible to view the picture of the battery on the PC monitor. Clicking the mouse on the image will reveal all model numbers associated with this battery. A click on the correct model will program the analyzer.

When training global staff, simplification and automation make common sense. With tools now available that do the thinking, employees no longer need to be battery experts. Similar to a checkout clerk in a supermarket who, in the pre-computer days, required full product knowledge can now rely on the embedded bar code information. The price of all items purchased is flashed on the screen and an up-to-the-second inventory status is available. Such simplifications are also possible in servicing commercial batteries.

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