Maintenance can Support Productivity and Uptime in Cold Storage Applications.

(2016-01-20 11:31:32)

Cold temperatures are tough on lift trucks and their operators. While ergonomic advancements strive to improve comfort and productivity, proactive maintenance is imperative to identify and address the telltale signs of equipment deterioration common to cold storage applications.

As with any lift truck, the pressure to achieve productivity can sometimes override optimal maintenance practices. In cold storage, where equipment is subject to extreme conditions, it is even more important to recognize that improper care will negatively impact productivity, as well as the life of the equipment and batteries.

“It’s always important to have a preventative maintenance plan and a trained technician to keep an eye on equipment, but it is even more critical in cold applications,” says David McNeill, manager, product strategy for Yale Materials Handling Corp. “A thorough preventative maintenance plan means paying close attention to components and connection points so you can spot the issues caused by harsh environments. If you address them early, you’ll reduce downtime.”

The biggest issue with lack of maintenance, he says, is that small, intermittent issues often become more problematic and result in unexpected service bills. A telemetry system can support proper maintenance practices with schedules and reminders.

“With a telemetry system, customers can set informed, data-driven preventative maintenance schedules based on the specific conditions in their application,” McNeill says. “At the same time, automated alerts can catch issues before they create expensive downtime.”

For instance, if a customer determines a service provider should inspect equipment more often, the system can send e-mails to all parties and allow them to track and group equipment. If three lift trucks are coming due for service, it will be less costly to have a technician address all three in one visit.

Equipment manufacturers are no strangers to equipment damage resulting from exposure to the elements. Class 4 and Class 5 lift trucks often spend plenty of time parked outdoors in rain, sleet or snow. These realities have informed the development of several component improvements that can prepare equipment for blast freezers and reduce the frequency of service calls.

CAN bus technologies—initially designed for automobiles to allow microcontrollers and devices to communicate—are increasingly standard in lift trucks. They allow for less wiring and fewer connection and failure points. For the conditions common to cold storage, like condensation, those controllers can be sealed.

Manufacturers often design lift trucks with condensation in mind, such as wiring arranged to form drip loops that direct condensation to the lowest point of the loop, away from connectors. McNeill says manufacturers are also moving away from contact switches, which can accumulate condensation and freeze, impairing performance. Non-contact Hall effect switches now use magnetic field sensors to detect positioning and are also sealed to prevent corrosion.

Even more important, McNeill suggests, are the ergonomic advancements that allow lift truck operators to spend more time moving product and less time struggling to stay warm and comfortable.

“We’re constantly trying to increase the comfort level for operators,” he says. “Heated floors and handles are nice, but if operators are wearing bulky clothes they will benefit from a more spacious operator compartment and adjustable controls that allow for interaction while wearing gloves. All these add together to extend the time he or she can spend in the freezer being productive.”


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