As battery management specialists and manufacturers have been extremely busy throughout the COVID-19 period, Ken Clark, Managing Director at Rotronics, highlights some of the critical changes that have been taking place in the sector.
The spotlight is now firmly on good battery management; throughout the last few months, the importance of maintaining a vehicle’s battery has never been more obvious. Those workshops that have not maintained the batteries to optimal levels are now seeing that their costs keep increasing.
Commercial vehicles have either been on the road permanently or off the road and preparing to get back on it. Due to the focus towards remote working, Rotronics is seeing an increased interest in ROBIS, its remote, web-based dashboard and reporting system that collects battery data from national/regional workshop sources and presents it in filterable reports enabling customers to analyse battery data quickly and easily. Owners/managers can see the data from home if they are homeworking and not in the workshop each day, or if they are reducing travel between workshops.
From May 2020 to the present, Rotronics has been seeing a trend that around 48% of batteries entering workshops will require attention. This has increased from 35% of vehicle batteries needing attention in pre- COVID times.
This increased need to look after vehicle batteries is down to several combined factors; some vehicles have not been used as frequently, some not at all, and some more than ever. There are fewer technicians currently in workshops; therefore, a few of the essential battery management practices may have slipped. Additionally, new vehicles have been stored throughout this COVID-19 time and the batteries will be in a poor state of charge on receipt. If vehicles have been in backlog, the batteries will not have been maintained. That puts additional pressure onto limited staff.
Time is money
The Rotronics team is also finding that workshops with limited time and resource have been more reluctant to test and charge certain vehicles, especially on those vehicles whereby access to the battery is more challenging than before. This is certainly causing issues amongst some fleets and it is vital that owners/managers ensure that the basic battery management programme is completed, to avoid premature failure.
Rotronics is also seeing increased misdiagnosis, as technicians best guess the battery technology (AGM/EFB or regular) especially when start/stop vehicle applications are in use. ROBIS comes into its own in this situation as fleet owners/managers can keep a close eye on what work should be done to keep the batteries in excellent condition. They will also be able to see whether or not maintenance is being completed.
Full visibility and traceability of activities is proving to be extremely important to Rotronics’ customers; the company is constantly being asked about how to make sure that the technicians are carrying out the maintenance activity that is highlighted by the test procedure. Regular monitoring, testing, and charging within a battery management programme, as part of everyday practice in workshops, will considerably reduce avoidable costs and maximise a battery’s performance and lifespan.
It is important to check what you have in the arsenal of workshop equipment and that the battery management equipment is suitable for all applications. Will it provide the results that you require? A proactive battery management programme ensures that batteries are maintained to optimum levels and avoidable costs are significantly reduced.
Cash flow is a significant issue for businesses in the current climate and battery failure and wasted expenditure is not an option. Previously, significant sums were unnecessarily spent on roadside recoveries and batteries due to poor battery management. That is not an option in the current economic climate and the pressure is clearly on workshop teams to ensure that the batteries are tested and charged accordingly, in good order, and issues rectified with maintenance actions taking place.
Rotronics’ customers are working closely with the company to achieve significant savings for the fleet as there is considerable budget scrutiny. The COVID-19 crisis has brought much of the wastage due to poor battery management into sharp focus and the company is helping its customers manage their workshops efficiently and cost effectively.
Service and repair
As workshops are getting back into full operation, it is important to do a check of the battery stock and not to neglect the batteries on the shelves, as these need to be tested and charged before fitting if they have been left for a period of time.
Moreover, this is a good time to look over all battery-related equipment and check the condition and suitability for use, clear grease and grime from the terminals, watch out for any wear and tear, and ensure power packs are on charge all the time.
Don’t cut corners
Not looking after batteries is crucial safety- wise, and poor maintenance and neglect can increase the chance of excessive battery gassing due to being out of balance. Rotronics has seen an increase in poorly balanced batteries; typically (pre-COVID), you would see less than 50% of batteries being out of balance.
However, now there has been an 11% increase in commercial vehicle batteries being out of balance. This can increase the risk of premature failure and, in extreme circumstances and when left unchecked, increase the further risk of explosion as batteries become further discharged/overcharged as the vehicles system attempts to recover the battery set.
This doesn’t just affect the automotive industry; the company’s customers in other sectors, such as power generation, have noted that there have been more battery explosions during this period. We are working with our customers to help them provide a safe working environment for their technicians.
New E-Commerce Website
The new and improved e-commerce website from Rotronics has been redesigned and developed to provide the best online experience and provide online purchasing. In addition to enhanced aesthetics and functionality, the website is home to a range of new features, including:
- A one-stop shop Service Centre, for after-sales needs
- Videos on how to conduct a full system test and use individual products
- A resource centre, filled with user guides and manuals
- Battery tips and Q&As with the Rotronics experts
Also, a ‘return on investment’ calculator is featured within the website product pages to help customers understand what the financial benefit is when buying any battery technology. To see this for yourself, click here.