Naches, Washington-based fruit company Allan Brothers Inc. is reaping the rewards of a recent expansion project that has not only helped grow the business but also substantially reduced maintenance costs for its fleet of 30 battery-powered electric lift trucks. The fourth-generation family-owned business was about to install a state-of-the-art fruit packing line in Naches in 2018 when managers realized that the costs associated with its traditional lead-acid battery-powered trucks might be too much to bear in the new operation: It was already costing the firm $56,000 a year for time spent changing the batteries during shifts and another $7,800 a year for watering maintenance. On top of that, the expansion would require establishing a new battery room to the tune of $440,000. As company leaders explain, Allan Brothers found itself in need of a new battery technology solution.
Irvine, California-based battery maker OneCharge answered the call and worked with Allan Brothers to transition its fleet from lead-acid to lithium-ion powered batteries, which eliminated the maintenance and storage costs. Today, Allan Brothers is up and running with its new fruit-packing line—the largest in the world, according to company leaders—and saving more than $60,000 in annual maintenance costs in addition to avoiding the six-figure investment for battery storage.
IMPROVED PRODUCTIVITY, GREATER POWER
Allan Brothers and OneCharge say the benefits of the transition were immediate. First, the lithium-ion batteries can be charged overnight for the next day's shift as well as opportunity-charged throughout the day—meaning they don't need to be removed from the lift truck, but can be charged at 15- and 30-minute intervals during breaks. This alone has eliminated considerable downtime and improved productivity. Allan Brothers also wanted to eliminate the safety risks associated with lead-acid battery maintenance, including potential spills, toxic fumes, and the higher costs associated with addressing such issues. Transitioning to lithium-ion has meant lower insurance rates for the company's 30 truck operators, a savings of $6,000 per year, the companies say.
The transition has also meant greater power for the lift trucks. Officials from OneCharge say the new lithium-ion batteries continue to operate at close to 100% of original capacity throughout each shift. In comparison, the company's lead-acid batteries had gradually decreased in power, slowing down by at least 20% over time and dragging down truck performance, they say. Allan Brothers is also banking on longer battery life cycles. OneCharge officials say lithium-ion batteries can last up to twice as long as their lead-acid counterparts. Based on that claim, Allan Brothers is optimistic the new batteries will outlast the current five-year lease terms for its lift trucks, allowing it to prolong the leases or lease new trucks without having to purchase new batteries.
"And when new leases are signed, the company anticipates reduced prices as damage to the trucks from daily battery changes and corrosive acid spills are no longer a factor," according to OneCharge, which estimates that most operations will save between 20% and 40% on battery costs within two years of investing in lithium-ion batteries.