The right partnership reaps dividends
The correct engine temperature and a comfortable interior temperature - the two most important criteria for motor vehicles and their drivers. Engine cooling systems are the critical factor in maintaining stable thermal conditions under the bonnet. They make an all-important contributor towards fuel economy and reliable vehicle operation. Sophisticated climate control systems draw in air before cleaning, dehumidifying and distributing it at a controlled temperature to achieve optimum conditions inside the vehicle. This improves both driver comfort and hence safety.
From a family business to a global player
Behr GmbH & Co. KG specialises in vehicle air conditioning and engine cooling systems. Its headquarters are in Stuttgart. From its humble origins in 1905 as a small family business, Behr has grown to become a global supplier to the automotive industry. The company is a leading international OEM for passenger cars and commercial vehicles, and employs about 16,500 people around the globe. Stuttgart-based automotive component supplier Mahle has had an interest in Behr since January 2011.
Neustadt an der Donau has been home to a Behr manufacturing plant since 1987. The facility supplies components, modules, complete systems and large assemblies to manufacturers such as Audi, BMW, Porsche, Daimler and Volvo. "The Neustadt site covers some 28,000 m² and currently employs 736 people," reports Franz Ertl, Head of Plant Logistics.
Approximately 1.35 million air conditioning units leave the factory gates every year. As a result, the traffic volumes for goods-in and goods-out, as well as the internal transport of materials to and from the production halls, are particularly high. All material transport is performed using ground conveyors, i.e. 17 electric forklift trucks, five small tugger trains for transporting small parts - each comprising an electric tractor unit and three trailers - and two tiller-controlled electric lift trucks. Every device is made and supplied by Still, the leading Hamburg-based intralogistics specialist and manufacturer of forklift trucks. Factory hours at Behr in Neustadt comprise an early shift, late shift and a night shift - often on Saturdays too.
Side-on battery replacement - simple, quick and safe
Behr employs type RX 20-16 front loaders with a lifting capacity of 1.6 tons. These vehicles are quick, robust, powerful and suitable for prolonged heavy-duty use. They are also equipped with a cab to cope with outdoor conditions. The two maintenance-free three-phase drive motors in the RX 20 ensure a long battery life owing to their high efficiency, while electric regenerative braking extends the useful life of each battery charge. "Among the main benefits of the RX 20 is compatibility with a side-on battery replacement process. This is the easiest and safest method. We can now finally dispense with the crane when changing batteries, and the entire process takes just a few minutes," explains Franz Ertl on the reasoning behind changing from a previous well-known forklift supplier to Still. The two type CX-T tractor units are employed to transport material quickly and economically over longer distances. They help contribute towards a considerable reduction in traffic levels in the halls and energy consumption.
"Since 2005, only Still delivers machines as part of a full service contract, which includes Hawker batteries and Fronius battery charging systems," explains Regional Sales Manager Thomas Kohlmeier from the Still subsidiary in Munich. According to the representative of the Ingolstadt sales office and service centre, which falls under the responsibility of the Munich subsidiary, the contract also grants Still a period of 24 hours to effect repairs to any vehicle that fails. Still must supply a replacement vehicle if this is not possible, as a suitable machine is not kept on standby at Behr. "However, such a situation is extremely rare, as our service engineers visit Behr regularly two or three days a week to carry out maintenance and repair work," adds Thomas Kohlmeier to clarify matters. The full service covers the vehicles, batteries and battery charging systems.
As it takes around seven hours to charge the traction batteries, replacement batteries are used as part of the Neustadt operation - in other words, every forklift is supplied with two batteries. 48 V/625 Ah and 80 V/700 Ah batteries are used, which the driver normally changes himself at the end of his shift. To change the batteries, the driver enters the central charging station and uses a powered Still lift truck with an adjustable lift height to remove the empty battery and interchangeable frame. He then connects the battery to the charger and inserts the next fully charged battery - together with its frame - into the vehicle. The forklift is now fully operational in readiness for the driver who will be using it during the next shift. "Our side-on battery replacement method is unique. While other manufacturers require special battery-changing vehicles, we can use a standard manual lift truck, electric lift truck or even a normal forklift," states Thomas Kohlmeier.
Every single battery charger for the forklift batteries is supplied by the Austrian manufacturer Fronius. Battery charging systems with 'Active Inverter Technology' - an intelligent charging technology - have been mandatory for Behr Neustadt since 2001. This stipulation has been in place ever since Behr managers learned of this charging technology from a local automobile manufacturer and were advised to try it for themselves. The central charging station houses 17 battery chargers: three Selectiva Plus D 8120 (80V 120A, of which two have been converted by Behr to 48 V/625 Ah batteries using the device display) and 14 Selectiva Plus D 4120 (48V 120A). These battery chargers - like all devices in the product family - are characterised by the highly efficient use of energy, a constant power level throughout the entire charging process, a compact design and high safety standards. They also reduce battery maintenance costs and ensure a longer battery service life. Every charger is operated on a continuous 24 hour cycle to accommodate the replacement battery philosophy adopted by Behr.
Owing to an extremely high efficiency level of 94%, the three-phase Selectiva Plus D delivers energy cost savings of up to 30% compared with conventional 50 Hz technology. The degree of efficiency indicates the amount of energy actually delivered to the battery by the charger. Conventional battery chargers only achieve a figure of between 60% and 80%. A constant charging current and voltage provide ideal battery charging conditions, extending battery service life by 25% to reduce costs even further. This technology also saves on space and weight: the compact Active Inverter Technology devices are up to 70% smaller and far lighter than the 50 Hz devices with their large transformers and enormous switch cabinets.
Maximum availability guaranteed
"For our plant, maximum availability of both the ground conveyors and the batteries is essential. This is only way that we can operate a truly just-in time strategy," emphasises Franz Ertl. He concludes: "Our decision to rely exclusively on Still electric vehicles has paid for itself. We are especially delighted with the side-on battery replacement method. As for the charging systems, I can only report that in the last 10 years we have only had to repair a charger on two or three occasions. The automobile manufacturer's recommendation to turn to Fronius battery charging systems was worth its weight in gold."
Fronius International GmbH
Froniusplatz 1, A-4600 Wels
Tel. +43 / (0)7242 / 241 6436
Fax +43 / (0)7242 / 241 95 2560