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Optimising intralogistics costs

25 May 2018

Every day, around 700 lorries dock at the gates of the Gebrüder Weiss logistics centre in the Austrian municipality of Maria Lanzendorf near Vienna – a challenge for the internal goods flow. To handle this, the logistics expert deploys a fleet of 125 electrically powered forklift trucks.

Fronius battery charging technology ensures that the forklift trucks are charged reliably and efficiently with the power they need. As a result, Gebrüder Weiss have been able to significantly reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions, while greatly extending the service life of the expensive traction batteries.

A history that extends over half a millennium – not many companies can claim that. Gebrüder Weiss GmbH belongs to this elite group: the international transport and logistics company based in Lauterach on Lake Constance is said to be the oldest transport company in the world – and is still in family ownership. The logistics specialist has been constantly developing for more than 500 years to the point today of being a global player with 150 international business locations, 6,500 employees and annual turnover of 1.36 billion euros. Gebrüder Weiss transports tens of thousands of consignments all over the world every day – mainly by truck travelling by road, but also by rail, sea and air. Their range of services also includes special solutions for the entire value-added chains of its customers, services offered by various subsidiaries, customs services and comprehensive IT services.

In its home market of Austria, Gebrüder Weiss is strongly represented by 41 business locations, and more than 3,000 employees. One of their sites is located south of Vienna in the small community of Maria Lanzendorf, not far from the airport. Here, 600 employees process shipments equivalent to 100,000 units per month. An average of 700 trucks dock at the gates of the logistics centre every day, which is open round the clock Monday through to Saturday. Gebrüder Weiss relies on electrically powered forklift trucks to enable it to perform intralogistics processes quickly and efficiently. Around 125 forklift trucks from Jungheinrich and Crown transport incoming goods around the halls to their intended destination – reliably, quietly and without harmful exhaust emissions.

Energy efficiency: makes ecological and economic sense
“The business of logistics is an energy-intensive one, so it has great potential, but also a great deal of responsibility, when it comes to the implementation of resource-conserving technologies”, explains Marco Petru, the man responsible for central purchasing at Gebrüder Weiss. “With this in mind, we wanted to do something to lower our energy consumption and CO2 emissions – this is also a requirement under new Austrian energy efficiency legislation.” The energy saving measures also bring economic benefits, as low electricity bills means lower operating costs. A sizeable proportion of all energy consumption at the Maria Lanzendorf location is attributable to the fleet of forklift trucks. This is why the company is continually looking for ways to make this process more efficient – not only in terms of the forklift trucks themselves, but also the batteries and charging technology.

“In the past, we used the battery charging system supplied by the forklift truck manufacturer”, recalls Petru. A joint evaluation with Fronius revealed significant potential to make savings here. The reason for this is that with conventional charging processes, a significant proportion of the energy consumed is converted into heat and, therefore, goes unused. This lowers efficiency and wastes electricity while also potentially damaging the battery, reducing its capacity and significantly decreasing service life. “Both of these are cost factors that have the potential to bring sizeable efficiency savings with the appropriate charging technology,” according to Alexander Thier, Area Sales Manager at Fronius Perfect Charging. “Forklifts are a system made up of three parts - the truck itself, the battery and the charger - of these users tend to pay the least attention to the charger. The right technology has an enormous impact here in terms of the cost effectiveness of the solution as a whole.”

Outstanding charging technology leads to strong partnerships
That is why Fronius developed its latest generation of Selectiva battery charging systems with the innovative Ri charging process. Users can flexibly charge batteries with different voltages and capacities – always with an individual characteristic. The devices automatically measure the effective inner resistance (Ri) of the connected battery, which depends on its age, temperature and condition, before adjusting the charging curve accordingly. Thier lists the benefits: “This minimises harmful overcharging, while reducing electricity consumption, as well as CO2 emissions and extending the service life of the battery”. Gebrüder Weiss was quickly persuaded of the benefits of Fronius technology: the company has now been supporting the logistics experts as an established partner since 2012. Around 40 Fronius chargers are already in use in Maria Lanzendorf, the rest will gradually be replaced over time.

The Ri charging process has allowed the company to dramatically reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions for its fleet of forklift trucks. This is particularly noticeable in terms of lower operating costs and also helps towards fulfilling the requirements of new energy efficiency legislation. But that’s not all: the charging quality and availability of the fleet also increases with Fronius devices. “We usually fully charge our forklift trucks overnight but, during periods of peak activity, opportunity charging is often necessary”, explains Werner Drnec, Operations Manager at Maria Lanzendorf. This is usually quite bad for the battery and can reduce capacity and service life over time. “The gentle Fronius charging process reduces the negative effects of irregular charging cycles and, therefore, conserves the battery”, continues Alexander Thier. As a result, the average length of time the forklift truck can be driven for is extended and the expensive batteries need to be replaced less often.

Processes improved and operating faults eliminated through analysis
Gebrüder Weiss also benefits from the high level of advice and analytical expertise provided by Fronius: after the new devices had been in use for some time, the experts were able to perform a detailed analysis on the stored data. “It is a simple matter using the USB interface on the housing to read the various parameters, like charging times and characteristics and we can then fine-tune the settings if need be”, explains Thier. Fronius also took a close look at how the charging stations are being used. This meant that incorrect operation could be identified and addressed. “These findings have proven really useful when it comes to educating our staff about battery charging and training them in how to use devices correctly”, adds Drnec. “This helps us to extend the service life of the batteries and the charging technology while increasing the availability of our fleet.“

 
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