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Out and about among the bread and gingerbread

Out and about among the bread and gingerbread

Jowa’s regional bakery at Gossau, St Gallen, relies on electrically powered forklift trucks for the internal transport of goods. A customised charging station, provided by Fronius, has recently been installed as a power supply for the forklift trucks. Advanced technologies and intelligent features make it easier to change the heavy traction batteries, reduce energy consumption and ensure that the fleet is always available.

From crispy cobs to delicate braid to Weggli, the epitome of the classic breakfast roll, Jowa products probably mean something to everyone in Switzerland. The company, based in Volketswil in the Canton of Zürich, is the country’s leading bakery and part of M-Industry, supplying bread, cakes, pastries and pasta products to all Migros stores, as well as many other businesses and catering facilities.

Gottlieb Duttweiler, the Swiss visionary and man behind Migros, founded the present-day Jowa in 1931, as one of many industrial enterprises producing goods directly for the distributor. Production is mostly centred in Jowa’s eleven regional bakeries. One of them is located in Gossau, a suburb of St. Gallen. The logistics of the site are impressive: it is not just a matter of making all the items, they also have to be packaged, temporarily stored, picked for orders and sent to numerous outlets throughout the country.  

In the order picking halls, a fleet of nine electrically-powered forklift trucks ensures the fast and emission-free transport of goods. As Jowa works six days a week, 24 hours a day, the forklift trucks are equipped with back-up batteries, so that they are ready for use at all times. “Constant availability is particularly important for our Christmas trade, because this time of year sees an increase in utilisation of around 20% compared to other periods,” reports Daniel Lendi, supply manager at Jowa in Gossau. “All the manufacturing and logistics processes must therefore engage seamlessly with one another.”

Until recently, Jowa relied on chargers using 50Hz transformer technology as the power supply for their lead-acid batteries. But this did have some disadvantages, remembers Lendi: “The huge devices simply rested on the hall floor and took up a great deal of valuable space. With traction batteries weighing almost 400 kilos, changing them also took a vast amount of effort and always involved two members of staff. Yet the safety risk remained considerable, as the batteries could easily topple over and injure employees.”

The technology also showed clear weaknesses in terms of energy efficiency. The outdated charging process caused overcharging, in turn leading to high energy consumption and harmful warming of the battery. The devices did not have any charging status indication either, so batteries were often changed unnecessarily. “The forklift trucks and batteries were specifically matched, and the battery was often changed simply at the end of a shift, regardless of how full or empty the battery being used actually was,” explains Lendi. Not only did this take time, it also had a negative impact on the service life of the expensive batteries.

A close eye was kept on the charging technology of the forklift fleet, and the decision was made to replace devices that were showing their age with a modern and more economical solution. Fronius was the first port of call for the project.

Fronius specialises in providing an efficient and sustainable energy supply for electric forklift trucks. “Intensive and individual advice is vital if we are to provide the best solution for every user,” explains sales expert Reto Baumgartner, who managed the project for Fronius. Together with Jowa, he designed a system that was perfectly tailored to the food manufacturer’s needs.

Compact charging station

Instead of the huge 50Hz chargers, there is now a compact charging station with eight 2kW Fronius Selectiva devices installed in the finished goods store. These are mounted close together on a stand, with the back-up batteries immediately below them – saving valuable space in the hall. Standing in front of the individual charging stations is a transfer trolley fitted with castors, which can easily be raised by hand to the desired height. “Changing the battery has never been easier,” says a delighted Lendi. “Forklift operators merely have to stop in front of the station and the transfer trolley takes all the effort out of changing the heavy batteries – it does not take much time, nor does it need the assistance of a second person.”

The Selectiva devices are also the only ones on the market to use the intelligent Ri charging process, which adapts each charging process individually to the condition of the connected battery. “Overcharging is therefore reduced to a minimum and we also save energy – by up to 30% compared with the 50Hz technology,” explains Baumgartner. This consumes less electricity and prolongs the service life of the batteries at the same time. The Ri charging process also greatly reduces gas formation during charging, as well as the water consumption of the lead batteries.

Fronius no longer specifically matches a forklift truck to a battery, instead it uses a so-called ‘chaotic battery pool’. This is controlled by the Cool Battery Guide Easy information and management system. An LED strip for each device indicates which battery has been connected the longest and is already fully charged. “So now, when an operator comes to the station to change the battery, they can see at a glance which battery is the next in line,” says Lendi. “This optimises the utilisation of our pool and also ensures an extended service life, as after they have been charged, the batteries always have enough time to cool down.”

Daniel Lendi is enthusiastic about the new Fronius charging technology. “The station has really simplified things for our employees,” he stresses. “It is now far easier, quicker and safer to change the battery than ever before.” The external start/stop function of the Selectiva devices also helps here. When changing the battery, the operator only needs to insert or remove the charging plug; there is no input required on the device itself. “The Ri charging process automatically identifies the ideal characteristic and the external start/stop prevents sparking when the charging cable is disconnected,” explains Fronius expert Baumgartner. This virtually rules out any incorrect operation that could endanger employees or damage batteries.

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