ROHLIG SUUS is one of Poland’s top three logistics service providers. The company has been using its own fleet of battery-operated counterbalanced lift trucks for goods handling in its warehouses and cross-docking terminals – often around the clock – since 2013. This operation means that almost all of the counterbalanced lift trucks have two batteries, which have been charged using Fronius Selectiva battery charging systems from the outset. The controlled charging process conserves the batteries and ensures that the trucks are available for longer.
Online trading and e-commerce have revolutionised logistics, with processes in warehouses changing beyond recognition. Workflows are becoming more complex, the number of packages of all different shapes and sizes being sent is increasing all the time, and many old sales channels, retailers and wholesalers are disappearing. It is impossible to predict the number of customer returns but we do know that it is on the rise. Not to mention that customers are expecting more and more when it comes to delivery times and turnarounds. Products are being delivered across borders, which means that cost and time investments have to increase. Companies are increasingly looking to outsource their logistics processes in the hope of having a chance of meeting all of the requirements at play here. That explains the growth of ROHLIG SUUS, one of Poland’s leading logistics service providers, over recent years. Another reason behind their success is the investment into state-of-the-art transport management systems that make the workflow efficient and transparent across the company, whilst digitalising the supply chain.
A business success story
The ROHLIG SUUS story starts way before the rise of online trading. ROHLIG Poland was founded back in 1990. The German company ROHLIG & CO was the majority shareholder at the time, focusing on sea and air transportation services through its Polish subsidiary. In 2002, the company’s turnover surpassed the 100-million-zloty mark (around EUR 25 million at the time) for the first time. As the growth showed no signs of stopping, there were plenty of calls for a new strategy. Although ROHLIG Poland had its sights set on major developments within all logistics sectors, this went against the plans of the German shareholder. Tadeusz Chmielewski, minority shareholder and CEO since 2003, took over the company in 2006 following a management buyout. He changed the name to ROHLIG SUUS Logistik (RSL) in 2009 and set out a new corporate strategy. With a new IT infrastructure and automated processes in place, RSL evolved to become a modern logistics service provider. In 2013, Chmielewski pushed forwards with the expansion into the east. He opened an office in Russia and has been offering an extensive range of services for exports to the east under the name GoEast since then. The company is also actively involved in the “Poland Go Global” initiative and supports Polish companies looking to expand into foreign markets all around the world.
Some 1400 employees currently work to achieve a turnover of just under EUR 2 billion. Contract logistics, transportation by sea, air, road and rail, and intermodal cargo transportation, project cargoes and customs services are the main areas of specialisation. RSL has warehouse space covering 200,000 square metres, distributed across several logistics centres and hubs.
The safe side
In 2013, the management team decided that it was time to invest in their own fleet of counterbalanced lift trucks. When the company procured trucks powered by electric motor, it began its collaboration with Fronius, which recommended Selectiva battery charging systems for charging all forklift truck batteries. “We were the first major company in Poland to use this technology,” remembers Robert Beliniak, Warehouse and Terminal Manager at ROHLIG SUUS Logistik.
The Manager goes on to explain why RSL went for battery charging systems from Fronius: “Some of our trucks are in use for 24 hours in a row. We needed a reliable yet economical charging process that would allow us to avoid damage being caused to the batteries and maintain high levels of availability for our fleet of trucks.”
The challenge that comes with running a large fleet of 170 forklift trucks in 17 warehouses is that a range of batteries with varying voltages and capacities are required for the different types of trucks in use. Standard battery charging systems need a set battery capacity that matches up with the charging characteristic perfectly. This means that specific battery charging systems and batteries have to be assigned. There may be a hefty price to pay if they are mixed up by mistake. In the Selectiva range, Fronius provides a smart solution to this problem. Automated voltage detection allows for batteries with different nominal voltages to be charged. As a result, operating faults caused by incorrect assignment are more or less a thing of the past. On top of that, the standardisation of the charging technology means that the operator is fully equipped for future changes. The systems, connections and infrastructure are all consistent, which is ideal when it comes to upgrades and modifications.
Efficiency through Ri charging process
It’s the Ri charging process that makes the Fronius systems so technologically advanced. After all, unlike standard technology, it does not follow a rigid characteristic. Instead this is generated using the battery’s effective inner resistance (Ri), which is dependent on the voltage, capacity and state of charge of the battery amongst other things. Each charging process has its own unique characteristic, meaning that losses are reduced during the main charging phase, which otherwise lead to the energy balance being skewed and cause damage to the battery as a result of the heat.
Plus, the Ri charging process is much more efficient. Thanks to its intelligent charging technology, Fronius has achieved a charging efficiency of 90 percent. Combining this with the device efficiency of 93 percent results in an overall efficiency figure of 84 percent from the socket to the forklift truck. Beliniak is not in a position to say how much ROHLIG SUUS Logistik saves compared to if alternative charging processes were used. “Our battery compartments do not have their own electricity meters and we have been using Fronius battery charging systems in our company’s fleet of trucks from the word go. On that basis, we don’t have any precise data relating to potential savings.” He does, however, jump to point out the fact that the batteries do not overheat too much when being charged. “The temperature during charging affects the service life of a battery considerably. The less overheating there has been, the longer the service life will be,” explains the Manager. The economical charging process that is adjusted accordingly maintains the capacity of the batteries and extends their service life. Beliniak rates the documentation of data on the Selectiva systems highly too since he and his colleagues can check that the battery charging process is progressing nicely.
The fact that the charging process is standardised also makes it more straightforward to connect batteries to be charged. When a battery needs to be charged, there is no longer any need for the forklift operator to find a specific charging station. They can simply connect it to the next battery charging system they come across. The compact dimensions of the Selectiva systems makes it easier for RSL to arrange the charging zones for its counterbalanced lift trucks. If a system is faulty, it will be absolutely no problem at all to repair or replace it in no time. “Luckily, this doesn’t happen a lot,” says Beliniak.
The Warehouse Manager is impressed by the technology from Fronius and, going forward, he intends to equip all counterbalanced lift trucks with Selectiva battery charging systems “which are not normally a part of the standard scope of delivery of counterbalanced lift trucks”.