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Training is always important as proper maintenance extends the life of batteries.  

“You can get as much as five times the life from a battery that’s properly maintained,” says Tehan. “We saw a decline in ‘premature’ failures when we in-service a piece of equipment and train people not to opportunity charge, to check fluid levels weekly, or upgrade to a self-watering system.” 

But pandemic shutdowns offered the opportunity to re-educate customers. This rare opening to reconnect with clients proved vital, particularly in operations where staff turnover is high.  

“This equipment is not designed to sit idle for months at a time,” explains Raymond Fyler, equipment specialist, Brady IFS.   

To combat death by neglect, Blasko emailed Brady IFS customers tips about preserving battery life.  

“I stressed the importance of power cycling and checking battery water,” he says. “This way you don’t come back to a dead unit.” He insists that this tactic bought some extra battery life, postponing the pain of sourcing new product. 

Fyler also noticed customers’ new-found willingness to look at technology — like automatic watering systems — that extends the life of a lead acid battery fleet.  

Finding Solutions 

With adversity comes opportunity, and for batteries that means upgrading to lithium ion. This technology costs more and is just as hard to source, but lasts longer and removes a lot of life-shortening user error.  

“People who switched to lithium ion earlier are just sitting back and laughing now,” says Grier.  

The battery shortage, like many pandemic disruptions, highlighted the weak links in the global supply chain. As a result, a push to start manufacturing more batteries closer to home has started.  

“There are some great domestic battery producers, and there’s a huge push for clean energy in the States, but we’ve fallen behind in production,” says Tehan. “The U.S. currently has four lithium ion giga factories and is projected to have 10 by 2030.” 

That is small potatoes compared to other manufacturing centers. Tehan continues, saying, “China has 93 factories and is expected to have 140 by 2030. With a push for electric vehicles, the demand is likely to outpace the supply for batteries.”  

Flaherty suggests distributors continue to expand their supplier options.  

“Don’t just rely on the sources you relied on for the last 20 years,” he advises. “Expand your manufacturing partnerships for as many sourcing opportunities as you need. But be frank with them. Let them know they may not be your primary supplier, but a second or third choice.” 

This is also a great time to increase communication with clients.  

“We used to send off a quote and then follow up in a couple of weeks,” says Grier. “Now we need to set expectations. Let clients know what’s in stock, remind them that there is a shortage, and suggest they act fast. Business as usual is going to lead to a lot of disgruntled customers.”  

This extra communication deepens relationships and provides opportunities to address customer needs.  

“Customers need us more now than ever,” says Grier. “This is our opportunity to step up and help out.” 

Amy Milshtein is a freelancer based in Portland, Oregon.

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How To Source Batteries Amid Supply Chain Challenges