Battery Maintenance, a Function of Quality Control
The reliability of portable equipment relies
almost entirely on the performance of the battery. A dependable
battery fleet can only be assured if batteries are maintained
on a periodic basis.
Battery maintenance also needs proper documentation.
One simple method is attaching a color dot, each color indicating
the month of service. A different color dot is applied when
the battery is re-serviced the following month. A numbering
system indicating the month of service also works well.
A better system is attaching a full battery label containing
service date and capacity. Like the pending service on a car,
the label shows the user when maintenance is due. For critical
missions, the user will pick a battery with the highest capacity
and the most recent service date. The label ensures a properly
serviced replacement pack.
Battery analyzers are available that print a
label revealing the organization, group, service date, expiry
date (time to service the battery), battery capacity and ID
number. The label is generated automatically when the battery
is removed from the analyzer. Figure 11-3 illustrates
such a label.
11-3: Sample battery label.
The battery label keeps track
of the battery in the same way a service sticker on
a car reminds the owner of pending service.
The battery labeling system is simple to manage.
It is self-governing in the sense that the users would only
pick a battery that is properly labeled and has recently been
serviced. The system does not permit batteries to fall though
the cracks and be forgotten. It is in the interest of the
user to ensure continued reliability by bringing in batteries
with dated labels for service.
Battery Maintenance Made Simple
Several methods are available to maintain a fleet
of batteries. A simple, self-governing system is illustrated
in Figure 11-4 to Figure 11-6. Only
30 minutes per day should be required for a technician
to maintain the system. One or several battery analyzers are
needed that are capable of producing battery labels.
Figure 11-4: Sorting batteries for servicing.
Each time a battery is taken from
the charger, the user checks the service date on the label
attached to the battery. If the date has expired, the battery
is placed in a box marked ‘To be serviced’.
Figure 11-5: Servicing expired batteries.
Batteries with expired dates are
exercised; those that do not recover to the preset target
capacity are reconditioned. Batteries that pass are re-certified
by attaching a new label with dates and capacity reading.
Figure 11-6: Returning batteries to circulation.
After servicing, the restored batteries
are returned to the charger; those that failed are replaced
with new ones. Battery maintenance assures that all packs
perform at the expected capacity level.
When taking a battery from the charger, the user
checks the service date on the battery label. If expired,
the battery is placed into the box marked: ‘To be serviced’.
Periodically, the box is removed and the batteries are serviced
and re-certified with a battery analyzer.
After service, the batteries are re-labeled and
returned to the charger. Those batteries that fail to meet
the target capacity are replaced with new packs. All batteries
in the charger are now certified to meet a required performance
Battery maintenance has been simplified with
the introduction of battery analyzers that offer a target
capacity selection. All batteries must meet a user-defined
performance test or target capacity to pass. Nickel-based
batteries that fall short of the required capacity are automatically
restored with the analyzer’s recondition cycle. Those packs
that fail to recover are subsequently replaced with new packs.
Recondition is only effective for nickel-based
batteries. It is worth noting that batteries with high self-discharge
and/or shorted cells cannot be corrected with recondition;
neither can a battery be restored that is worn out or has
been damaged through abuse.
Another group of batteries that cannot be deep
discharged by recondition are ‘smart’ batteries. This includes
any pack that contains a microchip that must be maintained
by a continuous voltage supply. Discharging these batteries
below a certain voltage point will put the battery to sleep.
A recharge often fails to wake up these batteries.
Battery Maintenance as a Business
Some entrepreneurs have come up with the novel
idea of providing a service to test and restore rechargeable
batteries. They operate in convenient locations such as downtown
cores, shopping malls and transportation hubs. Customers bring
in their batteries to have them serviced. The packs are tested
and reconditioned with automated battery analyzers. A full
performance report is issued with each battery serviced, showing
service date, performance status and the date for the next
service. The suggested fee per battery is $10.00US. Higher
prices can be requested on specialty batteries which are expensive
For organizations using a large number of batteries,
a special pick-up and delivery service can be organized to
provide scheduled maintenance. This ensures that fleet batteries
used by organizations are regularly maintained. Such a service
would benefit firms that do not want to bother with battery
maintenance or do not have the expertise or resources to perform
the task in-house.
Increasingly, dealers who sell mobile phones, laptops and
camcorders also provide battery service. This activity increases
traffic and helps foster good customer relations. A new battery
is sold if the old one does not recover when serviced. By
knowing that a battery can be checked and possibly restored,
customers may try to salvage their weak batteries before investing
in new ones. Some dealers may be reluctant to restore used
batteries for fear of reduced battery sales.