In busy distribution centres and warehouse environments, where rugged handheld computers are indispensable tools for picking accuracy and order fulfilment, maintaining optimal battery life is crucial for productivity and efficiency. However, overtime, all batteries will degrade and have a lower capacity which will result in fewer hours of usage between charges. This battery degradation can become a significant challenge, leading to decreased device performance and unexpected downtime. This can result in a substantial impact on productivity and efficiency within the distribution centre.

Understanding Battery Lifespan and Degradation

Handheld computers in distribution centres and warehouses rely on fully charged batteries to last an entire shift. Typically, a battery's lifespan ranges from three to five years. However, over time the cycle count, the number of times a battery has been charged and drained, begins to affect the battery's capacity. A battery that starts at 100% charge will degrade to a lot less over time, after a couple of years, it may only hold a fraction of its original capacity.

Half-charged batteries mean that handheld devices will run out of power much sooner than if they were fully charged. This leads to more frequent interruptions as workers need to stop and swap their battery for a fully charged one or locate another device to use. These interruptions reduce overall work time and efficiency.

The Productivity Impact

When workers start their shifts, they often grab handheld devices without knowing the battery status. If a device has only 50% charge, the worker may experience disruptions during the shift such as:

Reduced Work Time: Workers face more frequent interruptions to locate fully charged devices or to swap out batteries resulting in reduced overall work time.

Increased downtime and Order Accuracy: Order picking accuracy is crucial to avoid errors and ensure customer satisfaction. When handheld devices run on low battery, workers may rush through their tasks to complete them before the device shuts down. This rush can lead to mistakes, incorrect order fulfilment, and potentially more returns or customer complaints. 

Communication Breakdown: Handheld devices serve as a means of communication between workers and the central warehouse management system. When the battery runs out mid-order, workers cannot access or transmit data effectively, leading to communication breakdowns and delays in receiving new orders or updates.

Device Performance: Some devices can experience performance degradation as the battery level drops, leading to slower response times and decreased overall efficiency.

Frustration and Safety Concerns: Low battery levels lead to worker frustration and potential safety hazards. In a busy environment, workers rely on their handheld computers for information on package weights, contents, and safety guidelines. A low battery can limit access to critical safety information, potentially leading to accidents or mishandling of goods.

Why the traditional Battery Management Approach Falls Short

To address this problem, distribution centres often use information in their traditional Mobile Device Management systems (MDM) identify degraded batteries. The system produces a list of battery serial numbers that need to be identified amongst the entire estate of devices and replaced. The downside of this approach is that it requires the manual removal of the battery from each device to examine the serial number. This process is labour-intensive and creates operational disruption, to the point it’s just not operationally practical.

To circumvent this, many organisations opt to replace every battery in the entire estate, regardless of its health status. With some organisations replacing between 8% and 15% of their rugged mobile device estate every year due to missing devices, that’s a lot of newer batteries in the estate that do not need replacing!

Waizu client research has shown that typically a distribution centre can have between 100 –250 devices in its estate. Now consider this scenario, with device batteries costing approximately £100 each, this means organisations are incurring battery replacement costs of between £10,000 and £25,000.

A New Era of Battery Management

Waizu has developed a practical and intuitive solution to address battery cycle count challenges. Our on-screen battery health indicator simplifies battery management for workers. The indicator uses a traffic light colour system—green for good health, amber for degradation, and red for batteries that need imminent replacement. The benefits of Waizu Battery Insights include:

Improved Device Selection: Workers can choose devices with sufficient battery life for their entire shift, boosting productivity.

Streamlined Operations: Operations management can identify batteries that need swapping at the start of the shift, minimising disruptions.

Cost Management: By replacing batteries only when necessary, distribution centres can save on unnecessary expenses.

Practical and Workable Solution: The visual indicator ensures efficient day-to-day operations and reporting on the overall battery health of shared devices.

Uninterrupted Productivity and Efficiency

Effective battery management is paramount in busy distribution centres and warehouse environments where productivity and efficiency are critical. Battery degradation can lead to significant performance issues and downtime. Waizu’s Device Insights provides an innovative solution that empowers workers, streamlines operations, and optimises costs, ensuring uninterrupted productivity throughout the entire shift. By proactively addressing battery health, distribution centres can maintain peak performance and maximise operational efficiency in their shared device environments.