With a new year comes new production and output goals for warehouses across the nation. While facilities continue to ramp up production and workloads to stay on top of these new metrics, warehouse managers must find ways to streamline processes and optimize space to keep budgets in check. One of the best ways to keep supply chains moving, forklifts running, and warehouses productive is with a versatile energy source like propane that can power everything from forklifts and fleet vehicles to generators.
Propane keeps supply chains flowing both in and out of the warehouse
Many warehouse professionals are familiar with propane forklifts, as they’ve been the industry workhorse for decades. With consistent power and lift capacities no matter the load size, propane forklifts are reliable, granting crews uninterrupted operation capacity during the workday. Plus, propane forklifts are safe to use both indoors and out, which reduces the time wasted switching machines. Best-in-class propane forklift engines can produce 97 percent fewer hydrocarbon (HC) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions when compared with similarly sized diesel forklift engines, preventing operators from breathing in dirty diesel fumes.
Propane’s potential extends beyond the walls of a distribution center with the ability to cleanly power delivery vehicles. Propane autogas—the name for propane when used in a vehicle application—is ideal for medium-duty (class 3-7) delivery vehicles that require a range of up to 400 miles a day and power that can match gasoline- or diesel-fueled vehicles. Today’s propane autogas engines are 90 percent cleaner than EPA standards and reduce NOx emissions by 96 percent compared to the best-in-class clean diesel engine. As a low-carbon, high density energy source, propane autogas provides a path to decarbonization for fleet owners looking to reduce their carbon footprint without sacrificing performance.
Propane powers warehouse operations
As an added bonus, propane is a portable energy source that can provide a resilient option for warehouse managers. Power outages leave battery-electric applications stranded, and gasoline and diesel stations disabled because they require electricity to pump and distribute the fuel. During disruptions, fleets with propane can work with their local supplier to have a propane bobtail delivery vehicle on-site to provide fuel and maintain a reliable energy supply during times of greater need.
Propane delivers resiliency beyond simply powering fleet equipment. Unlike diesel which degrades over time, propane has an indefinite shelf-life which makes it an ideal energy source for backup power or to power robust energy solutions like microgrids. According to research from PERC, propane can be cost-competitive with diesel for large commercial microgrid applications.
Microgrids are local, self-sufficient electric grids that can disconnect from the traditional grid and operate autonomously making them a great primary or backup power solution. Microgrids are often made up of one or more distributed energy solutions, such as solar panels, wind turbines, and generators that produce and store energy. Propane generators offer economic and environmental benefits that make them a great low-carbon energy source for microgrids. Propane fuel cells can also lead to near zero emissions of NOx, SOx, carbon monoxide (CO), and HC, as well as a 16 percent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions compared to diesel generation. Warehouses in areas with frequent power outages should consider the benefits that a microgrid with a propane generator could bring to their operation.
Streamlining your business
Because propane can power a variety of applications, managers can spend less time balancing multiple supplier invoices and rely on their local propane supplier to establish a custom refueling and delivery schedule that works with their fleet, demand, budget, and schedule. As for refueling infrastructure, propane suppliers work with fleets to develop custom refueling plans. Warehouse managers that have propane autogas vehicles can install a private refueling station on their property. The infrastructure is customizable, scalable, and designed to meet the demand for any business. In most cases, propane suppliers will provide the refueling equipment in exchange for a fuel contract that locks in a set price per gallon for a duration beneficial to both parties.
Local propane suppliers also offer different options for forklift refueling. Warehouse managers can choose between cylinder exchange or on-site refueling. Regardless of the refueling option, propane suppliers will inspect forklift cylinders each time they’re exchanged and remove damaged cylinders from service. They will also replace or fix broken parts. Suppliers often offer additional safety training opportunities for customers to ensure all employees understand how to install propane cylinders and utilize refueling equipment properly.
With predictable run times and the ability to continue business as normal, propane is streamlining processes, keeping budgets in check, and maintaining employee safety and productivity. By incorporating propane into a warehouse operation’s energy mix, managers can rest assured that production and output goals are met consistently and reliably.
To learn more about propane in the material handling industry, visit Propane.com/material-handling.