Organizations using NiCd batteries in a daily routine should set up a battery maintenance system to exercise good batteries, rejuvenate those that fall below a set target capacity and "weed out" the deadwood. Historically, batteries only get serviced either when they no longer hold charge or when the equipment is sent in for repair. As a result, battery-operated equipment becomes unreliable over time and battery-related failures occur all too frequently.

Implementing a battery maintenance plan requires effort and commitment on behalf of management to schedule service for specific battery packs and establish a record keeping system. All rechargeable batteries should be included in the maintenance plan. Some organizations may primarily use portable radios and emergency medical equipment, others employ cellular phones and notebook computers, and yet a third organization may use video cameras and portable lighting equipment. The batteries used for these applications fulfill a critical mission with little room for failure.

Battery maintenance should become an integral component of an organizationís overall equipment maintenance and repair activities. A properly managed program lowers risks, cuts replacement costs and, most important of all, reduces frustrations.

Whether the batteries are serviced in-house with their own battery analyzers or sent to an independent firm specializing in that service, sufficient spare batteries are required to replace those packs that have been temporarily removed. When the service is done on location and the batteries can be reinstated within 24 hours, only five spares in a fleet of 100 batteries are required. (The calculation is based on servicing five batteries per day in a 20 work-day month = 100 batteries per month). If the batteries are sent away, five spares are needed for each day they are away. When absent for one week, for example, 35 spares are needed for a fleet of 100.

After service, the batteries should be marked to identify the date of service. 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.

Many users prefer attaching a full battery label containing service date and capacity. With the label method, scheduled servicing can easily be instituted by simply reading the label. For critical missions, a battery with the highest capacity and the most recent date will undoubtedly be chosen. Similarly, when selecting a battery from a spare inventory, the label ensures a properly serviced replacement. Battery analyzers are now available that automatically print a label with date, company inscription and battery capacity when the battery is removed from the unit.

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