Long-lasting batteries can improve communication and worker productivity
It may be one of retail’s best kept secrets: a new technology that boosts the life span of batteries for mobile bar code scanners and two-way radios.
After converting two years ago to lithium ion batteries from Impact Power Technologies, one large national chain has seen the length of time a battery holds a charge increase 20 percent while simultaneously seeing the number of batteries purchased in a given year decrease by 75 percent.
Driving this enhanced performance is a pair of innovations. One is a proprietary battery management system circuit board that more effectively regulates power usage and creates an ideal equilibrium between power coming in and power going out.
The other is the mating of that system with Japanese lithium ion battery cells instead of the Chinese cells manufacturers typically supply with radios and scanners.
“The Japanese have found a way to refine lithium,” says Ken Murphy, chief operating officer of IPT, “which means that their batteries wind up lasting longer, they’re cleaner and you can recharge these batteries significantly more often that you can recharge traditional batteries.”
Using Japanese cells in combination with IPT’s battery management system means that “you’re not throwing too much power at the battery or pulling too much power out of it,” he says. “It’s the perfect balance. Our batteries deliver, on average, between 20 and 25 percent more usage capacity because they have more power.”
Several law enforcement agencies that use IPT’s two-way radio batteries have gone on record praising their benefits.
Lieutenant David Hernandez of the Miami Beach (Fla.) Police Department has said that IPT’s battery performance “was like night and day over … any other battery we tested. It was easy to justify spending a few more dollars … especially when we’re getting between double and triple the lifespan in return value.”
The longer battery life, guaranteed for one year for the scanner version and two years for the two-way radio version, also helps improve the integrity of inventory movement data, which can be compromised when inventory counts are interrupted by a scanner battery losing power or dying.
One large national chain, an IPT customer for two years, addressed this very problem when it replaced the 3,000 milliamp batteries it had been using with 3,900 milliamp IPT batteries.
“They increased battery capacity 20 percent,” Murphy says. “That gave them eight-plus hours of average use versus the six hours they had been averaging with their older batteries.”
This chain later reviewed its battery usage going back five years and discovered that before switching to the IPT batteries, it had been buying about 10,000 batteries annually.
“After one year using IPT’s batteries,” Murphy says, “we had shipped them just 2,200 batteries. We decreased their battery consumption by over 75 percent.”
The battery buyer at this chain “saved money on the front end by about $300,000,” he says. “On the back end, through worker productivity improvements, they saved more than $4.5 million over their first 15 months.”
One large wholesaler with 63 distribution centers was using IPT’s batteries in 40 centers. Murphy says the company’s IT director used an outside auditor to determine how those centers had been able to increase productivity by an average of 35 percent: The only common denominator, the audit found, was that all were using IPT batteries.
A recent report on FacilitiesNet.com said that a retail chain and its scanner device supplier pitted the incumbent battery against IPT’s lithium ion battery. The results indicated that staying with the original battery that comes with a device “would lead to a 25 percent loss in run time, directly translating to a loss in productivity.
“It also demonstrated that, for the same price or even less, IPT batteries would not only last full shift, but also last double the years, ultimately saving close to 79 percent in annual battery reorder purchases.”
In another indication of this technology’s growing acceptance at retail, Murphy says that sales have quadrupled over the last two years; the majority of sales are of bar code scanner batteries.
Although it appears that no loss prevention studies have yet been conducted, retailers are considering the impact IPT batteries can have on theft.
“It’s common sense that if you have someone scanning products all day, with no losses of data because of productivity problems, it’s going to impact the speed and accuracy of determining losses due to shrinkage,” Murphy says.
One retailer told him that the more accurate data they are getting from their scanners powered by IPT batteries would, if integrated with point-of-sale data, “give us more insight into what products are being stolen so we could tag them better.”
One large drug store chain, which buys IPT scanner batteries as well as approximately 50,000 IPT two-way radio batteries, has even taken to marketing the two-way radio batteries by having IPT make them in pink in support of breast cancer awareness.
“If the batteries used by managers and floor staff are not working,” Murphy says, “there’s no communication. If it’s an issue of theft, someone trying to flee the store, there’s nothing they can do about it. But now the whole perimeter of this chain’s stores are powered by our batteries.”
NRF members come from more than 45 countries and all sectors of retail, from Main Street merchants to online retailers.