Wait, your batteries need water?
Correct! Golf car batteries require routine watering to perform properly, yet the public is generally unaware of this. “We get that all the time,” says Todd Cowan, Business Development Manager for Flow-Rite. “Most people just don’t know these batteries need to be watered.”
Essentially, each battery cell has a predetermined amount of electrolyte (a mixture of acid and water). Over time, the water portion of the electrolyte mixture will evaporate due to daily use, charging, discharging, ambient temperature, and so on. To replace this water manually and keep the equipment working as intended, you’ll need to remove each vent cap (18 to 24 per car), pour in the proper amount of replacement water (this will differ from cell to cell), and replace the caps.
Concerns naturally arise during this process: Did I put in the proper amount of water? How safe is it to be around battery fumes? Did I get any acid on my clothes or vehicle? Did I miss a cell? This routine task and the concerns associated with it is exactly what Flow-Rite has built their successful, family-owned business on since the mid 1980’s.
Flow-Rite, The Industry Standard
Flow-Rite, a West Michigan based manufacturer, has invested significant time and resources into safely resolving the chore of adding water to batteries. The company’s solution, Pro-Fill™, is a watering system specifically designed for golf car batteries, with applications outside of golf cars steadily growing. This system consists of automatic shut-off valves, interconnected with tubing and manifolds, which replace existing battery vent caps. The tubing is attached to a quick coupler that is connected to a water supply. Once connected to the water supply, water flows until each battery cell independently reaches the correct electrolyte level.
Instead of manually watering batteries, which can take roughly 60 seconds per cell, an entire pack of batteries in a golf car can be filled in less than one minute with Pro-Fill. This not only saves golf car fleet managers significant time, but also labor costs. Since batteries are filled to the correct levels, equipment lasts as long as it should, which also saves money.
Safety is another major advantage. Each valve includes flame arrestors, which prevent potential flame or spark from harming the batteries. These flame arrestors are necessary when batteries are housed in an enclosed space (such as under the seat of a golf car) or when used by the consumer/untechnical market.
Not only does the system have a built-in safety feature, but the system itself is really a safety-first product. With the watering system, there is no need to touch the battery or be exposed to fumes since vent caps are no longer removed. This might not seem like a major safety hazard when handling one battery, but it adds up when watering several cars at a time.
In recent years, Flow-Rite’s system has become a standard for golf car manufacturers, including Club Car, E-Z-GO, and Yamaha. “Flow-Rite and equipment manufacturers both see safety and efficiency not as benefits, but as essentials we must provide to our customers,” says Michael Leonard, Sales & Marketing Director for Flow-Rite. “In today’s marketplace, it should just be a part of doing business.”
New Team Members
Flow-Rite has grown tremendously in the last several years, with staff like Todd Cowan leading the way. Todd, a Flow-Rite employee since 2006, has moved into a new role as the Business Development Manager for the golf car battery business as of June 2017.
“The golf car battery market we serve is fast-paced and exciting,” says Todd. “Broadening Flow-Rite’s depth and exposure through new applications will be my focus, along with ensuring our current partners are receiving the full benefits – cost savings, safety, extended battery life/performance – of our watering systems.”
Also during the summer of 2017, Michael Leonard began his role as Sales & Marketing Director for Flow-Rite Controls. In this position, Michael oversees all sales, marketing, and customer service efforts for the company.
Michael brings over 35 years of experience and senior leadership from the battery industry into his new role at Flow-Rite. He was most recently employed with Johnson Controls as their Director of OE Sales & Engineering, where he spent 27 years. “I am excited to leverage my experience in the industry to make a significant contribution to build on Flow-Rite’s success” said Michael. “I look forward to joining one of Michigan’s Best and Brightest organizations, and to work with its winning team.”
Environmental Stewardship + Lean Focus
Flow-Rite is proud to partner with the lead battery industry. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 99% of all lead batteries are recycled, making them the most recycled consumer good in the United States (Battery Council International, 2017). The plastic, lead, and sulfuric acid are all able to be recycled and reused into new batteries or other goods. In spite of it being a 150-year-old technology, it still holds as an incredibly reliable and eco-friendly energy source.
Not only do Pro-Fill watering systems contribute to the health of the environment by improving battery life, Flow-Rite also supports the environment at an operational level. One of Flow-Rite’s company values (which can be seen displayed all over their manufacturing facility) is Stewardship, defined as: Contribute to the stability of our local community and the environment.
As a vertically integrated company, Flow-Rite designs, manufacturers, ships, and markets its own products. This allows the company to keep their products “Made in the USA”. However, with great control in a process comes great responsibility to customers, the community, and the environment.
In 2015, the senior leadership team saw a need to focus their efforts to improve, among many things, product quality and the impact on the environment. So beginning in January 2016, Flow-Rite embarked on a Lean Conversion of its manufacturing facility. Lean, plainly stated, is a systematic method for waste minimization within a manufacturing system without sacrificing productivity.
“A significant improvement from the conversion was the reduction in scrap at Flow-Rite’s plant,” says Mike Hiler, Flow-Rite’s newly appointed Operations Director. “A single-piece-flow concept was implemented into many of the production cells, which put a greater emphasis on passing only good parts through the first time.”
With this new strategy, Flow-Rite brought an intentional focus on scrap. The results include less landfill contributions, less resin used, and less electricity required. A dedicated Scrap Team has also been created, which meets weekly to see how they can find new ways to minimize scrap and reduce the footprint on the environment. Nearly all the scrap that is generated is recycled: plastic components, corrugated cardboard, office paper, and shipping shrink wrap.
Along with supporting the environment, Flow-Rite supports many local charities in the West Michigan area. Flow-Rite gives each associate one work-day annually to be spent at a company sponsored volunteer opportunity, such as painting at a Habitat For Humanity home or doing yard work at the local Ronald McDonald House. For more information, visit www.Flow-Rite.com or call 616-583-1700.