David Suarez, VP of Business Development at OneCharge, gave an interview on lithium batteries in the material handling industry at the MODEX 2022 trade show in Atlanta earlier this year. This is the recording and the full text of the interview.
TRANSCRIPT. 16 min.
Hey, it’s Kevin Lawton with the new Warehouse podcast here at MODEX 2022. Here in the booth with David Suarez. He is the VP of Business Development at OneCharge. OneCharge is bringing lithium-ion batteries to the material handling industry. We’ve had David on the podcast before in a group podcast («Battery Talk»). I think that was my biggest podcast, with the most number of guests ever, which was pretty daunting, I’ll say, from most perspectives. A lot of different opinions there.
So we got David one on one this time, one on one for OneCharge. So tell us a little bit about One Charge. What do you guys do? So OneCharge manufacturers advanced lithium technology for the material handling industry, right?
So for material handling, we focus on class one, class two, and class three. We work with retrofit and new OEM integration. So for us, we focused on really adding up time and efficiency as well as reducing operational costs. So our technology drives those two parts of the lithium-ion.
Okay, interesting. And obviously, lithium-ion is such a big topic of conversation, right? And making the switch, should I make the switch or not make the switch? What should I do? What does this mean? All these different things. And I’m sure here at MODEX, it’s a lot of conversation that’s happening. So tell us, why switch? Right, so why switch? I think there are a couple of drivers behind it.
It is supply chain driven. We hear that a lot now. It is simply more supply has to move through that current pipeline in lithium allows for uptime. So extended shifts, less time and maintenance. And then obviously that uptime means they can move more material.
That piece is coupled with the green initiatives, right? So that global impact, it is something that is not part of the winds of change. It is here and now and it’s real for us. So we have a journey that allows an organization to drive efficiency to deliver to their customers and ultimately to the world, right?
A product in the new economy that does a lot of damage to the environment. Right? So for us, it is a passion to put that energy, the best-engineered product in the market, in the hands of those users that move the world in the supply chain.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s a good reason to switch. And obviously, I think being cleaner, like, as you mentioned the environment is a huge factor as well. And I think even as we look at just our everyday lives, we’re all considering electric, I’m sure, moving to electric vehicles and how do we do that and how do we move away from gasoline and other things that may have some more hazardous impacts on the environment as a whole in the sense of switching over.
I’m sure you’re having a lot of attendees coming over asking about this, why should I switch, and things of that nature. What are some of the common questions or maybe concerns that they’re coming to you with here at MODEX?
I think part of what we’re hearing as a group is, you know, kind of why change or the why now piece and simply the efficiency side, the maintenance. There is less maintenance, there are fewer touches in regard to maintenance.
And that’s a huge operational cost for any organization that moves a lot of material. So they’re coming to the booth and they’re going, you know what, I’m running into these challenges. Let’s say employee shortage, right?
So workforce shortage, I need systems that run, and my uptime needs to be higher. My shifts, I’m adding a second shift, or third shift, or my 212 hours shifts, or what have you, right? So we fold into all those different sectors if you will.
Our focus, the lithium, and the questions that are being asked are, what do I do with the system after my five years? We’re seeing as an organization, we’re not getting those used systems back. They’re being resold onto the market.
So the customer is getting a longer life out of that power plant. So that power plant, which they may have to replace once or twice or they may in current technologies, have to keep more than one power source in regards to the lead, more than one battery per truck, where they’re not running into that with lithium.
So I think we have the question of what do I do at the end of the five years. So for us, we have second-life applications. The battery still has just a typical 40% of life left. So that gets continued on and serving in the industry or just really I need to do more with my fleet, so more uptime and just move more material.
So those are the things that are being asked of us. Those are the questions, how do you make me more efficient? How do you give me more out of my truck? Right? So Efficiencies, the Green initiative, like I had mentioned, and really the maintenance, so the operational cost, the OPEX is impacted in the overall just workplace safety in regards to there’s no gassing with some of the other technologies and those type of things.
Very interesting. It’s always great to be in this type of setting and forum, I guess, especially now after it’s been so long, but just to get kind of a pulse and engage for people out there to really understand what’s going on, what are people really thinking and what are they looking forward to?
So it’s always good to hear about what people are doing in their boots. With that being said, obviously, we talked about why to switch, right? But now, what about the timing of the switch? Why should you switch now? Or why should we maybe wait a little bit? I think you’re going to say don’t wait probably, right?
Yeah, I’m going to encourage you to take action now. But really, I think the timing is right in that post-COVID world where again, workplace green initiatives doing more with less, right?
So pushing more products through that same pipeline, lithium is really that driving force. So the customers coming to us going, you know what, I know I need to do more, how do I do it? I understand the why, how do I do it?
Right? So there are a couple of different models that our technologies allow to be implemented. So it’s energy pay-as-you-go model. Those can be, we see leasing as a capital purchase, outright purchase of the equipment.
So organizations are finding ways, new ways to really implement and drive some of that demand, if you will, in regards to there may be taking on more capacity, they may be opening more facilities, they may change how they really address the market.
So I think some of those things are what we’re seeing now. So it really drives kind of overlap, if you will, between all of those. Very interesting.
Obviously, you’re encouraging people to switch now. You think it’s a good idea to switch and, so when they look at switching, I mean, should they be switching over their entire fleet, or is there only maybe a certain application that should be switching over? What do you think in regards to that?
To me, I think lead acid has a place in today’s industry, really? That high-demand, multi-shift applications I think lithium really serves, will serve the organization and give them that uptime, be able to take on the seasonality without any impact on the equipment or the shifts.
Right. So for me, I think lead can coexist in that space, and I think lithium can also thrive in that space.
So for me, is lithium a silver bullet, if you will, within an ecosystem of material handling? No, I think there is a place for lead and other solutions. But again, when you have to look at growing or expanding your footprint in regards to distribution, I think lithium is the right answer for now.
Okay. Very interesting. And I have heard this week as well, kind of similar thing, like when you have those multi-shift things, that’s really the great application for lithium. As I said, I think that a lot of time. I think that’s your favorite word in this podcast.
But it’s a big deal. I mean, being able to be up longer and not have to do those battery switches or switch or take time to charge, certainly picks up on an advantage as well.
So we kind of talked about why switch, why now, or what time is right, which sounds like the answer is «now». But now let’s get to the last question here.
Well, why OneCharge, though? There’s a lot of providers here that are doing lithium now. What sets you apart from some others?
For me, looking at the market from a high level, I really see a couple of things that differentiate OneCharge from the pack, and that is the mounting strategy. So we take the world’s best cell. We put it in an array or in an enclosure that really makes it robust. So our systems are very robust. For us, durability is paramount. So in those applications, it’s not a careful application. They get banged around and bumped. So you have to have a robust system. So having that robust design, having resiliency in the IP or the BMS, so the brain of the system, I think that is one of the key drivers. And what we also hear from customers, large enterprise users, is telemetry, right?
So our telemetry is different. And the data which helps drive the efficiency of that organization, as they look at asset utilization, they say, David, you know what? Everybody has telemetry, but yours is better, right? So being able to look at some of the KPIs things that drive that organization or things that they find important, delivering that. So I think that being a differentiator so the way we deliver that data to the customer, having the robust design is one and then two lead times.
We’re more vertically integrated than our peers in that space. Our lead times are six to eight weeks. I can be that bold to say six to eight weeks lead time. And that in today’s supply chain world, is good, right? So we may make them too quickly, but for us, it is owning more of the supply chain and focusing on that material handling world. And we are committed to it.
That’s good to hear. And I think you mentioned something in there about the brain, right? So go a little more into detail on that. What is it exactly?
So the BMS, what it will do, is it will communicate between the platform and the truck and also the charger. So it is that nucleus it drives and it will let the charger know when to taper off, when to shut off, when it does need to charge, and communicate to the truck. We can pull that data and let the customer know that, hey, you know what, the truck is for optimal performance is doing that with the charger. You’re not overcharging the batteries and it’s only using the amount of electricity it needs to charge the system very quickly. Right? So there are efficiencies driven from that. So those are KPIs. So that brain is it’ll list out for a typical customer, maybe 130 data points, but the customer may only need six of those key points. And so we’ll parse that down and put it in the dashboard and the customer can see it. And that’s where we get a lot of the feedback. So it’s not only just all the buzzwords, the efficiency, the uptime, the no maintenance, right, the operational impact, the cost impact, but it’s that real-time data so they can see it.
It is a visceral piece for them to go, you know what, we’re saving on the electricity because my systems charge faster. We’re not having to employ BMS in this regard for the battery if it wasn’t for this technology. So they look at those hard costs and they compile, right? And it drives a compelling message for why lithium and why OneCharge. For us, the brain drives that piece and collects the data and it is the heart of the system. So it’s energy in the box and it is simply the brain that makes it that IP is the driving force.
Yeah, it’s very interesting because obviously everything is getting smarter around us, right? And so why should our batteries get smart too, right? So, very interesting stuff from you and OneCharge here. I’m curious about MODEX, what are you seeing here is the most interesting thing to you? Or what do you think is the kind of coming next?
I think robotics automation, I think we can, and it’s evident just the robotics companies in the AMRs, in the AG, the space, the robotics space, a lot of automation here, a lot of great partners. We’re working with some right now.
I would say that the key takeaway for me is customers know what they want. They know the market is kind of steering and accelerating the adoption of lithium along with that automation site. So from dealer principles to partnerships between B2B OEMs and manufacturers, you’re starting to see those relationships build. And, for me, I was very surprised how many robotics in AMR AGV companies are here. And it is something that I see that workplace shortage is going to get filled. Not all positions, but I think they’ll be able to answer that. Supply chain efficiency.
Yeah, absolutely. And you’re not lying. I mean, everywhere you look here, there is some type of robot or something moving around. So it’s pretty remarkable to think about how far we’ve come to see all this kind of technology going around in our space. It’s pretty cool. So, David, I want to thank you so much for coming to the group and talking to me about lithium-ion and OneCharge. If people want to find out more information about one charge, how can they do that?
Yeah, www.onecharge.biz. So look us up. You can reach out to us on the web. Definitely. We are at MODEX, stop by booth C 6085. And Kevin, thank you for having us.
That’s thanks for coming by the booth again and we will put all that information at newarehouse.com. So David, thank you again and enjoy the rest of your show.
Okay, thank you. Bye.