As the Paper Industry Goes Electric, OneCharge is Aiding the Shift

Image Source: OneCharge

Process Optimization
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Forklifts are an invaluable piece of the paper industry’s production process, and for good reason. In the course of its life cycle, from paper mill to the printing machine, a typical paper roll might need to be loaded, transported, and unloaded between four and sixteen times.

Understandably, every stage of this transport chain requires dedicated, powerful handling equipment, regardless of what type of paper is being handled — whether it’s newsprint, coated stock, craft, or linerboard. And because this process needs to be continuous, handling equipment needs to run with minimum downtime and low operating costs. In turn, that means the power source needs to be reliable, tough, and capable of running non-stop.

This is why the industry requires a substantial shift towards new, electric technologies. OneCharge is making that possible by specializing in battery technologies that are accelerating the electrification of forklifts in the paper industry. Since its founding in 2014, OneCharge has developed and produced li-ion batteries for use in a variety of industries, including the food and beverage industry, the retail industry, and, critically, the paper and pulp industries.

Until recently, lift trucks with tilting and rotating capabilities — necessary for the effective handling of paper rolls — were powered largely by LPG internal combustions engines. If they were powered by batteries, they used lead-acid electric batteries. Both power sources present a similar set of problems, including high energy costs, and pollution.

But OneCharge sees things differently. OneCharge develops and manufactures lithium-ion batteries for use in Class I, Class II, and Class III type forklifts. Currently, OneCharge manages and produces three different product lines of lithium-ion forklift batteries, including high-voltage batteries and batteries designed to operate at low temperatures. OneCharge also produces BDIs and offers upgrade options like CAN integration.

Together, these products provide a different option for every stage of production in the paper industry, helping support the recent shift from diesel or propane powered engines to fully electric forklifts. This is especially important as the demand for forklifts within the market continues to grow at an exponential rate. For instance, amid the COVID-19 crisis, the global market for forklifts, estimated at US$37.9 Billion in the year 2020, is projected to reach a revised size of US$50.5 Billion by 2026.

The company launched its manufacturing capabilities in the U.S. in 2016, and saw an opportunity to introduce its new technology to the paper industry as early as 2018. In its early years, the company was quickly adding new models to its product line — in 2018 alone the company introduced nearly 200 new battery models, raising the total number of models on offer to 450 — including high voltage and high capacity batteries.

This was exactly what was required in the paper industry, specifically in paper mill operations — a high-power battery pack capable of replacing propane and diesel engines. To meet the paper industry’s other needs and increase the availability of its battery products, OneCharge also implemented a country-wide service network in 2018, introduced an aftermarket program with Hyster-Yale, and introduced a line of accessories and product packages.

Part of the reason the paper industry has begun to shift to electric batteries for its forklifts has to do with basic operational competencies — electric batteries, thanks to quick opportunity charge events during natural work breaks, can maintain more consistent run times. And power isn’t compromised — OneCharge recently supplied a US paper mill with 540Ah OneCharge Li-ion batteries to power its 12,000 lbs. electric-powered cushion tire trucks.

For the past few years, OneCharge has been successfully helping its customers switch from lead-acid to lithium-ion batteries, allowing them to move paper bales and roles through the supply chain fluidly, from mills, to printing houses, to converting houses. To expand production in the face of increased demand and continue providing the paper industry with reliable, heavy-duty li-ion batteries, OneCharge opened a second facility for full in-house manufacturing in 2019.

Environmental demands are also leading the paper industry to shift to electric. OneCharge has helped face this new hurdle as well, offering a zero-emission option with performance comparable to that of the IC engines commonly used in high-capacity situations. The company’s batteries have helped the paper industry do away with the exhaust, noise pollution, and acid spills that are often a byproduct of LPG engines and lead-acid powered electric forklifts. For subsets of the paper industry where sanitary handling is critical — for instance, in food packaging — the low maintenance and high safety of li-ion batteries have also played an important role.

Recent clients have included a large paper mill that used special AGVs to feed its production line. The smaller forklifts involved at the end of the line had a heavy workload, with three shifts a day totalling around 4,800 hours a year. OneCharge’s durable lithium batteries were able to meet these demanding specs, allowing the mill to ensure safety while maximizing uptime. In 2020, to help guarantee the most effective runtimes, OneCharge created a new battery management system (BMS), as well as a high-current setup.

The growing popularity of lithium-ion batteries in the paper industry helped OneCharge reorient its business approach. In 2020, the company expanded its sales force, adding a Brazil sales team and adding additional sales representatives in Canada. In 2021 the company consolidated operations at a larger and new manufacturing facility in Garden Grove, California.

Having proven the value of lithium-ion batteries to the paper industry, OneCharge is now committed to expanding access to the batteries and making sure supply keeps up with demand, all while continuing to innovate and introduce new models (currently, the company offers more than 600 models of lithium-ion electric forklift batteries). The paper industry has shown itself to be adaptable and forward-thinking in its adoption of electric forklift technologies, and will continue to have a strong partner in OneCharge.