Portability Increases Profitability

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Often, when processing woodwaste or other types of material at a fixed site, too much time is spent moving that waste to the machine. For example, many users start the day with piles of construction-and-demolition (C&D) materials near the machines. But as the day progresses, so does the distance from the piles of debris to the fixed grinder and other processing machines. Productivity dwindles as the grinder waits longer and longer for the next load. Each day, the operator has to rely on such equipment as knucklebooms to put greenwaste into the grinder. Whether waste or new wood, the answer to this problem may be found in mobility.

“Getting closer to the supply can increase daily production as much as 20%,” declares Dave Benton, marketing manager for the Eugene, OR-based Peterson Pacific Corp. The first reaction to a track-mounted machine is often that it is intended for rough terrain, and while that is a great application for such machines, an often-overlooked benefit is that of being able to reposition the machine instantly, without the help of a truck. The loader operator has a radio remote control in his cab, which allows him to move the machine as his stockpile is depleted, which means that the grinder is not running empty while it waits for material. If the operation is arranged so that the machine is grinding into a pile, the grinder can be backed away from the pile so that it does not obstruct the discharge conveyor. In effect, the grinder can build a large windrow as it operates.

Woodwaste is often used to generate power. With the high price of petroleum fuel, a hot topic in the wood products business lately has been “biomass.” In the current market, there is more reason than ever to divert woody material away from landfills and into the energy-supply stream. Wood and its byproducts have made the transition from problem to commodity, with energy producers vying for material.

Another rapidly growing area of interest for grinder operators is that of asphalt shingles. The cost of liquid asphalt skyrocketed in the past year, so asphalt paving companies have been taking another look at shingles as a source for the liquid asphalt component of road building material. Acceptance of the material varies from state to state, but this is another profitable way to divert demolition material from landfills.

As with other equipment, maintenance is crucial to longevity. Savvy operators know that a well-maintained machine will provide a better return on investment. Well-serviced grinders can last for several years, sometimes a decade or more, while poor maintenance can destroy a grinder in just a few months. “Treat it well, and it will last,” Benton says, emphasizing that equipment should be serviced at least daily and more often when processing abrasive material. “If you’re grinding asphalt shingles, check the machine for wear at least twice a day.

“We’ve been in the business of marketing machinery that makes it possible for users to reuse and repurpose wood-based material,” Benton says. “Peterson was green before green was cool!”

Getting the Right Mix
“The demand for portability has always been there,” declares Pat Crawford, vice president of products for Diamond Z Manufacturing in Caldwell, ID. The biggest trend now, he says, is for capacity to process a broader range of debris, regardless of whether the mobile machine doubles as a fixed, onsite unit. But weight should be a concern, especially when weight makes for more durability, a longer life, and increased production. More electricity is becoming more economical as fuel costs soar. And electricity can reduce site noise-depending on what’s going through the machine.

“C&D is such a broad term,” Crawford says. “It can range from concrete and rebar to organic and building waste such as sheetrock.” Once processed, a magnetic head-roller separates steel from all other materials. The trend, especially for portable machines, is to track. “Track machines are much more popular, much more desirable. Now customers have begun to look at electric portable options. We keep looking at ways to introduce more function, more viable options.”

Whether track, tire, or stationary, this company meets market needs by offering 28 different models.

Portable equipment makes it possible for a savvy operator to boost productivity and profitability. But portability isn’t a free ride. Larger units may need to be disassembled from the current site so those components can avoid the many woes associated with gross vehicle weight, low bridges, tight curves, narrow roads, low power lines, and other possible headline-making events. Once onsite, the machine has to be reassembled. “For our largest machine, which weighs 180,000 pounds, it takes about two days to disassemble and two days to reassemble,” Crawford continues. Fortunately, the job at either end is relatively simple, even with a 2,000-horsepower model.

Looking to the future, Crawford sees even more efficient machines in terms of productivity, longevity, and reduced fuel consumption. The biggest trend he sees, though, has to do with the capacity to process different types of debris, decreasing the number of machines needed for a specific site-and storage space when not in use to help the machine keep its luster. “Users want to get the highest throughput for the least amount of operation cost. Another goal is to make machines so they are more maintenance friendly. The number-one issue still is safety.”

Safety always is a concern, especially when the area to be handled is more crowded than an established site. Still, a basic need is to reduce the cost of handling any material, especially when the distance from initial treatment to final product preparation for marketing can be a matter of significant time on the highway. High fuel costs have boosted the need for reducing travel time and distance, making better use of vehicles. The solution is to use equipment to help vehicles make better use of their carrying space, whether the load is wood chips or I-beams.

International Demand
As the global market continues its strength, increasing sales and profitability are found by following the principle that has been in effect for centuries: Give the customers what they want. “There are different requirements in different countries,” explains Ed Donovan, general sales manager for Continental Biomass Industries, Newton, NH. The European Union is a more mature marketplace, he explains. “As a rule, international distributors or end users must make sure they meet the requirements in their own county. If they need components from the factory, we can deliver those components.”

Industries serviced include land clearing, composting, mulch manufacturing, waste landfills and transfer stations, recycling, C&D waste, lumber, sawmill, waste wood processing, pallet recovery, boiler fuel, and pulp and paper. “We have different machines to handle the different jobs,” Donovan says. “For example, we have shredders and screens to handle contaminated waste.” But land-clearing capability is the company’s largest market. This includes pelletizing wood for residential or commercial use.

“Our micro-chips come out of the horizontal grinders in quarter-inch lengths. This means less fiber in those chips. Those are sent to a dryer, along with the proper nitrogen. With tiny chips, we can reverse the process for making chips. After grinding and screening, customers send those micro-chips directly to the dryer rather than wait for larger chips to dry enough before they’re further ground and sent to the dryer. The shorter fiber also dramatically cuts down on the horsepower need by as much as 50%.”

Donovan adds that learning how to efficiently use the pelletizing process takes just two to three days. “If need be, we can come back 90 days later and see how they’re doing. Once they put hours on it, they have more intelligent questions.”

He notes that the domestic and international markets are looking at machines that can be operated by electricity. “Really, I see the tendency of the market may be away from the portable machine, as long as you can supply the needs. In some instances the portable can grind and return the materials to the site with a stationary machine. You can accept a wider variety of woods. It’s cheaper, for example, to process an 8-inch chip in the field and use stationery machines to grind those large chips into smaller pellets. This means faster processing in the field, greater loads for trucks, less horsepower for the pelletizer, and quicker processing to get the pellets to the customer.”

Donovan adds there is an increasing demand for chipping to meet landscape needs. “Utilization is the driving force in landscaping. Make it a profitable price and color those chips red or brown. It’s a price-driven market. More and more, micro-chippers are on the horizon, which saves the grinding step. Still, today it takes less time for maintaining the chippers that it used to, thanks to easier access to the maintenance points than in the past.”

Considering Job Size
“About 50% to 80% of our jobs take just one day to complete,” says Marc Ferrari, president of the three-generation family company, Ferma Corp., located in Mountain View, CA. Winning day-to-day bids makes for good strategy: With more than $50 million in annual volume, this company is the largest demolition contractor in the San Francisco Bay area, employing anywhere from 150 to 400 people, depending on the volume of tasks at hand.

“About 80% of our work involves portable equipment, which we’ve been using for the past 25 years,” Ferrari says. “Since we’re working an area from California to Las Vegas, travel tends to be quite long.” In fact, road time can be three hours or more. There tends to be a lot of traffic in the C&D areas so maximizing each load is essential. The company’s equipment includes two large track-mounted Pri-Max units built by SSI Shredding Systems, used primarily for volume reduction and metal recovery and recycling.

“Mainly, the jobs we’ve done are onsite, taking care of customer needs,” he says. “We’ve been green for a long time, and our customer mix includes local cities that need to reduce the cost of handling waste. It used to be cheaper to put waste in a landfill, but the way now is to recycle. In some cities there’s no other choice. But we also try to make the right choices not mandated by local cities.” This strategy has helped Ferma stay ahead of the national curve when it comes to greenwaste. It also means the company can set up composting facilities, whether for customers or for itself.

“Basically, we try to keep a short backlog of material to handle,” Ferrari says. “With portable equipment, we can control moving material around. Our reduction includes debris, wood products, insulation, drywall, and light metal. Wood is processed in different machines to make different fuels. With horizontal grinders, we can vary the wood size according to the customer’s needs. We can make pellets and we can make compost from trees. Typically, our compost mix involves 8% to 20% trees. It still makes sense to compost material that won’t be used for fuel.”

With construction wood, residual paint is removed, wood chip’s moisture is stabilized by heat, while dirt from trees is screened, and can be used as part of the compost mix. Those chips can be pelletized for pellet stoves or the bark shredded for landscaping. Again, it depends on what the customer wants.

While metal is part of the recycling process, Ferrari says, there is a limit to what Ferma can handle. “Our two Pri-Max units deal with metal studs and lighter-gauge material. A heavier metal shear cuts the heavy metal into sizes our trucks can haul. Everything we do is to maximize our payloads.”

Metal compaction, for example, can boost GVW by 10% to 35%. Onboard scales help ensure the vehicle doesn’t break down or time is wasted on dealing with overweight trucks. “But the concern is not as great for the load as it is for safety. After all, heavier trucks don’t stop in the same kind of distance as those with lighter loads.”

Variety Builds Profitability
Ferrari’s company has more than 20 types of units for reducing, recycling, metal sorting, and other processes to ensure maximum use of whatever kind of waste they’re handling. When it comes to taking on a new machine, the focus has been on quality of product service. Price is not a primary concern. “Ease of service is part of the decision,” he says. “Maintenance should be simple as possible. Typically, we take what’s offered. We want to rely on a machine that comes right out of the box. The machines we use last from five to 15 hours depending on use.”

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Photo: SSI Shredding Systems
A PR6000 track-mounted unit from SSI Shredding processes C&D waste onsite.

Training for using a new machine is handled in-house. It takes just a few weeks to maximize usage. The company’s goal is to teach the operator how to handle that equipment the way the company wants it done. This requirement helps tailor both machine and operator so they work together. “Most of our maintenance is handled by our own mechanics in our own shops. But if it’s a one-time major repair, it often is cheaper to have it done by someone else.”

Ferrari says the need for portability will increase. “Landfills are getting scarcer and scarcer. Hauls are getting longer. Portability makes it possible to handle all types of jobs.” Naturally, Ferma Corp. tends to bid on every job that comes along, even if it may take just one day to complete. The company also has a reputation for maximizing recovery.

While portability helps in winning more bids, storage often is onsite. Where that is not possible, Ferma rents another facility to store the products until sale. Ferma typically handles all the sales of reusable goods or scraps.

But with strong market penetration and high utilization of processed materials, how can the biggest company around continue to grow? Simple: by expanding the market base, which is what Firma is doing. Portable processing equipment will continue to keep the company on the go.

On the Other Hand…
José Valencia, along with his wife Luciana, oversee a metal processing yard in Nogales, AZ, just across the border from Mexico. He works in the yard, while she takes care of the calls. Compared with other companies, the yard is relatively modest, with perhaps 4 acres. But it’s the only US processing yard for Metales Samlo LLC, a sister company of Metales Samlo S.A. de C.V.

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Photo: Diamond Z Manufacturing
Portable equipment, such as this 7000TKT from Diamond Z Manufacturing, makes it possible for a savvy operator to boost productivity as well as profit.

Similar materials are dealt with no matter which side of the border the processing yard is located. “We handle all metal from white goods to vehicles to transformers,” says Valencia. “Before we crush the material, we separate the thick from the thin, ferrous from the nonferrous. We can bale anything up to one-quarter of an inch in thickness. But with a torch, we can prepare even railroad rails for customers. Since our customers are the smelters, the material is worth more when it gets there ready to go into the ovens-hence the optimal size of about 3 feet.”

When asked about wood processing, he responds, “The only wood I process is pallets, which I crush and burn in my fireplace. The stuff I cannot burn, I put into the trash.” His portable metal baler comes from Sierra Machinery in Bakersfield, CA. The machine itself is manufactured
in Italy.

He comments that Metales Samlo, founded by Samuel Lopez, an older brother, has about eight yards in Mexico. Valencia stays on the US side, while Lopez, an accountant, travels back and forth overseeing his company. The closest processing facility in Mexico is just across the border, with the furthest three hours away in Hermosillo.

When asked how he deals with unhappy neighbors, he responded, “If you have unhappy neighbors, you’re in the wrong side of town. You need to be in the industrial area. Down in Mexico, though, neighbors are glad to have a nearby metal recycling yard. That’s because they have night watchmen at those yards. A neighboring metal recycling yard makes for a more secure neighborhood.”

Since Valencia takes anything metallic, where does he get the material? Sources are from assembly plants, industrial sites, mechanic shops, and salvage yards. “Once a salvage yard finishes junking out a car, I purchase the scrap. I also will take in material from individuals. In Mexico, though, city officials call the company when dealing with abandoned vehicles or those worn-out and left outside.”

He notes that his part of the operation can process just about any metal. A few years ago he filled an order of nearly 200 tons of dismantled transformers. Cars and other tins are packed or baled to facilitate the logistics, so instead of transporting 8 to 10 tons of scrap in a conventional way, once baled, a truck easily can carry its legal load limit of about 20 tons.

“I have a couple of track-mounted grapples. They are very helpful for processing the incoming material, such as removing motors and transmissions from vehicles. There are a few processes that will aid in increasing revenues.”

Valencia reported that he works 50 to 70 hours a week, but enjoys the variety of work possible when dealing with metals. “I work alone, because the few people I’ve hired don’t really want to work.” Weather is not a problem in southern Arizona, so if business slows down he uses his backhoe on construction projects.

Despite working alone, José Valencia pays close attention to maintenance. “I follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for properly caring for the machines.”

No matter the size of the operation, the job at hand, or the brand of the equipment, it is a combination of portability and proper maintenance that helps a company maximize profitability.

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