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Shop till you drop

Oct 01, 2017 | 07:00 AM | Fastmarkets AMM staff

Scrap recyclers know what they want and equipment suppliers are busy meeting and anticipating those needs. More analytics and increasingly sophisticated separation technologies top a wish list leaning toward increased pre-shredding and right-sized processing tools.

Ask Adam Dumes, senior vice president of Middletown, Ohio-based Cohen recycling, what drives decisions to invest in new scrap-handling equipment for the family-owned, recycling firm and he’s quick to answer.

“At a minimum, we evaluate three things before investing in new equipment: impact on safety, impact on operational/process efficiency and return on investment,” Dumes says.  “The best equipment providers are experts in their products and provide collaborative insight into how their equipment will help overcome the challenges we face.

“We view the vendors we choose as true partners that act in a consultative manner to show us how their offerings would improve specific Cohen processes, not just industry generalities,” he goes on to explain. “We always strive for more production using fewer resources while ensuring environmental compliance and employee health and safety.”

What does Dumes – and many of his counterparts across the scrap processing sector – want and expect to see in scrap equipment going forward?

“More analytics to provide real-time data capture and analysis to closely monitor operational efficiency,” the Cohen Recycling executive says without hesitation. Add to his list “more predictive and preventive maintenance tools to guard against costly and unexpected outages” and “increasingly sophisticated separation technologies to recover more usable materials from the waste stream.”

Finally, Dumes expects and is seeking “more safeguards for environmental integrity and employee safety.” If suppliers meet those expectations, “an improved bottom line should follow,” he comments.

That rationale is not lost on the world’s scrap equipment suppliers, which are preparing to satisfy the wants and needs of their customers   – and then some.

Metso Corp., for one, has been providing industrial equipment to myriad industries for over 150 years. Headquartered in Helsinki, Finland, the company has built and maintains a global network of technical and service professionals to support its products.

Over the years, Metso has expanded its presence in North America through the acquisition of such stalwart brands of scrap processing equipment as Lindemann, Svedala, Texas Shredder and Hammermills. 

“Metso’s product offering for metal recycling counts among the most comprehensive in the industry,” Keith Carroll, vice president of San Antonio, Texas-based Metso Metal Recycling Americas, notes. “We offer a full range of pre-shredders, automobile shredders, shears, balers and briquetters, along with complete capability for developing custom solutions for our customers’ ferrous and nonferrous scrap processing needs,” Carroll elaborates.

Over the past ten years and in its’ drive to help customers enhance operations, Metso has made changes to its electrical and controls systems to integrate Ethernet connections and improve remote access for reduced plant wiring, and better data collection and remote troubleshooting capabilities.

Nonferrous processing counts as another focus of development, where “customers can pull reusables such as fines and wire packages from feedstock to create a cleaner waste stream. There are also new revenue streams to be developed by recovering reusable metals from privately held landfills, a process that previously was slow and expensive,” Carroll points out. “Today, with newer equipment, it is possible to mine for materials that can be recycled,” he notes.

Like Metso, Sunrise, Fla.-based LeFort America has set its sights on the lucrative North and South American markets, building on the foundation of its 70-year old Belgian parent. 

To strengthen its presence in the Americas, Lefort America entered into an agreement in late 2016 with Caterpillar Inc., Peoria, Ill., to sell and service Lefort America’s line of hydraulic shears and balers. Caterpillar also provides the engines equipping the machinery LeFort sells in North America.

Over the past few years, Lefort America has been offering differing sizes of equipment based on the size and type of material being processed. The company has also successfully introduced crawlers for shearing and baling that move to where they are needed, saving time and money, Steve Weinberg, Lefort America’s national director of sales and marketing, notes. “Lefort America offers a line that is much more mobile than our competitors,” he adds.

Meanwhile, North American mainstay Wendt Corp., Buffalo, N.Y., has been busy keeping pace with the evolution of the recycling industry over the past decade from what Bill Close, nonferrous business development manager, describes as “strictly recovering Zorba to total metal recovery, including stainless steel and wire from auto-shredder residue.”

“We have improved to where we have minimized our losses in post-process waste to less than one percent,” Scott Edwards, sales director, adds.

Sensor-based sorting is “one of Wendt’s core technologies,” Close notes. “And it has evolved significantly since 2001.”

German material handling supplier Liebherr, which first entered the U.S. market in the 1970s, has steadily expanded its reach from scrap recyclers to excavation projects. Today, the company’s material handling technology is embracing driver assistance systems.

Future improvements are expected to enhance driver comfort through the use of light sensors that adjust vehicular light systems to ambient light levels and reduce glare on lights so as not to blind oncoming drivers as well as rain sensors for windshield wipers. 

“The focus was on the productivity of the machine through optimal loads and improved safety for the driver,” Christian Abler, product manager, explains. “Features include overload protection systems to prevent vehicle tipping by locking the vehicle until it can be better balanced.  The anti-tip features can be retrofitted on to recent models of existing equipment,” he adds.

Libherr’s latest model material handlers are high-performance, economical machines, Abler says. Like other scrap equipment providers, the company is working on the next generation of technology to improve efficiency and worker safety. 

Besides introducing refinements to improve driver safety and comfort, Liebherr is focusing on computer-supported solutions keyed to expedite maintenance/service operations ranging all the way from diagnosis to ordering needed parts.

“As a global company, we are able to offer technologies proven throughout the world for the scrap metal business as well as for our other divisions involving excavation, aerospace or cranes,” Abler said. “We are working to offer more computer-supported services and data to our customers to simplify problem identification and solution and reduce the length of the service call.”

As electronics proliferate in passenger vehicles, Metso is preparing to meet the challenge posed by that trend by working with partner recycling companies to offer new technologies to more easily capture the electronics. Likewise, as aluminum finds its’ way into more and more automotive components, Metso along with its partners in technology development aim to integrate more refined technologies to better separate aluminum waste into cast versus sheet, reflecting the different compositions and resale values. 

And it doesn’t stop there. Looking further into the future, Carroll predicts that beyond dealing with the challenge presented by the increasing popularity of aluminum car bodies, the scrap industry “will have to develop a solution addressing how to separate and recycle composite materials. 

“In the next five to ten years, the use of composites in auto bodies has the potential to profoundly impact our segment of the industry,” he predicts.

“Pre-shredding will become more prevalent, increasing the productivity and eliminating bottlenecks in smaller shredders in particular,” Carroll adds. “Material availability has led to the growth of smaller versus larger shredders,” he observes, noting that “it costs a lot to source the feed material and operators may not be able to access enough feed to run a larger shredder at optimal efficiency. 

Other pluses the Metso executive attributes to pre-shredding range from “reducing costs – such as energy-related outlays – required to run your shredder to slicing “the use of consumables, all of which “result in lower maintenance costs.  Plus, with bales and auto bodies, there are some combustibles that could cause in-box combustion in a traditional shredder,” he points out. “Pre-shredding virtually eliminates that risk.”

Supplying smaller shredders to the North American market rates as a key priority for Lefort America. That trend will only accelerate, Weinberg predicts, as Lefort America readies even more “right-sized” products for the market. 

 “Big shredders don’t run at maximum efficiency unless the market and quantity of material are strong,” Weinberg shares the rationale behind the company’s drive to right-size. “During softer markets, a small- to mid-size shredder – in the range of 500 to 3,000 horse power – is the most cost-effective,” he says. 

“We also see increased momentum for our 200-ton pusher rams that move material to produce bales with more density as well as faster and more accurate laser-guided cuts.” Weinberg adds, crediting such advances with “increasing productivity by about one-third.

“Overall, the scrap equipment industry is guided by the market,” he concludes. “And providing the right size and type of equipment for customers will allow reliable operations for years to come. 

“We are also working with the Caterpillar dealers to be more proactive in the areas of service and maintenance.” Weinberg goes on to note. “The focus is on preventive maintenance and complementing the predictive diagnosis of operations and warning features already embedded in Lefort America technology. We know predictive diagnostic and maintenance technology will be a cool tool for the customer,” he adds.

Wendt’s Close points to advances the company has charted over the past decade including “post-process equipment such as x-ray sorting and granulation to upgrade nonferrous materials, increase profit margins and maintain access in more marketplaces, versus simply selling mixed metals to China. 

“If you are equipped with the right, core sorting technology, you can exploit market pricing spreads when they occur and redirect your operations toward the higher-valued materials to achieve more revenue,” he notes. “The next decade will offer aluminum alloy sorting using Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) that will identify and create melt-ready products that can be sold to a smelter,” Carroll predicts. “That is the sort of technology the industry needs.”

Where to from here? The general consensus among the four scrap equipment providers surveyed by AMM points to a strengthening scrap market in the United States in 2017 and even stronger growth in 2018.

One unfortunate factor promising to introduce at least a bump in the road forward may be the thousands of automobiles that wind up at shredders due to the hyper-active hurricane season in the United States; Hurricane Harvey alone is expected to route between 300,000 and 500,000 additional vehicles to the scrap heap.

While wild cards – particularly the status of the scrap market in China – remain, key indicators point to a strengthening market. And for scrap equipment providers, that translates into the promise of increased capital expenditures on the part of recyclers to replace or upgrade aging equipment.

Even so, for customers, such as Cohen’s Dumes, the key criteria for purchasing or leasing new equipment remains “making us more efficient to create more value for the business.

“Show us innovation that will help us achieve that goal,” he pledges. “And we will listen.”


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