BioCycle January 2008, Vol. 49, No. 1, p. 39
NUTS & BOLTS
What do customers look for when buying grinding equipment? Recent buyers and equipment manufacturers offer insights.
LAST fall, we had the opportunity to attend a factory tour and field day for potential and existing buyers of Morbark grinding equipment. Watching sheets of steel being cut and welded into machines that turn whole trees into chips in a matter of seconds is indeed an amazing experience. The Morbark manufacturing plant in Winn, Michigan uses 30 million pounds of steel each year to manufacture 1,200 machines, as well as over 70,000 different parts.
Dane Buk, owner of Terra Firma Organics in Jackson Hole, Wyoming attended the Morbark event as well. He was in the market for a high horsepower, heavy-duty grinder for forest thinning projects as well as everyday use at his composting and mulch production site. “Essentially, we needed a grinder with a lot of horsepower that could still be transported,” says Buk. “We settled on a Morbark 4600XL, a 1,000 HP horizontal grinder on tracks. We are only using it at about 40 percent of its capacity now, but it will allow our company to grow into a lot of forestry and other wood processing projects.”
We spoke with Buk around the time we were planning our new equipment article series for 2008, titled “Nuts & Bolts.” These articles are designed to find out what criteria customers are using when “shopping” for new pieces of equipment for their composting and wood recycling operations. The first article in the “Nuts & Bolts” series focuses on grinders. Subsequent articles will cover screens, baggers and mulch colorizers, mixers and rotary drums, windrow turners and trailers and collection vehicles.
For many operators, grinders are among the most expensive pieces of equipment they will purchase. They also are subject to the most wear and tear. Therefore, among Buk’s top criteria was how to ensure maximum operating time, especially given his rural location. “We evaluated companies based on their ability to service our equipment and provide parts quickly,” he says. “It also is very important to be able to do our own maintenance easily – to be able to access key parts of the grinder without any hassles.”
The ability of the machine to handle a variety of feedstocks also was important, as was the throughput rate. “In addition to whole trees, we process brush, yard waste, dimensional lumber and other materials,” says Buk. “For brush and green waste, the 4600 processes 50 to 60 tons/hour. On straight lumber, we are getting 72 tons/hour with a 3-inch minus screen.”
To gather information for this article, we spoke with grinder manufacturers as well as buyers who evaluated a variety of machines. One trend mentioned by a number of people is increasing interest in electric motors. In some instances, this was due to regulatory concerns related to emissions, but more frequently, cost of diesel fuel was cited as the primary factor. “Operating costs [for electric] are a lot lower than diesel,” says Greg Schoenbachler of Silver Springs Organics, LLC near Olympia, Washington, who recently purchased a Komptech Crambo shredder. “But it is a site-dedicated machine and that is the part we wavered on when we put a pen to the check, as we recognized that we couldn’t offer off-site grinding services, a potential revenue stream. Ultimately we favored a machine dedicated to the facility and reducing our cost of operations, versus having the ability to do off-site grinding.”
KEY FEATURES, DEMO PERFORMANCE
Grinder manufacturers (see accompanying directory) were asked about the key features that municipal and private sector buyers are looking for these days. We also inquired about what factors customers want to evaluate when observing an equipment demonstration. The following are the various responses received. Not all manufacturers contacted responded prior to our editorial deadline.
Bandit: ”The biggest feature our customers look for is performance and reliability,” says Jason Morey in the marketing division. “They don’t want the machine to break down. Second is parts availability and service with a good dealer network. Of course, price is a big thing, but dependability and service are what is on their minds. If the grinder or chipper is broken down, they are losing money. We use heavy-duty components and promote the durability of our machines.”
Bandit grinders use cutter mills with teeth (versus hammers), which cut downwards. “To replace the teeth, all it takes is an air-powered socket wrench,” adds Morey. “You remove one bolt and take them out. Dull teeth will make the machine work harder, decreasing component life and reducing the quality of the end product.”
One trend Morey has noted is municipalities purchasing their own equipment for tree chipping and storm debris management, versus using contractors. The City of Toledo, Ohio purchased a Model 4680 grinder and is making certified playground mulch for schools, he says. “They have a whole forestry division with a tree service crew. We have sold numerous grinders to different municipalities that are doing something similar.”
Entering its 25th year, Bandit recently introduced “Son of A Beast,” the Model 1680 tow-behind grinder for municipal and small land clearing jobs. It is designed to process brush, pallets and smaller logs; screen sizes and teeth can be changed to alter desired end product. It runs between 160 and 275 HP, with a 24-inch by 52-inch opening.
Brushworker/Fecon: Daniel Hathaway has been selling the Fecon Bull Hog shredder for many years. He now packages the Bull Hog with a tractor in various horsepower combinations, and markets it under the Brushworker name. Hathaway explains that “with carbide-tipped hammers that need little maintenance, this unit is able to shred stumps, shrubs, trees – up to eight- or nine-inches in diameter. The ground is an unsatisfactory anvil so the material needs something to beat against. The Fecon design takes materials on an angle and rips and tears them apart. When they reach the counter-combs they shatter. Most shredders have counter-combs but what is particular to Fecon is the patented robust rotor that survives incredible shock loads, easily grinding rocks and bricks.”
Hathaway describes a recent series of projects (land clearing, brush pile grinding) in Philadelphia. After finishing, he was able to drive the tractor through the city to a park where he did another job. “The tractors are very versatile within the urban and suburban landscape,” he says. “The tractor can also be hooked up to run other machinery found in a municipal equipment yard. The biggest use for the Brushworker is in the urban area, reducing the stream of organic materials going to the landfill. But, many units are also used in the Southwest for treating invasive species, for agricultural brush shredding and for creating defensible spaces in wildfire zones.”
Concept Products: The Shred-All horizontal shredder is used for processing waste wood, construction debris, pallets, and green waste. “Most questions we receive are associated with rising fuel prices and customers are concerned with fuel consumption vs. throughput,” says David Wilson of Concept Products Corp. “The Shred-All D5600 can process seven tons of wood waste an hour on only five gallons of fuel, primarily because of our unique cutting design.”
Robert Oleski of Robert M. Oleski Hauling Service in Naples, Florida purchased a Shred-All D5600 unit in late 2007. Oleski collects green waste from golf courses in the area, and has a small processing yard for grinding and composting. He looked for two years for a machine that could process palm fronds, coconuts, brush and tree trimmings. “Production wasn’t critical to me. Size reduction was,” says Oleski. “I can only handle smaller size materials at my yard. The rest I dispose of locally, where I have to pay by the ton, or I can drive to a landfill in the middle of the state and incur fuel costs. After a month of running the Shred-All, I have reduced the amount of material I have to take to the dump by about one-third. And the amount the machine will process versus the amount of fuel it burns is excellent.”
DuraTech Industries: ”What customers want to know is the amount of service and maintenance the grinder requires,” says Al Goehring, DuraTech’s Marketing Manager. “We strive to help in that aspect by designing a number of different features into the machine that actually help reduce the amount of maintenance required. Features include: a microprocessor controlled wet clutch that is easy to operate, requires very little maintenance and also acts as a torque limiter, thus protecting the machine; an enclosed engine compartment with self-cleaning air intake system and large access doors; a hydraulically tilting tub that allows full access to the hammermill, hammermill screens, driveline and clutch; and oscillating stacking conveyors.”
When it conducts demos, most people are interested in the output of the machine, he adds. “Some want a finished product, others want only reduction. For those that want throughput, we will use screens with large openings that reduce the product 60 to 75 percent. For buyers looking to produce mulch, mulch for composting, or chips for fuel, many will do the reduction in one part, and the mulch sizing in a regrind with smaller screens to meet their needs. This is much faster and produces a better product.”
Goehring notes that customers who are primarily concerned with throughput want the largest machine they can afford, and are less concerned about operational costs. “They want the bigger machine with the largest engine,” he says. “They will choose a machine that provides them with both the product they want at a reasonable cost of operation.”
In terms of new equipment and options for 2008, DuraTech is upgrading its Model 4012 to have the new Tier III C27 CAT diesel engine at 950 HP, and is upgrading the Model 9564 horizontal grinder for improved performance.
Komptech: ”Buyers are looking for one wood shredder that processes all kinds of wood, from brush to big roots full of soil and stone,” says Johannes Pohl, CEO of Komptech USA Inc. “More recently, cost and especially fuel efficiency are big topics as people realize that most of their profit is leaving their operations through the exhaust pipe.” The company’s shredders are all offered in either diesel or electric. Notes Todd Dunderdale of Komptech USA, “the power source for electric grinders often is located near or in buildings, which makes it necessary to use a slow speed shredder because there is no flying debris.”
When running a demo, Pohl notes that potential buyers “bring stuff they have stored for a long time because they didn’t want to harm their own equipment with it! This is fun for us, because whatever kills a high speed will not be an issue for a high torque/slow speed shredder like a Crambo.” One feature of interest during demos is how the shredder’s engine automatically goes down to idle once the hopper is empty and the loader can’t keep up. Engine speed increases again when the hopper is filled. “Fuel use in our machines is 12 to 15 gallons/hour,” adds Pohl.
When Greg Schoenbachler of Silver Springs Organics had the Crambo shredder on site for a demonstration, he had his operator heap his 12 cy bucket with as much yard waste as possible. “It was probably closer to 16 cy of grass, brush and wood,” he recalls. “We dumped it in and the machine didn’t stop.” A primary consideration for Silver Springs was the ability to use its existing loader to feed the grinder, versus having to purchase an excavator solely for that purpose. “The Crambo 5000 we purchased doesn’t require metering material in,” explains Schoenbachler. ”The computer senses the load on the shredding shafts and makes adjustments accordingly. In general, this shredder is very automated and adjusts the torque required to grind what is in the machine, e.g., it is able to sense whether it is a stump or a pallet, cardboard versus wood, etc. It applies the appropriate amount of horsepower, and once it reaches maximum torque, it backs off and will reposition as necessary. Unlike high speed grinders, this is more of a dance than a fight.”
Komptech is introducing the Chippo line in 2008, a tractor-driven mobile chipper. It can run at a low rotation speed with maximum power to handle wood trunks, or at a high rotation speed combined with load-dependent control for scrap wood and green waste. “People interested in the Chippo usually have pretty clean wood and are looking for a very uniform particle size and as little dust and fines as possible,” says Pohl. “The fines are not appreciated in the biomass plants.”
Morbark, Inc.: ”First and foremost, buyers want dependability, both from the machine and the organization,” says Dan Brandon, Marketing Manager. “In terms of nuts and bolts that means rugged, well-designed construction that will hold up in the day to day pounding these machines take. We, for example, use state-of-the art welding and manufacturing techniques and equipment and are constantly training and upgrading our skills, tools and processes. While the machine and its performance over the long haul are vitally important, that is only the beginning of the story. Product support, documentation and communications, inspections throughout the process and our strong relationships with suppliers and our dealers are all part of the big picture.”
One stop on our tour of the Morbark factory last fall was the robotic welding station. The robots are used primarily to apply hard surfacing to inserts, hammers, anvils and wear plates. “Each part is identical because the robot repeats the same movements and applies the same density of material to each one,” explains Brandon. “So in addition to the labor savings – they work 16 hours a day and don’t call in sick – consistency is a key benefit.”
Another stop on the tour was an area where the rotors are balanced prior to installation in the grinders. “It is much easier and more accurate to balance the rotor before it is installed in the grinder,” he adds. “In the past, we had to sometimes send service staff to balance rotors in the field which is costly and time consuming. Also, with the advent of forged hammers our rotors are much closer to balance from the start. That’s because a set of hammers are now within tenths of an ounce in weight, rather than the several ounces of difference we would see with cast hammers.” Brandon explains that casting is where molten steel is poured into a mold to form a component. Forging involves hammering hot steel into a shape (similar to a blacksmith pounding out a horseshoe). “Forging creates stronger molecular structure resulting in parts that hold their shape, wear better and last longer.”
During equipment demos, potential buyers are most concerned with the future of their business, notes John Foote, Morbark’s Sales Manager. “They want to change the way they are doing things, for example, to expand or to reduce costs and become more efficient and profitable. In a sense, they are not really looking for a grinder, they are looking for what a grinder or chipper can do for them and their organization.” In general, Brandon and Foote add, land clearing, storm cleanup, recycling, mulch production and composting continue to be the steady applications for the company’s equipment lines. “We have seen an uptick in green energy and fuel production, obviously because of the cost and environmental concerns of fossil fuels and the trend toward finding alternatives to oil and coal,” says Foote.
Peterson Corp.: ”The key question that customers ask us is cost of operation on a per ton basis,” says Cody Peterson. “The answer we provide is based on productivity, reliability, maintenance costs and purchase price. We also highlight features on our horizontal grinders that include an impact release system, an impact cushion system and an upturning rotor.” Peterson adds that all of its units are available on tracks. “We’ve seen an increase in demand for track-mounted grinders over the past few years. The increased mobility that track mounting provides results in higher productivity because the operator can readily move the grinder to keep it closer to the feedstock supply pile. By reducing the cycle time for the loader operator, the grinder is not left idling due to a lack of material.”
At equipment demos, potential buyers are interested in Peterson’s multiple section grate system. “It provides several advantages – smaller grate sections are easier to handle and replace, and multiple sections allow the user to mix and match sections to create a wide range of finished materials,” explains Dave Benton, Marketing Manager. “In addition, individual sections can be replaced as they are worn or damaged, without having to replace the entire grate system. Our patented side-removal grates can be accessed through the side of the machine, which requires less time and effort to replace them. The support bars are designed to retract when replacing the grates, which dramatically reduces the effort to remove worn or distorted grates.”
Recently, at an equipment demonstration day, Peterson featured its newest Horizontal Grinder, Model 5710C, equipped with the Spiral Stump Splitter. “That generated a lot of interest as it gives the operator the ability to reduce stumps and root balls while continuing to process material,” says Benton. The company is introducing the Model 2710C track-mounted horizontal grinder in 2008, which will be the smallest available in its line. “It will provide a highly maneuverable solution for organics recycling operations and smaller site prep for land clearing contractors,” he adds.
Rotochopper Inc.: ”We start with the customer’s intention and focus, and then determine how our machines can meet those needs,” says Vince Hundt, Director of Corporate and International Sales. “At the heart of the Rotochopper story is producing a very high quality finished product. We sell our customers machines that make them a lot of money. We can prove that on paper before they buy the machine, and then after six months, it shows. When it comes to replacement parts, most of what our customers need is available on the shelves at their local parts supply stores.” He adds that Rotochopper does not manufacturer grinders with greater than 700 HP. “If someone bid on a job to clear 40 acres for a shopping mall, they would not buy one of our machines. They would want a grinder with 1,000 to 1,200 HP. However, we would sell a Rotochopper to a land clearing company that has bashed the wood through a 1,200 HP tub grinder. We would regrind it and make landscape mulch, or grind to a 2-inch minus for boiler fuel.”
Hundt notes that Rotochopper is “into helping its customers create engineered fiber and making money. At a trade show last month, we were the only company taking raw pine slabs and logs and turning them into elegant, $35/cy colored mulch on the spot in a matter of seconds. We have had tremendous success with our CP 118 tree chipper and colorizer.”
Vecoplan LLC: ”Customers look for ease of maintenance, cost of operation and equipment dependability,” says Chris Hawn, National Sales Manager. “It doesn’t matter how easy a machine is to maintain as there is zero cost of operation if the machine doesn’t work.” Vecoplan’s shredders and grinders have removable cutters that are bolted on. Worn cutters can be taken off easily and replaced, adds Kim James.
During equipment demos, customers are most interested in evaluating capacity and sizing, and want to see a “trouble-free run,” says Hawn. “Screens are used for sizing, and we have the ability to scale up or down depending on the demo unit used.” Because Vecoplan’s shredders are stationary units, the company typically doesn’t service storm debris management. It does view biomass fuel as an “up and comer,” notes Hawn. “We have significant worldwide experience with complete biomass systems.”
Vermeer Corporation: ”Municipal buyers typically look for horsepower range and the lowest price,” says Jerry Roorda, Vermeer’s Grinder Solutions Specialist. “Consideration also is given to safety or safety devices incorporated into design, production cost or cost of ownership relative to production, and dealer support. Private contractors will look at production cost, cost of operation, cost of ownership and local dealer support. We train our local environmental specialists to consult with a potential buyer to calculate costs relative to production, owning and operating – providing a guideline to a cost/unit (in yards, tons, meters). This calculation leads the buyer to the best value unit, not the cheapest.”
When running demos, Vermeer wants to know what the customers’ expectations are relative to the application. “Knowing this information upfront will allow our specialists to have the correct screens and grinding parameters set before the demo starts,” says Roorda. “If a screen needs to be changed, that takes 10 minutes and then the demo can continue. Some of the features that customers want to see demonstrated are the ease of maintenance of the Vermeer Duplex Drum, the open top mill box and the Smart Grind operation controls.”
West Salem Machinery: “We are very much of an applications/solutions oriented company,” says Mark Lyman, West Salem’s President. “We customize our equipment to an application, which can include preshredding, sorting and screening prior to grinding.” He notes that the biggest operational expense is regrinding or rehandling wood waste. “Every time material touches the ground and has to be picked up, it costs money. We look at how a customer wants to handle material, then use screening and conveying equipment to eliminate as much handling as possible.”
Recently, West Salem custom designed a stationary grinding system for Norcal Waste System’s Jepsen Prairie composting facility in Vacaville, California. “We were up against NOX emission limitations with our portable diesel grinders and needed to switch to an electric grinder,” says Chris Choate of Norcal. Pacific Gas & Electric could not service an 800 HP motor, so Norcal worked with West Salem Machinery to design and install a system. “We started with an SSI preshredder to reduce the material down to about a 12- to 20-inch minus fraction,” explains Lyman. “Then the material – primarily green waste and food waste – goes through an existing screening and sorting system. Oversize material is fed through our vertical high-speed grinder, which gives them a product suitable for composting. We considered a single pass grinding system, but because of the spikes in power requirements, that wouldn’t work. A two-step approach reduced the momentary surging you can see in a typical grinding system and smoothed out the energy demand.”
West Salem manufactures a complete line of grinding equipment, from vertical to horizontal feed, and from 50 HP up to 1,500 HP. Lyman notes that with the decline in the housing market, there has been a decline in the production of lumber and wood products, resulting in a drop in the generation of wood residuals. “There is a shortage of fiber such as bark, wood waste and sawdust shavings that typically come from the lumber mills,” he says. “Therefore, the value of wood waste is going up, which raises the value of mulches and good quality compost.” The company is seeing increased interest in processing of woody materials for cellulosic ethanol. “We are working with folks on that,” says Lyman. “These projects are bringing in fiber sources that need to be converted to a certain process size for ethanol production.”
Bandit Industries, Inc.
6750 Millbrook Rd.
Remus, MI 49340
c/o Natural Way
150 Home Farm Rd.
Baker, NV 89311
Concept Products Corp.
16 Industrial Blvd.
Paoli, PA 19301
Continental Biomass Industries, Inc. (CBI)
22 Whittier St.
Newton, NH 03858
Diamond Z Manufacturing
11299 Bass Lane
Caldwell, Idaho 83605
1030 Jaycox Rd.
Avon, OH 44011
Dura Tech Industries International
P.O. Box 1940
Jamestown, ND 58401
3460 Grant Dr.
Lebanon, OH 45036
Komptech USA Inc.
1369 Forest Park Circle
Lafayette, CO 80026
8507 S. Winn Rd.
P.O. Box 1000
Winn, MI 48896
Peterson Pacific Corporation
P.O. Box 40490
Eugene, OR 97404
P.O. Box 295
St. Martin, MN 56376
P.O. Box 1330
Rockwell, NC 28138
Terex Crushing & Screening
11001 Electron Dr.
Louisville, KY 40299
P.O. Box 7224
High Point, NC 27264
1210 Vermeer Rd. East
Pella, Iowa 50219
West Salem Machinery
P.O. Box 5288
665 Murlark Ave. NW
Salem, OR 97304