Sunday, June 16, 2013

You don't get anywhere without trying

Amerimulch Quarter 2 2013 Newsletter-

You don’t get anywhere without trying
For many years, this has been my motto. I don’t know who coined the phrase or something similar, but this is the only way you can improve the process. I also believe, in good times and bad, you create your own economy. Trying different processes and ways to improve your business creates success. Failures are just a part of the process.
I received an email question a while back asking if a slow speed shredder and a new star screen could replace a high speed grinder and trommel screen. Aside from spending more than a million dollars, I don’t really know I told my customer.
                The customer’s operation was not unlike most others, grinding pallets and wood waste along with typical yard waste to create compost, mulch and fuel wood. So we took it one process at a time.
The advantages and disadvantages of a low speed shredder verses a high speed grinder are:
·         Less fuel use- This is an obvious savings
·         Less wear part cost- This is another obvious savings
·         Less production- This is an unknown
·         Usable Product size- This is an unknown
We then compared the Star Screen to a Trommel Screen:                   
·         More Production- How much more is unknown
·         Ability to change screen sizes easily- No problem with the Star Screen
·         Cost per yard- More Maintenance with the Star Screen but more production, unknown cost
·         Contaminant removal- Much easier with the Star Screen
So, like any other customer, without visiting another site using these machines or renting one yourself, it is difficult to determine without trying it yourself. Many vendors will gladly bring a unit for demonstration, but you may need more than a few hours to determine if this would work for you.
This is what we determined for this particular customer and for you:
·         The cost saving with the Low Speed Shredder operation was so significant, you can afford to spend more money downstream creating the products. This may not be true for all because of volumes needed.
·         Less production per hour was still less expensive than the cost of running the high speed grinder. This may not be true in all cases because materials and products differ greatly.
·         Because we were able to change screen sizes on the slow speed shredder we were still able to use the finished product for currently marketed materials. For those that we could not produce with the shredder, we let the screen produce those. This can work most of the time, but a finer mulch, playground materials, etc. may not be able to get what you need
·         Because we were creating 3 or 4 different size products it was much easier to use the Star Screen than change Trommel screens. Changing for 2 sizes is doable, but much more than that is much easier for a Star Screen
·         The production of the Star Screen and lower fuel use, made screening much more cost effective. This will be in almost every case.
·         While we were unable to use the star screen as a mulch coloring machine like the trommel, the overall cost savings allowed for purchasing a stand-alone color unit along with reducing coloring cost because of the efficiency of the color unit.
How did we determine all of this? We tried it. Without trying you won’t get anywhere.
In addition to the current operations, we tackled the task of trying to make more usable products out of low value materials. Many new pieces of equipment have come into the market to remove contaminants, plastic separators and stone separators being just a few.
 Yard waste and pallet material that has plastic in it, cannot be used in mulch very well so it typically goes to the low value wood fuel market. Adding a vacuum above a conveyor does not work. For a plastic removal system to work, you need a few things to make it effective:
1.            Plastic or inert materials need to be on top of the other materials
2.            Suction area needs to be where the material can be free floating
3.            Input of the material needs to be a reduced consistent flow
4.            You need a good fan and housing system to trap and pull the material
5.            Fine materials need to be removed
Trying to take a pile of just contaminated overs and process it through a machine to remove the inerts does not work well. There are too many contaminants and too much volume.  Removing contaminants while you are screening makes it much more successful.
By adding a Windsifter to the Star Screen, we are able to create usable mulch material out of the some contaminated wood waste and some of the less contaminated yard waste because the volumes are reduced and the pieces of plastic are not as small as when they go through a high speed grinder.
If you cannot add a fan to a screen, a stand-alone plastic separator like the Komptech Hurrikan is an option. This unit works by:
·         Discharging material from a screener’s overs conveyor directly into it creating a low input flow, fines free.
·         A fan underneath makes inert  materials float or come to the surface
·         Uses 1 or 2 fans to pull off floating material and material on top of conveyor
·         You can add a magnetic head pulley or a stone trap to remove additional materials
For log yard cleanup or landclearing materials that have stone contamination, an air separator like the Komptech Stonefex has become very effective. Using an air system from underneath the conveyor, the Stonefex separates heavies from lights. Stone falls out first while the lightweight materials carry to another conveyor. You can even add a suction fan to remove the inert materials.
All these additions cost money, but what is your return on investment? If you are disposing at a landfill or just selling for fuel wood at cost, these are easy numbers to calculate.
                Some of these options discussed may work for your operation while others may not. There are a thousand other options out there also. The point is, when you have the time, try something new. You’ll never know until you do.
I hope you have a more productive season this year.
Dave Whitelaw

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