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What Can a Grinder Do for Your Business? Cresswood Machines Help Control Costs
Cresswood: Three pallet operations explain how the right grinder has revolutionized how they deal with scrap material and improved operational flow in their plant. Grinders can do a lot more for your business than you may realize.
By Tim Cox
Date Posted: 3/1/2016
Three pallet operations explain how the right grinder has revolutionized how they deal with scrap material and improved operational flow in their plant. Grinders can do a lot more for your business.
What can a grinder do for your business? The answer is a lot more than just convert scrap material into wood grindings.
Investment in a grinder provides solutions for problems that many pallet and sawmill companies experience. Those problems are all associated with residual wood material — scrap material from a sawmill or a cant, cut-up line or lumber remanufacturing operations, and scrap material from pallet recycling operations, including damaged deck boards and stringers, unusable reclaimed deck boards and stringers, trim ends or whole junk pallets.
Residual wood material has to be handled and moved. It has to be stored, at least temporarily. It occupies space in your plant and mill — space that could generate revenue instead of being an expense to the business. There are costs associated with handling, moving and storing waste wood material — costs that are a drag on the bottom line.
In addition, a business may not have good markets — or any markets — for waste wood material. Some companies are faced with simply having to give it away to another business. If there is no ready market for it, a business is faced with another cost — transporting it to a landfill and paying tipping fees.
A wood grinder solves the problems of handling, moving and storing wood scrap material. At the same time, it converts residual material into a by-product that likely can provide a revenue stream for a business.
Owners of several pallet companies recently discussed how investing in a grinder aided their business. Charlie Luedtke operates SCP Inc. in Wisconsin with his brother, Joe. Hank Tritz runs Tritz Pallet Repair in Kansas City, Kansas, and John Swenby is president and a managing partner of Paltech, which operates in five Midwestern states.
All three companies are customers of Cresswood Shredding Machinery, an Illinois-based manufacturer of grinding equipment for wood and other materials. Cresswood has numerous customers in the pallet and sawmill industries.
SCP has two pallet plants — one in Hortonville, about 45 miles southwest of Green Bay, and the other in Waldo, about 80 miles to the southeast and about 45 miles north of Milwaukee. The company purchased one Cresswood grinder in 2014 for its plant in Waldo, which handles most of its pallet recycling operations, and purchased in 2015 a second Cresswood grinder for its plant in Hortonville, where it produces mainly new pallets and wood packaging.
“Once we got it started operating, it was like, why did we wait so long,” said Luedtke.
Prior to investing in grinding equipment, the company loaded scrap material onto pallets, which were stored in the plant until there was a truck-load. Then the material was loaded into a trailer — a process that would take two workers about 45 minutes — to be hauled away about twice a week. All of this was an expense to the company that Cresswood could eliminate.
“The grinder gave us the opportunity to eliminate our scrap very quickly,” explained Luedtke, instead of having to handle and store the wood waste material. The company has two hopper-feed type Cresswood grinders. Waste wood material is collected in steel hoppers, and a forklift picks up the hopper and dumps the material into the grinder. “Now, shipping and receiving doesn’t touch it.” Eliminating the temporary storage of scrap material freed up about 3,000 square feet in the plant.
Space in his plant is at a premium, according to Luedtke, because many customers do not want to store an inventory of pallets, just enough for a few days. His company, in turn, has to have space to provide that inventory to customers so their supply can be replenished quickly as needed. In addition, all raw material is stored under roof. “Sometimes it gets jammed up, especially in winter,” said Luedtke, referring to the Hortonville plant, which buys hardwood cants and 2x material and remanufactures the material into pallet components.
Although Luedtke previously had a market for scrap wood, the grindings are a more valuable by-product. The business that buys the grindings supplies a trailer to collect them and swaps out the trailers when they are full.
“It fit right in seamlessly,” said Luedtke, referring to the grinders.
“The grinder has been very useful,” he added. “It’s really had a positive impact on everything we do here.”
Tritz Pallet Repair is predominantly a pallet recycling company. The company is equipped with two Cresswood grinders, including the new XR-2400, the largest low rpm grinder that Cresswood manufactures. Hank bought his first grinder about five years ago and added the XR-2400 in the summer of 2015.
Like Charlie Luedtke and SCP, before investing in grinding equipment, the space required to store scrap wood material and the associated material handling costs were a handicap to Hank Tritz’s business. In the past, workers built crates to store scrap wood. When they had enough crates filled, they would be loaded into a trailer and eventually hauled away. As many as 12-15 trailers would be tied up with storing and hauling scrap wood. “It was a huge cost to us,” said Tritz. In addition, he had no markets for the waste wood material from his pallet recycling operations.
“Now we have a market for it. We turn it into mulch.”
The grinding equipment eliminated storing waste wood material in his plant and in trailers on the yard. “Before we had stuff sitting everywhere.”
Now, “We basically only handle it once. We dump into a hopper...and then a grinder. And it’s gone.”
The company used to fill 15-20 trailers per week with scrap wood material. The material handling cost of dealing with the waste wood material in this way was $430 per trailer-load, Tritz estimated. Now, by grinding, those same trailer-loads of wood scrap generate revenue for his business.
Another issue was the fact that the business that took his wood scrap could be a bottleneck over which he had no control. If employees at the other business failed to show up or unload his trailers, “You’re at their mercy,” observed Tritz. The delay, in turn, backs up normal, efficient operations at his plant.
Paltech has seven plant locations in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Arkansas. The company is primarily a pallet recycling business although its main focus is custom pallets and containers. The company produces about 3,000 different pallets and crates annually.
John Swenby needed to replace a grinder at the company’s plant in Urbana, Illinois, and turned to Cresswood to supply it. “We already knew that grinding was efficient for the operation as a way to get rid of our waste,” he recalled.
The company’s previous grinder was about 15 years old and was not as efficient as newer technology. “We reduced our cycle times (with a Cresswood machine) about 40% over the old machine,” he said. “It’s increased our productivity because it cycles the waste material faster.” The more advanced grinding technology “has helped our bottom line cost,” he added.
The grindings exiting the hopper-fed Cresswood machine are conveyed automatically into an overhead bin outside the plant building. An open-top tractor-trailer can pull under the bin and be filled up with the push of a button. The system eliminates the need to store grindings on the ground or on a pad, takes up less space, and keeps the yard clean.
Paltech’s material handling costs would be “huge” without a grinder, said Swenby. If the company was faced with having to put scrap wood into landfills or even selling it to another business, the related expenses would be significant. Iowa has disincentives in place to discourage landfilling scrap wood material, Swenby noted. “We’d have to pay a premium.” Even if the waste wood was supplied to another business, Paltech would have hefty material handling costs in trailers, transportation, and employee time. The grinder also eliminates tying up docks with trailers.
Paltech has grinders at four of its plants and is considering plans to add grinding equipment at the remaining three. “We just see the everyday logistics is so much cheaper having a grinder on site versus contracting with someone to haul it away,” said Swenby.
Having enough space for operations and storing finished pallets and raw materials is a challenge, he agreed. The company does not want valuable yard or plant space occupied by material that does not generate revenue. Last summer, he recalled, there was a backlog of scrap wood material that had to be kept in the yard of the company’s plant in Hammond, Illinois, near Chicago. Businesses that normally would take wood material to grind were over-supplied. “All of a sudden we got backlogged with about 30 loads of material,” recalled Swenby. The company had to allocate about 1-1/2 acres on the yard to storing waste material. “Having the grinder right there, very efficiently operating, we can deal with it immediately,” said Swenby.
Material handling is extremely important in the pallet business. As the companies have shared in this article, grinding can help you remove scrap material logjams, reduce handling costs, save space, turn a waste into a salable product and much more. Cresswood wants to be your consultant to find the right grinding solution.
For more information about Cresswood grinders, visit the company’s website at www.cresswood.com or call 800/962-7302.