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December 2005

Equipment for the Long Haul

As operations superintendent at Great Western Recycling Industries, Inc. in St. Paul, Minn., John Kolesar needs equipment that can go the distance.

He needs equipment that can handle the everyday abuse that comes along with working in a high-traffic scrap metal recycling facility. He expects longevity out of his machines, which is why he has shears that have continued to work up to 10 hours or more every day for the past 16 years.

“Basically, my responsibility is to make sure everything’s running — from the lights to the equipment to the balers, shears, and cranes. That’s the role I play,” Kolesar says.

Among the equipment that Kolesar’s responsible for maintaining is a pair of Bobcat® skid-steer loaders, which are mainly used with industrial grapple attachments to lift and haul scrap metal to the baler. And as the scrap metal industry continues to experience prosperity, he says the skid-steer loaders keep up with the pace.

“The past couple of years have been the best we’ve had in a long time,” Kolesar says. “Scrap prices have gone up and it’s been good for all the recycling yards.”

A History of Recycling
If any company knows the history of the scrap metal industry, it’s Great Western Recycling (GWR), which has spanned three generations — dating back to 1925 when the company sold scrap metal for pennies. Today, the company sits on 12 acres of land and has the equipment and the shearing and baling capabilities to ship enough material annually to fill a train of railroad cars 16.5 miles long.

GWR merchandises all metal commodities — from iron and steel scrap, aluminum, copper, and brass alloys to high-temp alloys. The products are processed and packaged to exact specifications to meet the requirements of its consumers and ensure the highest quality. Kolesar says the company’s objective is to enhance the value of its customers’ scrap metals. Its clients include retail, demolition, and manufacturers.

Being environmentally conscious also has been a major initiative of the company. Over the years, GWR has developed recycling processes that encourage the growth while protecting the roots. Kolesar says company officials believe it is their job to listen to the communities’ environmental concerns and give them careful consideration when developing new processes. To help them with this initiative, GWR has an environmental compliance manager who performs regular inspections and procedures to ensure compliance with all state and federal regulations. The company also installed containment pads and monitoring devices, including a radiation detector to protect the environment, employees, clients, and vendors.

And just like GWR knows scrap metal recycling, Kolesar knows equipment. For more than 30 years, Kolesar has been involved with managing or maintaining heavy equipment in one way or another. Prior to being hired by GWR in 2000, he worked as the service manager at two local heavy equipment dealerships. That experience has helped him evaluate and select the machines his operators need to do their jobs efficiently.

Loaders Play Key Role
Among the equipment at the recycling facility, Kolesar says they rely heavily on their pair of Bobcat skid-steer loaders.

“You need them for confined spaces when moving material,” he says. “We use the skid-steer loaders a lot in the aluminum can building where we have two balers. They’re used every day, nine hours a day.”

A year after Kolesar began at GWR, he was forced to purchase a new skid-steer loader. He opted to go with a Bobcat 873 skid-steer loader because of the service, parts availability, and reputation of the equipment’s dependability. “We were looking for something for the long haul, not short term,” he says. In 2004, the company bought a second Bobcat skid-steer loader, an S250.

The skid-steer loaders help with a critical part of the recycling process. When customers arrive at the facility’s main doors to deliver their scrap aluminum, forklifts transport the product to a scale for weighing. After a ticket is given to the customer showing the aluminum’s weight, the material is then transported and dumped in front of two balers. To feed the scrap metal into the balers, workers use industrial grapple attachments on the 873 and S250 skid-steer loaders, which both have solid tires to eliminate the possibility of flats. Because the industrial bucket grapple is composed of grapple tines and a bucket-shaped bottom, Kolesar says it’s ideal for lifting the scrap metal and placing it onto the baler’s steel conveyor belt.

“Feeding the balers is the skid-steer loaders’ main function,” he says. “Without them, we’d have a heck of a time and we’d have to do a lot of the feeding by hand.”

Even though 2,000 pounds of scrap material cannot be set on the baler’s conveyor belt all at once, Kolesar says he still wanted skid-steer loaders that had enough lifting capacity to haul the scrap metal where it needed to go. The 873 has a 2,400-pound rated operating capacity (ROC) and the S250 has a 2,500-pound ROC. In addition to feeding balers, the skid-steer loaders also are used for moving the resulting bales after the aluminum is processed through the baler. Each bale can weigh anywhere from 1,200 to 2,500 pounds.

“We lift a lot of weight. So we’re always looking for more lifting capacity if we can get more of it,” Kolesar says.

Once the scrap metal has been processed, the bales are readied for shipment to mills across the world that reprocess the material into end products. While the skid-steer loaders typically work inside the facility, they must work outside to load the overseas shipping containers. Kolesar says the skid-steer loaders’ maneuverability is key when they must enter the stainless-steel bin to haul and load the metal into a dump hopper. Operators then use forklifts to load the dump hoppers into the overseas trailers.

The maneuverability of the machines also comes in handy when performing cleanup and snow removal. Oftentimes, Kolesar says he will use the machines with their bucket attachments for cleaning up fallen scrap metal from around the facility’s drop-off doors. The buckets are also used for clearing snow during the wintertime. “It’s nice with the skid-steer loaders because they clean up around the doors and around the building easily,” he says. “You get the larger loaders in there and they don’t do such a good job.”

As operations superintendent, Kolesar believes it’s his job to ensure his operators stay efficient. “I think the more comfortable the operator is the more production you’re going to get out of them,” he says. That’s why the S250 skid-steer loader has an enclosed cab with heating and air conditioning. Because the facility gets hot in the summer and cold in the winter, he says operators use the heat and air conditioning year-round.

In addition to feeding the balers, cleanup, and snow removal, Kolesar uses the skid-steer loaders for maintaining the 9-foot fence that surrounds the scrap metal facility. Occasionally, operators will attach the auger and drill holes to place new fence posts.

At the end of the day, after the loaders have worked more than nine hours and hauled thousands of pounds of scrap metal, Kolesar says he needs machines that he can rely on to start and work just as hard the next day, the next week, and the next year. At a scrap metal facility like GWR, you don’t have time for machines that need breathers.

“Our loaders have held up well and they’re very reliable,” he says. “That’s all anybody can ask for.”