Faced with new challenges, Chris Burt looked beyond his company’s junkyard for new revenue opportunities. He saw potential in offering more mobile services, which has since led to significant growth and success for the company.
As General Manager of Marshfield Scrap, Marshfield, Wisconsin, Burt has many responsibilities. One specialty is his knowledge of gear and how to make the most of it. When Burt had the opportunity to outsource some of the company’s idle machines a few years ago, he saw an opportunity to increase machine utilization and generate additional revenue.
“We regularly have equipment at six other yards — whether it’s a dredger with demolition grabs, a machine with a magnet or a orange peel grab with a magnet, or a baler — or to do custom shearing,” says Burt.
For the past 22 years, Marshfield Scrap has served its customers’ recycling needs. The outsourcing of construction equipment from the company’s main Marshfield facility began about five years ago when Marshfield Scrap purchased a scrap yard in Ironwood, Michigan.
“We have supported other junkyards either with equipment or trucking [by] whatever it takes,” says Burt. “We see that everyone has the same problems: it is difficult to maintain good aid, the equipment is expensive and margins are tight. In these shipyards, the equipment is often not fully utilized. But if we can work with other smaller shipyards or [yards] as big as we are and can start supporting them with some of our devices, then we have seen the growth of our mobile services.”
In a resource industry where prices fluctuate, Burt says this approach is not only good for Marshfield Scrap but also helps other recycling companies stay in business.
“If you have your equipment cooperating with other smaller shipyards and moving the machines, that equipment is constantly busy,” he says. “It’s easier to amortize, pay for it and everything else. We still have our main yard. But our business model has shifted much more towards mobile services in the last five to seven years. And that was my main focus: trying to build this mobile services division.”
Feeding the foundry
A major source of income for Marshfield Scrap is the supply of metal to Waupaca Foundry Inc. When the material arrives at Marshfield Scrap, it is sorted and prepared for processing. Five mobile shears are busy processing metal into a package acceptable to the foundry.
“That was our focus: the 3-foot package that we pack in Waupaca,” says Burt. “And that was also our strategic advantage; We are an hour away from this facility. We have found the scissors to be our best value-added work item.”
Other companies can certainly sort, sort and load material. Burt says, “They’re a glorious trucking company,” but “when we started putting value-added labor into things, we went in that direction and because of the proximity, we supplied a foundry.
“And that’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to support some of these other smaller shipyards. They don’t have large volumes. But the cumulative volume between all these yards is significant enough that we can get a decent deal every month and know we have a good flow of material. And then through this contract we are able to protect these small shipyards from price fluctuations and the ups and downs in the markets.”
Nearly 100 percent of the metal that arrives at Marshfield Scrap is recycled, and Burt and the staff take special care of the material when it arrives in a roll-off or logger container. They take great care to ensure incoming metal scrap is not dirty or contaminated.
Robust, versatile equipment
As you might expect, Marshfield Scrap relies on a variety of equipment to handle the volume of ferrous and non-ferrous metals that are shipped to its facility. Two mini excavators are complemented by two larger crawler excavators. The company recently purchased its first material handler—a DX225MH-5 manufactured by Doosan Infracore North America of Suwanee, Georgia, with an orange peel bucket and a 36-inch magnet—from Swiderski Equipment, which has five locations in Wisconsin.
“With this material handler, we can sort material, stage material for shears, and then sort and clean material,” says Burt. “It’s better. It’s not the old-fashioned ground work where a bunch of ground guys are trying to sort stuff. But it’s not a mechanical sorting system like a paper shredder would be.
“The reach of the material handler works well for us because we can sort the material and load the trucks without having to move,” he continues. “You don’t do multiple setups.”
Having a range of machine sizes in a fleet is the name of the game for today’s recyclers. Burt Marshfield Scrap purchased a DX180LC backhoe with a 335 shear from Genesis Attachments LLC of Superior, Wisconsin because “it was pretty easy to move compared to a previous backhoe and shear combination.” Some larger pieces of equipment had even larger scissors mounted. That caused problems for Burt.
“These pieces of equipment are difficult to install and remove in small shipyards,” he explains. “You are tall. You get some bridge problems. So moving these things is a lot harder than moving this Doosan DX180LC with a Genesis mobile scissors on it. Any low loader and off we go.”
Smaller excavators also play a leading role in the production of marshfield scrap. Two 8.5-ton DX85R-3 mini excavators are ideal for smaller jobs, like loading roll-off boxes, says Burt. He says Marshfield Scrap loaded gondola trailers with the mini excavators. A quick-attach system makes it easy for Burt and his riders to change their priorities.
“We can switch to third-element scissors to shrink gear and then go back to spoon and thumb for loading,” he says. “So they’re pretty versatile. That’s why we chose the one with the steel chains.”
In terms of the longevity of the company’s excavators, the operators put the machines through their paces on a daily basis.
“They want 5,000 psi at 120 gallons per minute at the end of a stick,” says Burt. “And you ask about it over and over and over and over again. In a day you are probably talking about three to four cycles per minute. And you’re talking about eight-hour days. I mean, under normal circumstances, you don’t let a machine do that.”
Reliable, comfortable equipment not only helps companies like Marshfield Scrap stay productive; It is an operator recruitment and retention tool.
“Having newer, better gear was a big deal for these guys,” says Burt. “If they feel their comfort and productivity and overall job satisfaction are important, then you want to put them in a good device. You want to make them feel that you value everything they do. And you really do, because without her, everything stands still.”