When it comes to maintaining a baler’s wire tying system, there are no shortcuts to ensuring optimal performance.
While it’s difficult to generalize when talking about baling equipment used in the document destruction industry in light of the variety of baler types and sizes used as well as the diversity of wire tying systems at work, according to Pat Casserly of Accent Wire, one thing remains true regardless: the need for preventive maintenance. “There are no shortcuts,” he says.
“The document destruction industry utilizes all types and sizes of balers and tying systems,” Casserly says. “Small operations rely on a vertical press and hand tying with bale ties, while the vast majority will utilize a small horizontal auto-tie machine tying with black annealed box wire.”
Tomball, Texas-based Accent Wire specializes in the largest document destruction operations that use two-ram balers with galvanized wire tying systems, he says. “Personally, I have approximately 23 years experience in the care and maintenance of this type of tying system.”
In the Q&A that follows, Casserly, who is based in New York, shares some of the insight he has attained over the years while working for Accent Wire as well as other suppliers to the industry.
SDB: How can document destruction companies determine whether their current wire costs are reasonable for the size of their operations or if there is room to trim these costs?
Patrick Casserly (PC): I think they can do so by analyzing bale weights.
Using the gauge on an automatic wire tying system, like a black-annealed, single-ram wire tying system, you can actually quantify the number of twists that are in the knot. Up to a certain point, you can work that wire. More twists generally give you a stronger knot, up until a point where you then fracture the wire.
For a two-ram baler that uses an auto-tie system fed with galvanized wire, the operator can adjust the number of straps per bale. But, when you have a single-ram baler with an automatic tying system, you are limited to only five straps per bale. These balers basically have five separate tying systems on the machine.
SDB: In terms of type or gauge of wire to use, what do document destruction operations need to consider?
PC: They have to really determine whether they bought the right baler. If you are using a two-ram baler, you are using a high-carbon, galvanized wire.
If you are using a two-ram baler, you are using a high-carbon, galvanized wire. If you are using a single-ram baler, you are using a black, low-carbon wire.
The material they are baling doesn’t have a ton of memory in it, so generally we go with 13- or 12-gauge wire [when using high-carbon galvanized wire in a two-ram baler].
On the black wire side, which is out of my realm, generally a 10 or 11 gauge wire.
SDB: How might the amount of wire ties needed vary based on the size of the shredded material being baled?
PC: Again, in a single-ram, auto-tie baler, if you are doing a 2-inch shred or so, you are limited to the number of straps, and that is why the bales fall apart.
With a two-ram machine, you can put as many straps on as you’d like.
I think there is a direct correlation between the smaller the shred size and the number of straps you will need.
SDB: What advice do you have for maintaining wire tying equipment to achieve the best ongoing performance?
PC: That is an easy one,too: preventive maintenance (PM). You cannot do it enough. You cannot clean the machine enough. Whether it be a single-ram or a two-ram machine, the more you clean it, the better off you are going to be, the fewer surprises you will tend to have because you will spot wear on the machine when it is still manageable. Whether you do monthly, weekly or quarterly PM, it avoids emergency service calls.
The thing with an emergency is, here I am in the Northeast, where I don’t have a huge amount of travel; but, I have two and three jobs a day. If you call me with an emergency, even though you are 150 miles away for the most part, I may tell you I will not be able to get there until Thursday of next week because of the number of service calls I have. While the cost of that service call is probably only going to be a few hours and a few hundred dollars in travel, you are looking at downtime.
Nobody does it though. The vast majority of people do not do PM.
Realistically, if you are doing 100 to 150 bales per day and you don’t have somebody who really knows that equipment inside and out and you are going to rely on an outside service provider, you need to do PM at least three to four times per year to prevent downtime. Even if you have that, when you do PM, if a switch is working or a valve is working, we don’t change them. And you can never tell when a switch or a valve is going to walk off that cliff.
But the vast majority of what we do are emergency service jobs and very few PM jobs. I would love to have PM jobs. … I would travel so much less.
SDB: What is the most common reason operations will encounter problems with their baling wire?
PC: We all sell our wire by the pound, and the less steel an operation puts on a bale, the more money in their pockets. Therefore, people will quite often undersize and hope for the best.
It is funny; when people call me for service, quite often what they use as their barometer is how much waste wire they are seeing on the floor. They can equate great dollars to how much wire they throw away.
Basically, it is the wrong size wire or not enough straps per bale.
SDB: Do best practices apply when it comes to storing wire to ensure it performs as it should when installed into the wire tier?
PC: Wire storage is greatly, greatly emphasized with me. Bale ties, of course, we push around the bale by hand. In an auto-tie system, the wire gets pulled by the baler, so it is not as if we have to feed it.
Oxidation does become an issue in that it causes abrasion and increases wear. The care and consideration for where and how wire is stored is important, but not nearly as important as with a galvanized system, where we actually push the wire around the track. If the wire is old, if the wax coat has evaporated off and it now has a rough, abrasive surface, that is going to wear the bejesus out of the parts in the track of the machine.
In terms of storing wire, it wants to be kept in the cleanest, driest possible conditions that it can be kept in. Keeping it off of the floor on a skid or something that allows air to circulate allows condensation from a cold night and a warmer, moist morning to evaporate, and we can get the wire to dry up more quickly.
SDB: What can destruction operations do if they suspect they purchased faulty baling wire? How common is it for operations to encounter issues with their baling wire for this reason?
PC: What I do specifically when I am training at a new plant or training new people is show them how to load the wire. The first thing we do is take the tag off and hang it on this hook. That way, if there is a problem, you have the tag that is from that coil, because important production information is on that tag that your vendor certainly will want to know. You want to call that supplier immediately. If you do have a problem, switch to another bundle or box and see if the problem is isolated or carries through.
But, it is uncommon if you look at the percentage of wire sold for it to have problems. It is a very small percentage, but it does happen. You try to find the reason for the problem. Is it a mechanical marring of that wire that is causing the problem. Is it isolated to one tie or, on the single-ram baler, to one band? Is that the one that is always breaking? That generally tells you that it is more of a machine problem.
On a two ram, if the wire is breaking, is it breaking at the knot? If it is breaking at a certain point in the knot, it indicates that there is a problem with the part that forms the knot.
I think the big thing is to contact your vendor as quickly as possible and let him know. Even go so far that if you see wire come in and it looks damaged, take a picture of it and contact your vendor because I think it is a lot easier to be proactive. If you have a picture, and the vendor knows it was delivered around that time, that is hard to say no.
SDB: What kinds of automated devices or features can help control wire usage or prevent destruction operations from wasting wire?
PC: That would be a Mark 1, Mod 1 Human Being who has an interest in things and a head on his shoulders. I don’t get complaints of a problem until a manager walks out and sees wire wasted on the floor.
A human walking around is the only thing that can save you money on wire. There is no automated device. If you invent that, you can quit your day job.
SDB: What are some important tips for employees who operate balers to remember in terms of preventing the use of excess wire?
PC: Again, it is that human on the floor monitoring, looking at the bales, looking at the straps.
As a wire tier technician, if that’s what you’d call me, the knot tells you the story of what is going on. It tells you whether the wire is good or bad, etc.
Quite often, people will run a baler in manual mode to really pack it to get the weights in. … Quite often, just letting it run in automatic, doing what it is supposed to do, you will find yourself using less wire.
The harder people work the machine, the harder they are working their pumps. And, let’s face it, if you are exporting material, you can only put so much into a container, and whether you can do it in two, or three or four less bales, great; you are cycling the baler that many fewer times and there is that much less wire used. However, you are stressing that system to the point where I guarantee you your costs will be tenfold more expensive due to what you are doing to the pumps. The harder you work the hydraulic system, the more heat you create.
So you might as well just let it run. If you can load a container in 46 bales and let the system run as it was designed and have no problems, doing it in 40 is not better.
Patrick Casserly is a service technician for Accent Wire, Tomball, Texas. He can be contacted at 908-296-0720. A version of this article originally ran in the November/December issue of Storage & Destruction Business magazine, a sister publication to Recycling Today.