Megan Workman

The author is associate editor of Recycling Today magazine.


Daily duty

Shredding Equipment Focus

Maintaining shredding plant equipment requires day-to-day upkeep and attention.

August 12, 2014

Preventive maintenance is critical to achieving the proper performance and throughput expected of shredding plant equipment. Daily attention to facility housekeeping and tasks like machine greasing can save information destruction operations thousands of dollars in repair costs as well as hours or even days of lost production because of unexpected downtime.

Ryan Palmier, general manager of Gateway Recycling, a paper and plastics recycling and confidential destruction company based in Cleveland, says one of the most important steps the company takes each day is cleaning its machinery by hand. Gateway Recycling workers use compressed air to blow out the shredding plant equipment to prevent dust and dirt from piling up, he explains.

Gateway Recycling and most information destruction firms perform maintenance on shredding plant equipment daily. Palmier says, in addition to day-to-day upkeep, maintenance tasks are scheduled weekly, monthly and annually.

Gateway has owned an HF (hopper fed) 7870A 125-horsepower shredder manufactured by Cresswood Shredding Machinery, Cortland, Illinois, for more than seven years, he says. The machine processes from 30 to 50 tons of material each week.

“We blow [the shredder] out with air and clean it by hand every day,” Palmier says. He adds that Gateway workers can spend from one hour per day to eight hours per week dealing with preventive maintenance on machines.

Maumee, Ohio-based Allshred Services has a maintenance manager who cleans the facility as well as the company’s two Ameri-Shred Corp., Alpena, Michigan, paper shredders—one equipped with a 150-horsepower motor and another with a 125-horsepower motor—says Tom Huth, who was vice president of operations for Allshred at the time of this interview. (He has since left the company.)

Allshred, one of the nation’s largest independent providers of secure shredding services for paper documents, hard drives, CD-ROMs, computer reel tapes, counterfeit clothing and other products, contraband, R&D designs and molds, shreds 22 tons of material daily in a seven-hour shift.

Huth says Allshred performs maintenance daily on its plant-based shredding system, which helps to keep the equipment clean and improves its longevity.

“You want to keep it clean,” Huth says of shredding plant equipment. “We use air to blow out the cutter heads, and we have large air compressors that we use to blow off the equipment daily.”

Huth adds that the company’s personnel spend an hour each day to guarantee the equipment is greased properly as well.

Lubed up

Greasing is crucial to properly maintaining shredding plant equipment.

Allshred ensures bearings are greased every day, Huth says, adding that some machines require five to 10 pumps of grease per day. He also suggests pouring oil over the shredder’s cutter heads to ensure they are well-lubricated.

Rhett Stevens, CFO for Clearwater, Florida-based Stevens & Stevens Business Records Management (SSBRM), says a lack of lubrication can cause machines and shredder blades to deteriorate.

SSBRM, which offers records management and storage services, data protection and storage services and imaging solutions and software in addition to secure, off-site destruction of hard-copy records, magnetic media, microfilm, microfiche, CDs, ZIP drives, hard drives and X-rays, installed a plant-based shredding system at its Tampa, Florida, facility last year.

The 125-horsepower machine supplied by Ameri-Shred is capable of destroying 6 to 8 tons of paper per hour, totaling 310 tons per month, Stevens says.

He says an SSBRM employee also spends one hour each day on shredder maintenance, which includes greasing necessary parts, “to avoid issues.”

Stevens adds, “We lubricate, check fluids, clean the outside of the equipment, clean the conveyors, inspect all parts and sweep out the pit.”

NAID AAA certification

Each of the four companies contacted for this feature— Gateway Recycling, Cleveland; Allshred Services, Maumee, Ohio; Stevens & Stevens Business Records Management (SSBRM), Clearwater, Fla.; and Document Destruction and Recycling Services (DDRS), Iowa City— is NAID AAA certified. NAID, the National Association for Information Destruction, is the Phoenix-based trade association for the information destruction industry.

The NAID AAA Certification Program verifies the qualifications of certified information destruction providers through a comprehensive scheduled and unannounced audit program, according to the association. The certification program is designed to help organizations meet regulatory requirements to verify the qualifications of service providers handling the destruction of protected information.

Ryan Palmier, general manager of Gateway Recycling, says being NAID certified helps the company to orderly manage its maintenance. “Abiding to NAID guidelines gives us a good structure for preventive maintenance and routine maintenance checks,” Palmier says.

Tom Huth, vice president of operations for Allshred, says the company’s shredders produce particle sizes no larger than five-eights-inch strips, which meets the requirements set by NAID.

Chris Ockenfels, DDRS vice president, says the company uses screen sizes on its Vecoplan shredders to meet NAID standards but also has the flexibility to change its shredders’ screens when destroying nonconfidential materials.

Iowa City, Iowa-based City Carton Recycling, which also operates a document destruction division known as Document Destruction and Recycling Services (DDRS), takes greasing its machines and checking their fluids seriously, says Vice President of DDRS Chris Ockenfels. He notes that it is beneficial for workers to maintain a greasing process that is not difficult to manage so that it is taken care of daily.

Ockenfels suggests plumbing all grease points to a central, easily accessible “grease block.” This prevents operators from neglecting hard-to-reach points as well as decreasing preventive maintenance time.

“Failure to grease all grease zerks can lead to premature failure of bearings, which can result in failure of the belt. If you make greasing easy and convenient, it will always get done,” Ockenfels says.

Shredder service

When it comes to components that are commonly overlooked with shredding equipment maintenance, Ockenfels refers back to the importance of keeping machines clean. DDRS uses compressed air and nozzle guns to blow dust and debris off of its three shredders daily, Ockenfels says.

DDRS has one shredder at each of its three locations: a 200-horsepower Vecoplan RG 62U Shorty shredder at its headquarters and secure shredding plant in Cedar Rapids; a 100-horsepower Vecoplan RG 52U Shorty shredder at its Altoona, Iowa, location; and an Allegheny 100-horsepower 36-1000C shredder at its Davenport, Iowa, site.

Ockenfels explains that it is important to keep machines clean. This can stop materials from building up inside the equipment, preventing jams and guaranteeing machines are not retaining excess heat.

“The blowing down and cleaning out of all equipment is commonly overlooked and can create problems. If you fail to blow down and clean out machines according to specs, you can have debris building up,” Ockenfels says.

He continues, “Cylinders are meant to power forward, not backward; if you fail to clean debris out from the press head, you start packing things backward. This can lead to excess stress on, and ultimately failure of, shredders and balers.”

Ockenfels adds, “Failure to clean out areas where rubber conveyor belts meet stationary objects also leads to damage. For example, if a piece of glass or metal gets wedged at a pinch point, it can slice your belt long ways and ruin your entire belt.”

At SSBRM, Stevens says conveyors are covered to prevent dust buildup.

Gateway Recycling’s Palmier says workers can overlook the maintenance of conveyor belting, which can lead to worn belts.

Sights and sounds

Huth says Allshred replaced its shredder’s cutter heads earlier this year, a process the company performs every five years. He adds that the material a company is shredding determines the wear life of the cutter heads. Hanging file folders, with their small metal pieces, wear down cutter heads more quickly than plain white paper does.

“It increases throughput, cuts the paper better and faster, and you do notice a difference,” Huth says of changing cutter heads.

Ockenfels says his Allegheny shredder’s cutters hardly need replaced, which helps reduce operating costs. “I’ve gone 12 years without replacing cutters before,” he adds.

While operators can see wear on cutter heads, they cannot see bearings; but, they can listen for unusual sounds, Ockenfels points out. Operators get used to the sounds of a machine, and when something is not right, the machine typically makes a different noise, he explains.

“A squeaky bearing is not something you can check visually, but you can hear it in the harmonics of the shredder,” Ockenfels points out. “The shredder makes a certain noise, and when it’s struggling a little more to do the same job, it will make a different noise.”

He continues, “I can always tell when a new employee hits that ‘Aha!’ moment and gets it, then [he or she] knows how to use changes in the equipment sound to detect machinery issues.”

Ockenfels adds, “Early detection is key to reducing costs associated with repairs and unscheduled downtime.”


The author is associate editor of Recycling Today and can be contacted at This article first appeared in the May/June 2014 edition of Recycling Today’s sister publication Storage & Destruction Business magazine.


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