The Allan Co., the subject of this issue’s cover story, “Positive Spin,” beginning on page 50, joins Recycling Today in celebrating its golden anniversary in 2013, having been founded by Stephen A. Young in 1963.
The Baldwin Park, Calif., company started off as a paper stock packer and expanded its services in response to market opportunities. But the company also found a way to make the most of a bad situation.
At the time of Mexico’s financial collapse in the 1990s, a number of Mexican paper stock consumers owed Allan Co. money for their orders. Rather than take a loss, Allan Co. accepted payment from these clients in the form of rolls of finished paper. Allan Co. then sold the rolls throughout the western United States and Mexico, marking the beginning of a new division within the company. Allan Co.s’ finished paper division today carries inventory for all of the big producers and typically has 7,000 to 8,000 tons of material in standard sizes and basis weights in inventory at all times.
Clearly, this type of adaptive thinking has contributed to Allan Co.’s success over the last 50 years, as has being able to identify emerging trends and opportunities and respond to them.
Allan Co.’s response to the situation with its customers in Mexico got me thinking of adaptive leadership and the personality traits that are inherent to this type of leadership. These traits go well beyond the basic leadership skills, such as the ability to strategize, an aptitude for communication and decision-making and a focus on producing results.
Adaptive leadership skills, according to Travis Bradberry, a Forbes contributor and co-author of Leadership 2.0, include emotional intelligence, or how an individual uses knowledge of his or her own emotions as well as those of other individuals to build relationships, and a sense of organizational justice, or integrating what people think to make them feel respected and valued. Adaptive leaders, Bradberry says, also have transparent and honest characters and understand that they always have something more to learn as well as the responsibility to aid in the development of individuals whom they lead.
Adaptive leadership’s focus on transparency and honesty reminds me of another Allan Co. value—dedication to being true to its word when dealing with customers as well as with its staff.
Regardless of how the recycling industry has changed in the last 50 years and how it will continue to change in the next 50 years, some things always ring true. Respect and honesty will always remain important components of lasting business relationships. It seems only fitting that a company that is celebrating its golden anniversary should honor this Golden Rule of business.
For instance, Allan Co.’s finished roll division in Pomona, Calif., grew out of the effects of Mexico’s financial collapse in the late 1990s, during which time the peso was greatly devalued.
“We had a lot of customers that owed us money in U.S. dollars,” says Allan Co. CEO Jason Young.
Because of its clients’ cash flow issues, Allan Co. began accepting rolls of paper from its recovered fiber consuming customers in Mexico as payment. The company then sold the paper rolls to consumers in the California market, offering same-day delivery.
From this practical response to a considerable business issue, Allan Co. has since expanded its finished roll products division. Today, the company carries inventory for all of the big producers, Don Rogers, vice president of domestic purchasing and marketing, says. The division markets these finished products throughout the western United States and in Mexico and has 7,000 to 8,000 tons of material in standard sizes and basis weights in inventory at all times.
Recovered paper, however, forms the foundation on which Allan Co. was constructed.
Adding to the Tab
Stephen Young, who today serves as chairman, founded Allan Co. in 1963. To help fund his way through college, Stephen put his connections in the paper industry to work, becoming a subcontractor for a paper stock company that his father worked for. Stephen dealt primarily in computer printout and tab cards at the time.
“Our early reputation was built on our handling of all grades of paper,” Jason says of the company’s formative years.
Since the company’s founding in 1963, much has changed, including Allan Co.’s scale and scope.
The company currently has 15 facilities in California. “Four of those plants are not only recycling centers, purchasing from the public, private companies, commercial accounts and municipalities, but they also have single-stream curbside operations,” Jason says. With the exception of the company’s Pomona Roll Division and Commerce Warehouse, all of Allan Co.’s locations purchase all grades of paper and cardboard, glass, plastic, cans and all grades of metal, he adds.
“When the California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act was implemented, creating a redemption value on beverage containers, Allan Co. was one of the first recyclers to participate in the program, becoming one of the state’s biggest processors of aluminum cans, PET (polyethylene terephthalate) beverage containers and glass,” Jason says.
The company’s experience collecting, processing and marketing paper stock grades as well as beverage containers gave Allan Co. the confidence to tackle the curbside residential recycling sector. Allan Co. operates four single-stream material recovery facilities (MRFs) at its Baldwin Park, San Diego (Consolidated Way), Santa Monica and Glendale, Calif., locations. Jason says the MRFs feature state-of-the-art sorting lines equipped with optical sorters and air classifiers designed to enhance recovery rates.
More recently, Allan Co. expanded into electronics, serving as a collector of end-of-life electronics through California’s Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003.
Paper still accounts for the majority of the company’s business, however. In 2012, fiber accounted for 81.4 percent of Allan Co.’s processed tons. Plastics were second at 6.7 percent of total tonnage. Scrap metal, excluding aluminum cans, represented 5.4 percent of the tonnage processed. Allan Co.’s processing of aluminum cans represented 1.5 percent of its business in 2012, while glass represented 4.9 percent of the company’s total tonnage.
Jason says the company had $393.9 million in total sales for 2012.
Taking the Lead
In the 50 years since Allan Co. was established, the company has shown a willingness to explore new terrain. In the 1970s, that meant selling directly to the Far East, Jason says.
Today, Allan Co. exports nearly 75 percent of the material it processes. Its international markets include Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Chile, China, Columbia, El Salvador, Europe, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Peru, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Jason says the company’s volume has allowed it to be versatile in its marketing. “We have tried specifically to make sure we are in all markets,” he says. With this approach, Allan Co. has options when certain markets are closed to business.
Allan Co.’s firsts continued throughout its history. For example, in 1980, Allan Co. was among the first to participate in California’s beverage container redemption program. The company embraced single-stream recycling in the 1990s and, in the 2000s, Allan Co. became active in state and local legislative and regulatory activities, offering industry input on regulations affecting recyclers, Jason says.
Most recently, Allan Co. pursued and received Recycling Industry Operating Standard (RIOS) certification, becoming one of the first full-service recycling facilities on the West Coast to be certified, Jason says. Allan Co.’s Baldwin Park plant is one of only nine facilities in the U.S. to be certified to the RIOS standard, which was developed by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI), Washington, D.C.
According to www.certifymerecycling.org, RIOS “is the recycling industry’s management system standard for quality, environment and health and safety (QEH&S). Specifically designed for the recycling industry, RIOS™; integrates the key operational elements found in other standards, such as ISO 9001 (Q), ISO 14001 (E) and OHSAS 18001 (H&S), bringing them together into one streamlined management system.”
Jason says, “We embarked on the certification because it was something we believed in.”
The process, which he says was “not easy,” took two years; but, Jason adds, “We’re a better company for it.”
Relationships are the foundation of Allan Co.’s success, and RIOS certification further enhances what Don describes as strong customer relationships. “Our customers are most important to us,” he says. “If we don’t have them, we don’t have a company.”
In fact, Don, who has been with Allan Co. for 30 years, was once a customer. He was drawn to the company, he says, because he was impressed by its approach to business.
Allan Co. focuses on honesty, integrity and quality in its business dealings, Don says, as well as prompt payment. “We do what we say we are going to do.”
Jason adds, “We value our customers and work to ensure that every business relationship is a long-standing relationship.”
He continues, “We have customers that we buy from and sell to, and we have to make both sides to the transaction happy on a daily basis. If we can’t satisfy both sides of the transaction, it’s generally business that we won’t do.”
The company’s philosophy of respect and fair dealing extends to Allan Co. employees as well, Don says. The results can be seen in the tenure of the workforce. “We have a lot of experienced workers in the company; many have been with us for 35 or 40 years,” Don says.
Jason adds, “We have a strong employee base and we try to take care of them to the best of our ability, and, in turn, they take care of the business.”
Baldwin Park – Full recycling center purchasing from the public, servicing commercial accounts and operating a single-stream curbside material recovery facility (MRF)
Commerce – Warehousing and transloading operation with space for 10 railcars, certified scales and 12 truck loading docks
Fresno, Chestnut Avenue – California Redemption Value buyback center
Fresno, Sunland Avenue – Full recycling center purchasing from the public and serving commercial accounts; rail-served facility with two high-density balers
Fresno, Woodward Street – Recycling center purchasing from the public and processing commodities such as glass, aluminum cans, plastic and other redemption items
Glendale – Full-service recycling center purchasing from the public, servicing commercial accounts and operating a single-stream curbside sorting line
Los Angeles, Wright Street – Recycling center purchasing primarily from the public
Monrovia – Full-service recycling center purchasing from the public
Palmdale – Full-service recycling center purchasing from the public and servicing commercial accounts
Pomona, Roll Division – Truck- and rail-served finished roll division serving the western United States and Mexico with immediate shipments
San Diego, Consolidated Way – Single-stream curbside recycling facility serving the city of San Diego; California Redemption Value buyback center
San Diego, Convoy Street – Full recycling center purchasing from the public and servicing commercial accounts
Santa Ana – Full recycling center purchasing from the public and servicing commercial accounts
Santa Monica – Full-service recycling center and operating a single-stream curbside line
Santee – Recycling center concentrating on California Redemption Value items
Adapting to Change
A number of challenges confront the recycling industry at present, and Allan Co. is addressing them in various ways.
California is notorious for its high degree of regulation, and Jason says these burdens have a significant impact on recyclers in the state. However, he’s also concerned about federal regulations, such as the current proposal before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding the definition of solid waste. (For more information, see www.epa.gov/wastes/hazard/dsw/rulemaking.htm#2011.)
The company continues to provide its voice to regulatory matters at the state and local level as well as at the national level through its involvement in trade associations such as ISRI. Of particular interest, Don says, is addressing fraud in the California Redemption Value program.
“A lot of out-of-state material is coming in,” Don says. “We as a state need to fix that problem.”
Material generation remains soft in light of the as-yet-recovering U.S. economy, Jason says, presenting challenges for Allan Co. and the recycling industry in general. The printing sector has been hard hit because of the migration to digital media.
“With the decline in print media, Allan Co. has focused more on scrap metals and now handles large volumes of ferrous and nonferrous scrap metals along with plastics and packaging,” Jason says.
Allan Co. also has approached its commercial and industrial customers about setting up full-service recycling programs to address dwindling material streams. “Most of our customer base has been very receptive,” Jason says.
In this climate of change and uncertainty, the core values at Allan Co. remain unchanged, Jason says: Allan Co. will continue to focus on operational excellence, the strengthening of external and internal relationships and the development of new opportunities.
The author is managing editor of Recycling Today and can be reached at email@example.com.
When L. Gordon Iron & Metal, Statesville, N.C., purchased its first auto shredder in 1976, employees recorded a day’s workload by hand on pages and pages of spreadsheets. More than 35 years later, workers at the nearly century-old family-owned business have finally put down the pens and pencils and now rely on a computer software program to collect and record the shredder’s pertinent production information.
Barry Gordon, a fourth-generation family member who is plant manager of ferrous operations, says up until a few months ago, he spent from one to two hours per day writing down the 80/104 Metso Recycling-Texas Shredder’s various output numbers—total weights of materials processed and amount of fluff generated, among numerous other figures—on spreadsheets. And Gordon is just one of 10 shredder operators at the North Carolina scrap company who spent time handwriting such statistics.
“We did a simple spreadsheet form where everything was done by hand and not with a computer program. It worked great, but was extremely time consuming,” Gordon says.
He continues, “Ferrex [Engineering] offered a program that would show you, while the shredder was running, what’s going on plus the simple numbers; and it’s all done by a program. Now I’m spending 10 minutes going over the day’s run.”
Ferrex Engineering, Ajax, Ontario, introduced its newest software package designed for auto shredder operators this year. The RDL (recycling data logger) is shredder optimization software that provides real-time insight and can produce reports that track the productivity of the shredder and determine if there are any areas causing problems, the company says. RDL includes production scheduling, real-time productivity, equipment monitoring, preventive maintenance, density analysis and other tracking and reporting features.
Black and White
Ferrex says its RDL package allows shredder operators to increase their plants’ efficiency. Gordon agrees. L. Gordon’s shredder supervisor has worked with the company for 25 years and has “very rarely used a computer in his life,” Gordon says.
After about three days of working with the RDL, the supervisor plugged in data on the computer like a professional. “He learned it quick,” Gordon says. “He pushes a button on a screen up in the tower and probably spends 20 minutes a day putting the data in.”
The shredder supervisor admittedly had quite a bit of help, Gordon says. Ferrex sent a program developer to L. Gordon’s site for five days to not only customize the company’s new system but also to train employees on how to use the software. “He was fantastic,” Gordon says.
The Power of Engines
Barry Gordon, L. Gordon Iron & Metal’s plant manager of ferrous operations, says the introduction of the auto shredder was “a real good thing, not only for us, but the industry overall.” Shredders have improved in a number of ways since their inception, including varying engine styles to run the large machines.
At the Statesville, N.C., scrap company, Gordon says the electric motors the company uses in its shredder today have been much cheaper to maintain than the diesel engines and natural-gas-powered motors it used in the past. L. Gordon had its diesel engines converted to natural gas, but when those motors needed an overhaul, Gordon says, after crunching some numbers, it was cheaper to buy brand new electric motors than to fix the older gas engines.
“Electric motors are simpler, and there are a lot of good mechanics and technicians out there to work on them,” Gordon says.
In 2010, Quad Plus, Joliet, Ill., replaced the gas engines powering L. Gordon’s auto shredder with a 4,000-horsepower DC shredder drive. The new power system included two 2,000-horsepower motors, mounted in series, and DC drive cabinets that control the motors and transformers.
“We were after reliability, and that’s why we went with electric motors,” Gordon says. “The cost to run them has been much cheaper and the maintenance has been much cheaper, probably half the cost of natural gas engines.”
The technician programmed three key inputs into L. Gordon’s system: every type of commodity it could potentially run through the shredder; more than 100 different maintenance issues the shredder could run into; and every possible breakdown the machine could experience. The company’s shredder—with a 4,000-horsepower DC shredder drive, including two 2,000-horsepower motors mounted in series, and DC drive cabinets that control the motors and transformers—processes automobiles, appliances and light iron, among other commodities, Gordon says. “The idea of measuring everything is important; but, not only is it measured, the information also is captured and relayed in a simplified form.”
The reports that Gordon prints after a day’s work make “everything black and white instead of a theory,” he says.
But he and other executives at the company don’t have to wait until the end of the day to see how the shredder is operating. Because the software is connected to the Internet, Gordon and four other managers with the company have access to real-time data on their iPhones, while three additional executives view the information on their computers.
Gordon best describes the simplicity of having the shredder’s daily statistics at his fingertips this way: “I’m in the office and I can watch what’s going on in the operation from my laptop or my cellphone and I can see the shredder is running. If I’m at the beach, I can say, ‘What are they running today?’ And I can see what they’re running, how many hours they ran, what their breakdown actually is and tonnage of the shredder that day.”
He adds, “I wear a lot of different hats, looking after lots of different parts of the operation, and I can’t stay at the shredder all day. I can help supervise the operation from my desk, which is kind of cool. What it’s doing is improving communication.”
Gordon says the new software keeps the scrap company’s shredder workers on their toes, too. Before the company installed the software, employees would sometimes give excuses about why work wasn’t getting done. Now, L. Gordon can clearly see how many minutes the machine was down and what caused the breakdown.
“It now takes an hour and a half to change hammers and in the past it took three hours,” Gordon says.
“The bottom line is how [RDL] has helped,” he continues. “The shredder is running more efficiently, and the employees like it. It’s been a motivating factor. They say, ‘I’m working hard, and the company is able to see what I’m producing.’ They’re better informed.”
Forecast and Goal
As much information as the RDL records, Gordon says the best feature of the software is being able to forecast. It helps him calculate how much time is spent on fixing maintenance problems so workers can reduce that time later.
The RDL software ranks the shredder’s breakdowns in a “top 10” list, which has been unexpectedly useful for the company. If a problem remains on the breakdown list for some time, Gordon says that is a red flag that it needs to be addressed promptly. “One of our top problems could be a stop up in a chute, and we could say, ‘Well, we have to get this fixed.’ It has given me more information.”
He adds, “We have a forecast and a goal. We know what the shredder’s capabilities are.”
Now that the shredder is running more efficiently, Gordon says workers are shredding all scrap the company buys. They are able to track how much tonnage the shredder produced, encouraging employees to shred more the next month.
L. Gordon is saving money on less overtime and maintenance repair hours, he says. “It just decreases your cost. You up your amount of tons you run in a month over the amount of hours you have in a month.”
He continues, “We’re getting everything shredded as it’s coming in and we don’t have a stockpile of appliances at off-site locations, unless we have a major breakdown.”
Over and Above
Advanced separation technologies and automated feed systems are available for shredders, but L. Gordon has focused on shredder software and on improving its downstream recovery system. The scrap company added oversized magnets and oversized conveyor belts as well as an updated air classification system to “improve the capabilities of our downstream,” he says.
“It’s over and above what’s required,” Gordon adds. “We put in a super downstream, which can clean the material even cleaner than what the machine requires.
“There’s so much new technology we’re not using,” Gordon says.
While L. Gordon hasn’t taken advantage of much of the latest technology available for shredders, its recent switch to the RDL software may be revolutionary for the company. “I would say it’s revolutionary in the way you can communicate the information. You’re not looking through tens of pages of spreadsheets and trying to figure this out. You get a simple report that you can print out.”
L. Gordon executives were skeptical of the new software at first. “It sounded good in theory, but I didn’t believe it was going to work,” Gordon says. But, he adds that he is looking forward to further incorporating the system into the company’s operations, which has been “a motivation factor” for everyone involved.
He continues, “With the new technology, we’re hoping there will be fewer maintenance issues, problems will be solved quicker and communication will improve, not only from the front office but internally in the plant.”
The author is associate editor of Recycling Today and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the way to a business meeting, David DelBianco, vice president of business development for Metalico Inc., based in Cranford, N.J., needed to check the details on a particular supplier’s activity.
Having this type of detailed information could take some doing for a company of Metalico’s size. The publicly owned recycler of ferrous and nonferrous metals operates yards in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Texas and Mississippi, some of which were opened by the company and others acquired in more recent years. And, not all of the company’s locations are straight-up scrap yards: Its Mayco Industries division is a fabricator of lead-based products with operations in Alabama, Illinois and California, and one Metalico facility manufactures catalyst.
Even with these diverse constituents, DelBianco can keep tabs on the company’s financials, whether corporationwide or down to the customer level. Metalico uses integrated business software that gathers updated information from all of its locations.
“I pulled over and logged in using my iPhone,” he says, explaining that the company’s central database is refreshed every 30 seconds. While the screen was small, DelBianco says, “if you take your time, you can get information out of it.”
The inventory and accounting software extracts transactional data from Metalico’s 29 operations, once every 30 seconds, providing an almost-real-time look at the company’s financials and conferring additional benefits that DelBianco has capitalized on.
Not every scrap yard needs the level of integration or functionality in place at Metalico. “We average about $550 million in sales and have about 800 employees, so our needs were maybe a bit different than, say, a mom-and-pop would have,” DelBianco concedes.
The company uses RIMAS NT/P software from Shared Logic, based in Holland, Ohio. (The system’s name stands for “Recycling Industry Management and Accounting Software where New Technology and Preservation come together.”)
Over the years, Metalico has grown and made numerous acquisitions, and in 2004 the company’s management decided that all acquired companies would migrate to the RIMAS software, if they weren’t using it already.
Suitable for Recycling
A number of software providers serve the recycling industry, providing solutions geared toward the specific needs of this sector, from legislative reporting requirements to inventory tracking. Among the companies providing software tailored to the industry are:
“We limited our search to systems that already had the ability to integrate to the scales,” DelBianco says of the company’s shopping process. That didn’t narrow the field much, however, as most systems offer strong receiving and purchasing functions, he adds.
“The buying is the heart of everything you do at a scrap company,” he remarks, “and it’s the heart of what you want out of your system.”
Another feature that’s part and parcel to most inventory software is production tracking. “It has to be easy to record the production steps, and I think they all do a good job with that,” DelBianco says of the software applications that are available.
However, having an integrated accounting function written into the software is not commonplace, he says. DelBianco adds that RIMAS NT/P is one of the few recycling inventory and sales software systems containing its own general ledger and integrated accounting module, rather than relegating those functions to an off-the-shelf accounting package, such as QuickBooks or Peachtree.
An additional benefit of having a single software application that integrates sales, purchases and accounting is that Metlico only has to contact one vendor when questions arise.
DelBianco says the RIMAS accounting package provides the secure level of internal control appropriate for a publicly traded company like Metalico. “All of my purchases are directly related to the accounting package,” he says.
A certified public accountant with programming experience, DelBianco describes the software’s accounting function as “robust,” particularly because it provides a detailed history. “It provided the controls that we needed to pass muster as a publicly traded company in that our data was safe, it was accurate and it couldn’t be meddled with or accidentally deleted.”
Furthermore, says DelBianco, it eliminates the need to import sales and purchasing data to a separate software program.
“My financial statements reflect what is actually sitting on the scale at the moment,” he says. “There is no waiting for daily imports, and there’s only one system I have to look at.”
The fact that the software is based on the Microsoft Windows SQL (structured English query language) server database also was important to DelBianco. Several software modules can be open at the same time. It also supports multiple users, such as several open scales, on one computer. This functionality enables a single location to enter multiple loads at once.
The SQL platform allows Metalico’s 29 locations to operate independently but replicates and uploads their individual databases to a central database that is refreshed every 30 seconds. This read-only file is located on a corporate server housed at the company’s headquarters.
While the software is centralized on the back-end, this front-end independence has been important for Metalico. “I never have to worry about the network going down because it will never affect the yards,” says DelBianco. As long as an office has electricity, that office also has purchasing and sales functionality. “They’re not worrying about a central computer in some other town. All of our division servers are standalone.”
DelBianco says the SQL replication feature has in effect eliminated the need to centralize operations in a single database as well as the need for guaranteed Internet connectivity between the company’s headquarters and the various yards at all times, saving on costs. In addition, the functionality also has meant that Metalico’s Information Technology (IT) Manager Anthony DeMeo can handle just about all of the company’s IT needs on his own.
Another benefit of Metalico’s integrated software is that it can provide timely financial reporting that keeps banks and other creditors in the know. For example, the program can keep tabs on inventory even before loads have been priced. Similarly, the software can tally accounts receivable and accounts payable figures prior to those transactions actually being posted in the corresponding module. That can be helpful, particularly when reporting financials to creditors.
With fully integrated software, all of the transaction information can be preloaded for a variety of reporting functions, helping with cash flow analysis and financial reporting.
Companies that supply software to the recycling industry often rely heavily on customer input to further refine their applications. DelBianco says some of the functions that have been added to the RIMAS program throughout the years were suggested by users at Metalico. One recent update records the precious metals contents in each catalytic converter Metalico purchases.
“If I buy two different converters and put them into a package, the Shared Logic system knows exactly how many troy ounces of each of those metals are in those converters,” says DelBianco, allowing for proper hedging of metals purchased. While he could figure out those details on his own, the extra functionality is a welcome time saver. “It keeps us out of Excel,” he says, which is one of the perks DelBianco looks for.
The numerous peripheral devices that go along with the software are the bells and whistles that users appreciate. At Metallico, iPads are employed for receiving and grading catalytic converters. Driver’s license scanners eliminate the need to enter customer account specifics. Touch-screen computers and ATM machines can streamline tasks. And small thermal printers are replacing large ones. “We’re saving an awful lot of paper now,” DelBianco says.
These hardware components all part of a software system that is bringing convenience and control to this diverse organization as well as assisting with the company’s regulatory requirements. DelBianco refers to Metalico’s obligations under Sarbanes-Oxley, in particular the reporting requirements for publicly owned companies called for by the 2002 law. “We had some high standards for preserving our data,” he says of the law.
The author is a managing editor with the Recycling Today Media Group. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
Since Michael Benedetto’s father opened Chesapeake, Va.-based TFC (Tidewater Fibre Corp.) Recycling in the early 1970s, the company has grown and improved its operations one step at a time. Today, TFC is converting its commercial collection fleet to the same standards the company has for its residential collection vehicles.
The recycling company started off big by building what it says is the first automated single-stream material recovery facility (MRF) on the East Coast. That led to TFC Recycling accomplishing more with the MRF, such as being the first facility in Virginia to handle plastic bottles and steel cans.
Adding more materials meant adding more staff. TFC Recycling started with just a handful of employees, but today more than 350 people are on its payroll.
While the waste and recycling company is known for residential recycling—with 700,000 customers, it is the largest residential curbside recycler in Virginia—that crucial aspect is influencing TFC’s commercial recycling.
“We have had many, many customers, including commercial customers, state to us that as good as TFC has been for the last 40 years, the TFC today is significantly different than it was five years ago,” says Benedetto, president of TFC Recycling. “We’ve made a concerted effort to explore ways to improve our business.”
TFC’s current advancement focuses on its commercial service vehicles. The company’s fleet of more than 150 collection and transfer trucks includes 12 commercial front-end loaders (with container sizes ranging from 2 to 8 cubic yards) and 10 roll-off trucks (with container sizes from 12 to 40 cubic yards) for commercial recycling.
The commercial collection trucks travel about 100 miles each day in a 150-mile radius that reaches as far north as Richmond and as far south as North Carolina. TFC haulers collect recyclable materials, including paper, bottles and cans, from its more than 4,000 commercial customers ranging from mom-and-pop stores and fast food restaurants to manufacturers and industrial customers, Benedetto says. Haulers—only one driver is on each truck at a time—mostly collect paper from commercial customers, Benedetto adds.
Other materials, a hybrid of various materials collected from commercial customers, are processed at the company’s MRF in Chesapeake. TFC has another MRF in Chester, Va.
The company uses a designated front loader to collect the other materials, separates the recyclables at its facility and sends all nonrecoverable waste (including waste it collects separately) to its waste-to-energy (WTE) facility. Most commercial customers have a container for recyclables and a separate container for trash.
Benedetto says TFC has purchased many commercial collection trucks new from Mack Trucks for roughly $350,000. “We do have a Mack dealership that is close to us, so it was convenient to buy trucks through that operation,” he says.
The truck bodies, however, vary from McNeilus and Heil to Labrie and Bridgeport. For a number of reasons, TFC is moving toward a standard platform with an Autocar chassis and Bridgeport body.
Hank Brown, director of fleet operations for TFC, admits that the recycling company has too many vehicle styles for its liking. “We’ve got ’em all, which is one of the things we’re trying to get away from,” Brown says. “We’re trying to uniform the fleet … by going to a standard platform with the Autocar chassis and the Cummins motor.”
The recycling company’s main reason for the switch to similar vehicles? Because standardization among a fleet is key to improving efficiency, Benedetto says. “If you’ve got 15 makes of trucks out there, then you need 15 different sets of parts. When you standardize equipment, what you end up doing is minimizing the number of parts you need in inventory. If all of your trucks are the same, your inventory becomes easy to manage, and training is simplified,” he says.
Benedetto continues, “Standardization in our business is very important. It’s a long-term process because you have to work off old equipment you don’t like and replace it with standard equipment, but it is a commitment we have made.”
TFC currently stocks 18 power take-offs that run the vehicles’ hydraulics, which is too many, Brown says. The fewer parts needed for different collection trucks, the more efficient the mechanics can be, he says. “If you have too many electronics on a vehicle, you’re putting a whole lot of different items in your fleet. A mechanic becomes more proficient and faster at what he’s doing if he’s working on the same equipment and it all looks the same at the time.”
Brown adds, “By standardizing your fleet, you not only save money in parts, you save money in training, you save money in your downtime of the vehicle, and the mechanics are much faster at what they can do just with familiarization. I recommend that no matter what you go with, try to maintain a level fleet and a platform.”
Paul Stacharczyk, vice president and chief operating officer of TFC, recommends fleet operators “pick one manufacturer and stick with it.” Value is more important than just price, he says.
Maintenance Is Money
Benedetto credits the company’s “aggressive, well-run” maintenance program for its efficient fleet. Every truck that runs in a day drives through TFC’s “safety lane” and is checked for working lights, tires, oil changes and more. Preventive maintenance (PM) has stretched the life span of its fleet further than the average 10 years for front-end loader trucks and 12 years for roll-offs, Benedetto says.
Brown adds that a lack of preventive maintenance only hurts a company’s overall operations. “Grease is cheaper than steel,” he says. “It’s cheaper to do PM on a truck than to neglect it and wait until the parts need replaced.”
He continues, “We have a three-tier system here. Everyone has a part they take to keep the truck running and to make sure the trucks work all day. We rarely ever get a chance to miss something.”
A national developing trend that TFC has embraced is transforming the company as a whole. Benedetto says when he and other decision-makers searched for a more “environmentally friendly way to operate our trucks,” they realized they could take advantage of the local CNG (compressed natural gas) filling stations.
“That put us in a position where we could start buying CNG trucks without having an immediate need to have our own station,” he says. “We realized in the long run that we needed to have our own station. In order to financially make the model work, we needed about 20 trucks. We made a commitment to expand our residential collection fleet to CNG to get to that threshold and we’re there.”
TFC now runs 20 residential trucks on CNG. Any new truck the company purchases going forward, including commercial collection trucks, will use CNG, Benedetto says. “We are committed, whether it be residential or commercial, whether it be a front-load truck or any new truck going forward is going to be CNG.” He adds, “We’re also looking into a second option: taking existing diesel equipment we have and converting it to CNG.”
It costs TFC about $90,000 to convert a truck it already owns to CNG, Brown says. But Benedetto points out that converting its fleet to CNG would add another 10 years to the trucks’ lifespan. The list of benefits for using CNG is long, too. For instance, TFC could save up to $40,000 per year in fuel per truck, Brown says. “We’ll be able to cut the fuel in half of the cost. The ROI (return on investment) is phenomenal. CNG is an answer to the problem we have.”
Other improvements the company has committed to include installing a dual-camera system as a safety feature and behavioral improvement, Benedetto says. Some commercial collection trucks and containers are already equipped with Sonrai Systems, which has radio frequency identification (RFID) readers and chips that automatically scan and store a cart’s serial number and date and time of service and which truck is on the route for TFC’s use in real time.
“We look at TFC as changing the way our industry does business,” Stacharczyk says. “We are all about innovation and changing the way our business is run.”
The author is an associate editor of Recycling Today and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.