The following text is a transcript from a video in which Wendt Corporation's Bill Close and Eric Thurston, the North American sales manager metals – recycling for Tomra Sorting Recycling, talk with Sean Daoud of PNW Metal Recycling, with operations in Oregon and Washington, and tour the company's auto shredder and downstream nonferrous sorting system. Buffalo, New York-based Wendt installed PNW's shredder and nonferrous downstream, which features sensor-based sorters from Tomra.
Bill Close: Tell me a little bit about your company and how it got started?
Sean Daoud: PNW Metal Recycling is a family business. The entity itself was formed about four years ago with the merger of two family businesses. Both the families have similar goals and aspirations of wanting to grow and do better in the industry that we are. So, over the last four years, we have been able to combine the businesses, capitalize on the shared intrinsicies of operational efficiencies, better volumes for value creation on the sales end as well as investing and growing in equipment acquisitions for processing the metal streams that we have to harness the full metal values that are there. Some main acquisitions we’ve done in equipment is the downstream that we’re here to look at today. And that itself has allowed us to increase our metal recovery from the shredding process, a considerable amount, thus being able to drive better values and better quality to not only meet the demands here domestically, but also internationally.
Bill Close: It sounds like you have made a lot of investments to differentiate your company. How does this system compare with what you previously were running?
Sean Daoud: The system is very different from what we had before. A very simple system we had on our shredder—it is still there today, but not operational—was a two eddy-current system, one doing inch and a half over, one doing under an inch and a half, and then anything that the over line that got missed, we put through a hand-picking station—stainless steel, insulated wire, all those other products—so a very simple and manual process. And now a very robust and mechanical process that leads to better metal generation with very little manual processing needed other than to keep the product clean.
Bill Close: The old plant was a zorba recovery plant with hand picking, and with the new operation here, we’ve got automation of zorba, zurik and wire with minimal handpicking.
Sean Daoud: Correct. And now it is more of a differentiated zorba product. Not only do we have the zorba product we were used to, now we are generating a fine zorba [and] an ultra-fine zorba. We’re generating a heavies package that we weren't before. It is not only an increase in volume recovery, but it's also increased the product lines that we're able to market and offer to overseas buyers and domestic buyers.
Bill Close: I see you are running a pretty typical ASR mix here. Have you tried other materials, such as breakage e-scrap or other source materials?
Sean Daoud: Good question. We have thought about it. We are still eight months in, nine months into running the system. We are still learning it, so it is never perfect. There is always something to learn every day. But until we feel as if we have mastered the ASR processing, we probably will wait a little bit to get to those. However, that is an opportunity we have looked at, and I’m sure we'll get into it at some point here in the foreseeable future.
Bill Close: Sean, tell me a bit about the plant. How did you decide what size plant to buy?
Sean Daoud: [It was a] very simple answer for us. We wanted a plant large enough to take what we currently are producing from our shredder in Portland, but with enough room to grow.
Bill Close: How many hours and how many shifts are you running on this plant?
Sean Daoud: One shift is what we are running, and it's roughly eight to 10 hours a day. It all depends on what the production is like at the Portland yard at the shredder and what maintenance and upkeep is needed for the current day or the previous day's operations.
Bill Close: How did you come to your decision to select Wendt and Tomra equipment?
Sean Daoud: When we toured dozens of different processing plants, not only here in the U.S. but internationally, and we looked at what metal smelters and copper smelters, the aluminum smelters, all these different places we would be selling these product lines to, stainless buyers, and zurik buyers, the material that Wendt/Tomra systems spit out [was] higher quality with less touches than any other system or company that we looked at before. The know-how, the integration parts of it, decades-long leadership of Wendt is very apparent in the product production, and the quality is why we chose to go with Wendt and Tomra.
Bill Close: Since you initially started this plant, market conditions have changed. Have the products you're producing evolved over time?
Sean Daoud: Prior to putting the system in, we saw zorba, zurik [and] heavies packages at all-time lows. I've never seen pricing that low in my time period in business, although albeit not that long, still a pretty fair amount of time. Now we are seeing the pricing levels return to some sort of normalcy that we're used to seeing historically; and, through that growth in value, we're also seeing ways that we can differentiate the product lines. Through the advice of yourself and others at Wendt and Tomra as well, [we] tune the lines to produce product lines that are much more attractive to buyers while maximizing metal recovery.
Bill Close: When you commissioned, I think you're making zurik, and now you're making a stainless package off the back end, so that's a good example of the flexibility of the equipment and the tunability. How has the training and support been from Wendt and the learning experience?
Sean Daoud: It's been good. There's always going to be hiccups. But overall, I think the support from Wendt is bar none anybody else. We pick up the phone regardless of the time period, you always answer, anyone else within the staff is always there. So, responsiveness, the replies we get are probably some of the best support that we have gotten throughout the industry.
Bill Close: Has your team been able to transition well into this plant and pick it up pretty quickly?
Sean Daoud: I would say so. We have team members that have other shredding experience. We have team members that have other downstream plant experience, not to this level and this extent, but enough know-how of the workings and the different nooks and crannies of it. Our learning curve [was] probably shorter than most. This plant was fully operational within less than a 30-day time period, and we were producing sellable products the first day we started it up. From our industry know-how with the management group that we have, also with the support from Wendt and Tomra, we have been able to have a very quick learning curve.
Bill Close: Your plant is one of the first that we had featured the new fines circuit on, where we're working with middlings at the eddy current, rescreening and a single [Tomra] Finder step to make a zebra package. How's it been working out for you?
Sean Daoud: It’s been good. Zebra and a heavies package is very new to us in terms of the shredding game and metal recoveries. We are learning what is needed in the product composition for good sales, and we're still working our way through it. Overall, it is one of the more valuable products that we do produce from this system because of the high copper content and because of the high ICW (insulated copper wire) content and other red metals that make it down that side of the line when it comes to anything that's under three-eighths of an inch.
Eric Thurston: What kind of challenges were you facing and what made you go in this direction?
Sean Daoud: Good question. A lot of metal shredders that are in steel here were dealing with the same issues about three or four years ago when China started to implement new regulations. Prior to this system, we were going for quality over quantity when those new regulations were put in place in China. For this system, we wanted to meet those standards, but get the metal recovery we weren't getting prior. We were still missing out on metal that we shouldn't have been missing out on. That was the biggest challenge that we faced with finished products, we just didn’t have enough of it. We had a high-quality product, but we didn't have enough of it. Now, we have multiple product lines of high quality [material], and we're not missing anything.
Eric Thurston: What made you choose to go with Wendt/Tomra Finders?
Sean Daoud: We chose to go with Tomra, obviously, just from the product quality standpoint. Any other company that was running this type of equipment and with the designs that Wendt had come with [it was] bar none in terms of product production and in how many times you had to touch the product. We'd seen other plants that would run with different equipment. You’d have to pass material twice through the plant to get up to the cleanliness that we have to meet [with] all the regulations in Southeast Asia, Europe and other parts of the world.
Eric Thurston: What finished products are you making, and what purity and throughput rates are you getting?
Sean Daoud: We are making a zurik shredded stainless, which is almost 100 percent recovered of shredded stainless. We are making a shredded wire package, which roughly recovers in the 40 percent range. Then we are making a zebra heavies, small shredder wire package, however you want to define it, that is about a 60 percent copper rate, with some other metals mixed in with it.
Bill Close: Sean, let's talk about the ROI on this plant. Has this been a good investment for your company?
Sean Daoud: It has been. We obviously did our initial review in a depressed market, and now that the values have returned, the time frame of the return for the investment for ourselves and for the company is going to be much quicker than we originally anticipated. So, we're lucky on our end; but, yes, it has been a very good investment so far.
Bill Close: Has this been a good experience, and would you consider buying again from Wendt and Tomra.
Sean Daoud: It has been a good experience, and this is the second time we've done a transaction with Wendt, obviously, the first time being the MTB Cablebox, and now with the downstream and working with Tomra on this one. We would definitely consider working with Wendt again.