Evolutionary Efficiency

Features - Scrap Handling Equipment Focus

The addition of a material handler helped B&D Scrap Metal realize its growth potential.

April 11, 2012

Necessity, it is said, is the mother of invention. Proof positive of this adage is how B & D Scrap Metal, Charleston, S.C., got its start.

In the early 1980s, Ben Stroble started B & D Auto Salvage. The business of buying and selling parts from scrapped vehicles was the Stroble family’s primary source of income. The business generated enough revenue for the family to pay its bills and save some money for a rainy day.

That day came in mid-2006, when Ben passed away, leaving his wife and two sons to run the family business and pay the bills. The tragic event nearly wiped out the Stroble family’s entire savings. “We were down to our last $500 after paying for the funeral,” recalls Shaun Stroble, Ben’s son and co-owner of B & D Scrap Metal.

Even though the family still had the auto salvage business, it wasn’t generating enough revenue to keep up with the bills. Something had to be done to keep the business afloat, and Shaun had an idea to help earn additional revenue.

Starting with the remaining money, he and his wife, Shannon, decided to develop the scrap side-business Ben started before he died. “I took his 2-by-3-foot scale and started buying and selling scrap out of the back of an Isuzu pickup truck,” Shaun says. “I’d buy copper, steel, white goods…anything that could turn a dollar.”

Branching Out
He turned enough of a profit from the back of that truck to convince his mother to set aside half of B & D Auto Salvage’s yard for the new business. In August 2008, Shaun and Shannon officially opened B & D Scrap Metal, and, with the help of Shaun’s brother, Dustin, they began operating on four acres of the site that was previously reserved for salvaged vehicles.

Like most businesses started by necessity on passion and a shoestring budget, the scrap business did everything it could to get by in the early days. The small operation continued to accept anything that turned a profit from the truck—white goods, steel, copper, aluminum and other nonferrous metals—but now it was on a much larger scale, with land to sort and store inventory.

In the beginning, the yard consisted of a scale and front-end loader. Its customer base consisted primarily of local residents selling their scrap metal. The material was sorted in the loader bucket and loaded into 48-foot trailers with 8-foot tall walls.

A skid steer loader with a grapple bucket was soon added to the equipment mix. “We would load the trailers with the skid steers, and it took about four to five hours,” Shaun says. Once the trailer was full, B & D would sell the material to a larger scrap yard with more processing equipment.

Growth Inhibitors
As business volume grew, it became apparent that it took too much time to load a trailer, which hampered B & D’s ability to take advantage of favorable market conditions. The scrap operation’s next step was to rent an excavator to help load trailers. “It eliminated most of the labor from loading the trailers,” Shaun says of the new addition.

It also helped create the efficiency boost the company needed. Instead of hours, “it took about 45 minutes to load a trailer,” he adds.

As soon as the money was available, B & D purchased a used excavator and equipped it with a bucket rake and thumb. It was used solely to load trailers, and, as soon as Dustin became more familiar with machine operation, trailer load time was reduced to about 25 minutes. That is, if everything went well.

The more B & D used the excavator, the more its staff saw its design shortcomings when crossing over into a scrap application. It offered only about 20 feet of reach. If material for loading was positioned beyond this radius, the track-mounted excavator had to be moved, increasing trailer load time to about 45 minutes.

Visibility also proved to be a hindrance with the excavator. The stationary cab did not position the operator high enough to see over the 8-foot high trailer walls.

Initially, these efficiency inhibitors did not pose a problem to the business. Knocking hours off the load time when compared with using a skid steer was a welcome result. However, as customer traffic continued to grow, Shaun and Sharon began to see these “minor” efficiency hurdles for what they were—growth inhibitors.

During his many trips to larger scrap operations, Shaun paid attention to the equipment unloading B & D’s trailers. “I noticed they were using material handlers and saw how those handlers made things much easier,” Shaun recalls. “If it’s easier, it’s more efficient.”

Noticing how material handlers made things much easier at other yards, Shaun Stroble tried a Terex MHL 350D handler that Sunshine Recycling was selling.

Steve Brezinski, heavy equipment product manager, material handlers, for Terex® Fuchs, Westport, Conn., gives some insight into the reason. “As good as excavators are for digging, they just weren’t designed for handling material at scrap yards,” he says. “Terex Fuchs material handlers are purpose-built for the application needs of scrap yards.”

As B & D continued to grow and started struggling with the excavator, Dick Mizzell of Company Wrench, the Terex Fuchs dealer in South Carolina, periodically stopped in and spoke with Shaun about the advantages of material handlers. “He talked to us about Terex Fuchs machines for about a year,” Shaun says.

However, Shaun did not act until he saw an article in Recycling Today magazine covering the success Sunshine Recycling, Orangeburg, S.C., had with material handlers. “I saw the picture of the handler lifting a truck and called Dick,” Shaun mentions. “I didn’t know Sunshine or Joe (Joe Rich, president of Sunshine Recycling), but I wanted to demo a unit.”

Ultimate Efficiency
At the same time, Joe Rich was looking to sell his company’s last Terex Fuchs MHL 350D material handler after switching to the larger MHL 360D. “I arranged for a time to take Shaun to Orangeburg to demo the unit at Sunshine,” says Dick Mizzell, southeast regional manager for Company Wrench.

The handler’s hydraulically elevating cab was the first difference Shaun noticed. “You don’t have to break your neck to load a trailer,” Shaun says. “I fell in love with how the machine operated and decided we needed a handler.” The only issue was finding the right model to fit the operation.

Mizzell worked with B & D to determine if Rich’s used MHL 350D or a smaller model fit the company best. Shaun’s philosophy was to start with a smaller machine that allowed the company to grow. As the two started looking at new machines, the appeal of low hours and a warranty also weighed heavily in the decision.

“We looked at B & D’s current levels and anticipated growth, and we weighed the pros and cons of each Terex Fuchs model,” Mizzell explains. “The MHL 331D turned out to be the right fit for the tight area at B & D’s site and for the company’s budget. It is a versatile machine that offers efficient loading and unloading of material, allows them to do demo work and, most importantly, gives them the opportunity to grow.”

In late spring of 2011, B & D took delivery of its new Terex Fuchs MHL 331D material handler. With a 36-foot reach, the handler nearly doubles the pick radius of the excavator. Its large swing drive is designed to deliver fast working cycles, while a double row slewing ring design enhances machine durability.

The handler’s hydraulically height-adjustable cab lifts the operator to a 17-foot eye level to facilitate loading material into B & D’s 48-foot long trailers with 8-foot tall walls. The combination of slew drive, long reach, cab elevation and the machine’s 0.78-cubic-foot five-tine grapple has reduced trailer load time by approximately 75 percent when compared with the excavator.

“Dustin (the MHL 331D operator) can really work the machine,” Shaun says. “In about six minutes he can fully load a trailer with white goods to a 78,500-pound gross weight.” By contrast, all the material had to be within a 20-foot reach of the excavator to load a trailer within 25 minutes, otherwise it took 45 minutes. This increase in efficiency now allows B & D to ship out twice as much material in one hour as it takes in.

Shaun says he has found that the material handler is also available more hours of the day for scrap loading and unloading. The MHL 331D’s integrated central lubrication system is designed to automatically grease multiple points on the upper carriage and slewing joint. “It used to take us about an hour each day to grease the excavator,” Shaun adds.

When handler maintenance is required, B & D relies on Company Wrench to handle it, and the Terex Fuchs distributor has delivered, he says. “Company Wrench handles anything and everything when it comes to supporting the MHL 331D,” Shaun says. “If there’s a problem, they are there. We plan on sticking with the Terex Fuchs handler, especially because of the service they provide.”

A positive step in the evolutionary growth experienced at B & D, the MHL 331D has boosted productivity to the point where the scrap operation can easily move more material than it takes in. This has enabled the company to look for additional scrap revenue streams, such as e-scrap.

Thinking back, Shaun is happy with the company’s success and growth, especially with starting the business on such a shoestring budget. With the exception of one acquisition, he wouldn’t change a thing. However, as he explains, if money weren’t an issue those early days, “We would have gone with the new MHL 331D first. If you are going to make it in this business, you have to have the right equipment.”


The author submitted this feature on behalf of Terex Fuchs and Performance Marketing. More information is available at www.terex.com.