Mobile services produce new revenue stream

Short on employees and facing tighter margins, one Wisconsin recycler finds success.

doosan excavator with a genesis mobile shear

Photo courtesy of Doosan Infracore North America/Two Rivers Marketing

When faced with new challenges, Chris Burt looked beyond his company’s scrap yard to new revenue opportunities. He saw potential in offering more mobile services, which since have led to considerable company growth and success.

As the general manager of Marshfield Scrap, Marshfield, Wisconsin, Burt wears many hats. One area of expertise is his knowledge of equipment and how to make the most of it. When presented with an opportunity several years ago to outsource some of the company’s idle machines, Burt saw it as a chance to increase the machines’ use and bring in extra revenue.

“We’ve got equipment in six other yards periodically—whether it’s excavators with demolition grapples, a machine with a magnet on it or an orange peel grapple with a magnet or baler—or going and doing some custom shearing,” Burt says.

For the past 22 years, Marshfield Scrap has served customers’ recycling needs. Outsourcing construction equipment from the company’s main facility in Marshfield started about five years ago when Marshfield Scrap purchased a scrap yard in Ironwood, Michigan.

“We’ve been supporting other scrap yards with either equipment or trucking or [by] whatever means necessary,” Burt says. “We see that everybody has the same set of problems: Keeping good help is hard, equipment is expensive and margins are tight. A lot of times in these yards, equipment doesn’t get full utilization. But if we can work with other smaller yards or [yards] of equal size to us and can start supporting them with some of our equipment, then that’s how we've seen growth in our mobile services.”

In a commodity industry where prices fluctuate, Burt says taking this approach is not only good for Marshfield Scrap, but it helps other recycling companies stay in business.

“If you can co-op your equipment with other smaller yards, and you’re moving the machines around, it keeps that equipment busy all the time,” he says. “It’s easier to amortize it, pay for it and everything else. We still have our main yard. But our business model has been geared towards mobile services a lot more in the last five to seven years. And that’s been my main focus: trying to build that mobile services division.”

Feeding the foundry

A main source of income for Marshfield Scrap is supplying metal to Waupaca Foundry Inc. When material arrives at Marshfield Scrap, it’s sorted and readied for processing. Five mobile shears are kept busy processing metal into a package that is acceptable for the foundry.

“That’s been our focus: the 3-foot package that we put into Waupaca,” Burt says. “And that’s been our strategic advantage, too; we’re one hour away from that facility. We’ve found that the shears are our best value-added labor item.”

Other companies certainly can grade, sort and load material. Burt says, “You’re a glorified trucking company,” but “once we started putting some value-added labor into things, that’s the direction we went, supplying a foundry because of the proximity.

“And that’s part of the reason we were able to support some of these other smaller yards. They don’t have big volumes. But the cumulative volume between all of those yards is substantial enough that we're able to get a decent-sized contract every month and know that we got a good material flow. And then by having that contract, we’re able to protect those small yards from fluctuations in pricing and the spikes and drops in the markets.”

Nearly 100 percent of the metal that arrives at Marshfield Scrap is recycled, and Burt and the employees are particular about the material when it arrives in a roll-off or lugger container. They’re careful to ensure that the inbound scrap metal isn’t dirty or contaminated.

Heavy-duty, versatile equipment

As you might expect, Marshfield Scrap relies on a variety of equipment to handle the volume of ferrous and nonferrous metal delivered to its facility. Two mini excavators are complemented by two larger crawler excavators. Recently, the company purchased its first material handler—a DX225MH-5 manufactured by Suwanee, Georgia-based Doosan Infracore North America, with an orange-peel grapple attachment and a 36-inch magnet—from Swiderski Equipment, with five locations in Wisconsin.

material handler with scrap
Doosan Infracore North America/
Two Rivers Marketing
A DX225MH-5 from Doosan

“That material handler allows us to sort material, stage material for shears and then sort and clean materials,” Burt says. “It’s better. It’s not the old-fashioned groundwork where you got a bunch of ground guys trying to sort material. But it’s not a mechanical sorting system like a shredder would be.

“The reach on the material handler works well for us because it allows us to sort the material and load the trucks without having to move,” he continues. “You’re not doing multiple setups.”

Having a range of  machine sizes in a fleet is the name of the game for today’s recyclers. Burt Marshfield Scrap bought a DX180LC excavator with a 335 shear from Genesis Attachments LLC, Superior, Wisconsin, because “it was fairly easy to move around” compared with a previous excavator and shear combination. Some larger pieces of equipment had even bigger shears mounted to them. That presented problems for Burt.

“Those pieces of equipment are hard to get in and out of small yards,” he explains. “They’re tall. You get some bridge problems. So, moving those things around is a lot more difficult than moving around that Doosan DX180LC with a Genesis mobile shear on it. Any lowboy trailer, and away you go.”

Smaller excavators play a leading role in production for Marshfield Scrap, too. Two 8.5-metric-ton DX85R-3 mini excavators are ideal for smaller jobs, such as loading roll-off boxes, Burt says. He says Marshfield, Scrap has loaded gondola trailers with the mini excavators. A quick-tach mounting system makes it easy for Burt and his operators to switch their priorities.

“We’re able to switch over to a third-member shear for downsizing equipment and then go back to the bucket and thumb for loading,” he says. “So they’re pretty versatile. That’s why we went with the one with the steel tracks on it.”

In terms of the durability of the company’s excavators, the operators put the machines through their paces each day.

“You’re asking for 5,000 psi at 120 gallons a minute at the end of a stick,” Burt says. “And you’re asking for that over and over and over and over and over. In a day’s time, you’re talking probably three to four cycles per minute. And you’re talking eight-hour days. I mean, you don't make a machine do that under normal circumstances.”

Having reliable, comfortable equipment not only helps companies like Marshfield Scrap stay productive; it’s a tool for recruiting and retaining operators.

“Having newer, better equipment has been a big deal for these guys,” Burt says. “If they feel like their comfort and their productivity and their overall job satisfaction is important, well, you want to put them in a good piece of equipment. You want to make them feel that you appreciate everything they’re doing. And you really do, because, without them, everything grinds to a halt.”



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