Pile of Scrap Ep. 18: The REB Strategy with Emory Olds & Randy Hanson
Sierra’s Recycle Everything Balers (REBs) are known for getting the job done both quickly and efficiently. However, achieving such high standards wouldn’t be possible without the help of a combined 60 years of experience in the business. John Sacco packs up and heads to Jesup, Georgia, home to Sierra’s manufacturing plant, to meet with General Manager Emory Olds and Head Technician of Sierra’s Two-Ram Balers Randy Hanson. Here, these guys talk specifics on the design and engineering of the World’s leading line of two-ram balers.
Watch this episode of Pile of Scrap here.
Emory Olds, John Sacco, and Randy Hanson
Intro: The following is an original audio series from Sierra International Machinery. Pile of Scrap with your host, John Sacco.
John Sacco: Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to another episode of Pile of Scrap. Well, as soon as I say it, all of a sudden, all the noise comes on. There, you got beep-beeps and we got everything going on over here. All right. Well, listen. I'm here today. Uh, I'm here in Jesup, Georgia and our new factory, our new building. And, I'm here with Emory Olds. Hello, Emory.
Emory Olds: Hello. Good to be here.
John: Randy Hanson.
Randy Hanson: Hi, John.
John: Handsome Randy Hanson. So handsome, you have to say it twice, right?
Randy: That's right.
John: Yeah, and Emory's Italian nickname is ‘Emerooch Olds Mobili,’ just so we get it all out of the way. What, uh, our Italian nicknames are for these guys. But, anyway… Today, gentlemen, you know, people who are listening to our podcast have learned a lot of things and I think I want to focus today on operations. You know, we sell balers, we manufacturer balers and conveyors, and I think it's educational for people – Some do's and don'ts before they buy a machine. And, when they buy a machine, when they're designing. And, I think we want to talk a little bit about that and a little bit of things about what makes balers work and in different formats. Emory, you are General Manager here at, uh, Jesup, our factory. And, you've been doing this for a long time. Tell us a little bit about your history in the baler industry and how long have you been doing this.
Emory: Well, I started in the baler industry in 1990. I worked for a few of our competitors.
John: 30 years.
Emory: Uh, yes.
John: All right. So, you worked for a few of our competitors.
Emory: I have. Don’t necessarily have to mention any names.
John: No, we don't do that. We don't have to do that. But you – with your experience with designing balers, um, you designed a lot of different things. So, tell us a little bit about where you started in design from hydraulics to structural and go from there.
Emory: Well, um, in design and recycling equipment, uh, basically, I guess I started with conveyors, uh, worked through a couple of, uh, conveyor designs for some of our competitors, uh, moved up from there into the baler world, uh, and got my feet wet with a few, um, narrow box balers, uh, some lidded balers and then, uh, from there, into some, uh, bale tie balers. So, they were doing both: baling and tying. And, uh, then moved from there into some, uh, very large, wide mouth auto ties. So, uh, in the Sierra world, you know, uh, things changed a little bit and uh, uh, we carried from there into, uh, a very large wide mouth two-ram baler, so.
John: That’s 30 years of baler and conveyor experience. Randy Hanson, tell us a little bit about your background in this industry, baler, conveyors and your technical background a little bit.
Randy: Well, I started in, uh, 1988. Uh, actually started in a shipping and receiving, uh, not realizing then how much that would actually benefit me later on. Uh, the shipping part because I was putting my hands on parts all the time, shipping parts, I began to understand, you know, what went where on a machine. Uh, shortly after that moved into, uh, electrical department and then, uh, wired machines, tested machines, and then moved into the service department in the beginning of 1989. So from then on, I, kind of, for whatever reason, seem to gravitate towards the two-rams and I’ve pretty much stayed with that product line.
John: So you – you are the head – Emory, you're a General Manager. You run this facility, the whole aspect. Randy, you're the Head Technician at Sierra for Two-Ram Balers. So, when we can't fix it, they call on you. You're the – you're the specialist, right? Doctor Hanson like some of them like to call you, right?
Randy: That's great.
John: Well you got a lot, a lot of experience. So, Emory, you've developed – you – you're very modest, but you – you hold – you hold some patents. How many patents have you – do you hold?
Emory: I believe I have five in my name.
John: And, since you've been with Sierra, there's two, right?
Emory: There is two.
John: How about you? You got any patents?
Randy: Uh, not necessarily patents, but a lot of times after the idea’s floated, I'm usually sitting in the meetings trying to hammer ideas out and how we think this might work in our industry.
John: Well, I know, cause we, we, we all have conversations: How to do things. And, it's funny, one day we were in Bakersfield and we're talking about how can we make a baler faster? How can we make it faster? And, then Randy comes into the meeting and says, “Oh, I know this conversation. How are we going to weld wings to a bullfrog?” In other words, we can't go faster. Somebody talk about speed. What is it about speed and its limitations as we are with technology today? Anyone of you.
John: Oh well, let's all not jump in there at the same time.
Randy: Well, well, well, you pretty much reach – reach the maximum velocity that seals in the cylinder. Uh, you start to move the cylinders any faster than what we're moving them now and, um, you get into, uh, an effect that will literally melt the seal and create, uh, cylinder damage.
John: So, you know, it's interesting because in the oil drilling business – a friend of mine who's in it – you can – drilling deep, you get, uh, high temperatures and they eat up a lot of drill bits. You know, you can go deeper, but you're just going to eat up the equipment. And so, it's trying to make it cooler. So, right now, cooling isn't an issue. You can't cool it because there's just too much friction for speed, right? So, we're at the max. So, this is what I want to segue from that. So, we're at the max speed – any baler, you know, what we've designed, but that led us into your newest patent on our REB-4, the dual compression…
John: And, the thought wasn't, “We're not going to move faster, we're going to do…”
Emory: “More volume.”
John: More volume. Describe that. So, tell us a little bit about that.
Emory: Okay. Well, uh, we, we took the same, um, baling dimensions, basically of our standard piece of equipment and we put devices on it that would let us pre-compress the material. So, basically that was giving us twice the charge, uh, as normal.
John: And so, a normal charge, when people understand – when material falls into the charging chamber of a baler, what percentage of that chamber is being used on a normal basis – on a regular two-ram? Versus your –
Emory: You know, it depends on the material, but it's never 100%. Baler – baler is never 100%. Uh, you know, if you've got a real loose material like plastic, you're going to lose 40%.
John: So, you're getting all this –
Emory: Like paper or cardboard, you may push out 10% or 20%. So, uh, your efficiency, uh, goes away with that material, uh, leaking out or pushing out of the chamber…
Emory: As the ram is going forward. Right. Rollback
John: So, that's – that – that's created the REB-4. And now, with the REB-4 that has the dual compression doors that keeps more mate–How much more percentage material are we actually getting in that charge comparative to, let's say, our REB-2 that doesn't have that feature?
Emory: Um, a 100% to 75%.
John: So, hence forth, what used to take 15 strokes now take seven strokes cause you're doubling…
John: See, that's the – that's what I like to–that's what – what's really unique – somebody asked me at a convention, now I was there at Waste Expo: “What makes your baler so much better?” And, one of sales–uh–representatives start talking about baler features. And, I stopped him about after 10 seconds. I said, “No, that's not what makes Sierra better. Our experience as a processor, our experience and who designs, our experience – who diagnosed and services machines are, you know, our experience and actually building these machines is what sets us, you know, makes it different.” You guys combined, how many do – you’re 32 years.
Randy: Going on 30.
John: And you’re, you know, combined. And, then with Jeff and how many years he's been, you know, we almost have a hundred years just between the three of you and actual baler fabricating, assembly testing, and service work. So, I think that, um, you know, that's what keeps us innovative and I love the fact that you have patents and we keep, you know, what – what can we do? And, we always have in that discussion: What can we do? What can we do better? And, you know, speaking of what you can do better, I find that in this industry, sometimes people designing these systems where balers go into or conveyors go into… They need to do better because they make some common mistakes. Randy, in your experience, what's the biggest mistake you see that you've seen in design, uh, of systems? Be it MRFs, be it just individual operations. What's the biggest mistake you see?
Randy: Uh, I think probably the biggest thing is area for storing the loose material before it goes to the baler. A lot of times you've called them bins or hoppers or just storage area, but, uh, most of the time it's, it's, uh, it just simply underestimated what they might need for a specific material. And, what that does to them is that means they have to do a material change over or a grade change over. And so, in a MRF application, you have to finish the material you're bailing and to start the next one, you can't mix a lot of the product. Um, and that change over time in that what that creates is a longer change over time. Um, and sometimes I've seen it run, you know, 10 to 15 minutes per material and then they do that 12 to 15 times a day. So, you know, they're losing two and a half to three hours-worth of dialing time just walking the product back and forth.
John: You know, and I'm not saying we know everything, but I think people who listen to this podcast talking about recycling and talk about design in these systems, that people have to be cognitive of what you said. You have to have a conscious about how much material you're going to have on your tipping floor that goes onto these conveyors because every space is a premium, right?
Emory: It is.
John: Even here we had to build this new $4 million facility because we were out of space in our 48,000 square foot building. So, we have to, you know, space is always a premium and people, I think, need to see that. What about you, Emory? What have you witnessed? What have you seen or mistakes people make when they're puttin’ systems that have our baler or any baler and command over the years? You know, this isn't just Sierra, this is with your experience.
Emory: Usually the least amount of thought is put into the baler. Everybody's concentrating on the material coming in and how they're going to process it through, uh, separation. Uh, and they leave a small square in the corner and expect to get a baler in it. No room for maintenance. Uh, bales are ejecting in the way of the traffic of transportation in the building, uh, cooler so close to the wall, they can't do their job and cool.
John: Yeah, they can't get the air flow that they need, especially in hot climates. And there's plenty of hot climates where these MRFs and systems are going into.
Emory: Right. But, the baler seems to be a second thought instead of a first thought in a lot of these facilities. Uh, and it may be that when they're designing the facility, they don't know who's baler is going to be there. So, I mean, catch-22.
John: So, I think those, those who are listening need to understand, “Hey, you may have somebody designing your system, but be proactive in the design of the baler that's going in there that you're, you're designing this – that the baler has enough room for the material to get to the in-feed conveyor and they can maintain the baler.” Because I always say, “If you can't maintain – if you can't get to it, you won't maintain it. And that'll be, that'll be a problem.” You know, at Sierra, again, we process 70-something thousand tons of recyclables year from scrap buyer to paper, non-ferrous material. So, we have a lot of experience. But, I get asked that question a lot in scrap metal operations. “Hey, what do you think about the design and the layout?” But, we don't get invited to that table very much into the fiber and into the waste sector. And, I think that's – that people need to hear this and understand, “Hey, bring us into this conversation earlier” and I think we can eliminate and create more efficiencies for them down the road. You know, that's just the personal. But, what about things – we got to ask the question too… We had customers here and they asked, “What are – what are the failures that you see during installation?” You came up with some pretty good, what are some of these failures?
Emory: Well, uh, preparation of the site for the equipment that's going to be unloaded. You know, sometimes it seems to be, even though, uh, uh, the whole process is, um, stepped out, one, two, three. It always seems to be a surprise. Maybe something to some customers when the equipment shows up, the area – the equipment's going to be put in. There's either a baler still there or the site hasn't been cleaned up and ready, power's not available, hydraulic oil is not available, wire for the wire, tires not available. Uh…
John: Well, I think that the conversations we have with customers is trying to prevent that, but we seem to run into it all the time. Well, we don't have our power. Well, why did you make us deliver it? So, I think people have to understand that that's costing people a lot of money to have our installation team to have to come back to complete installation because they don't have power. What about conveyor issues? What have you seen with conveyor and design when we don't get to do the conveyor? What have you seen in conveyors that hinder operations, Randy?
Randy: Not just ‘cause he had the ability to run a conveyor at a higher speed, um, it doesn't necessarily equate into better throughput to the machine. Uh, sometimes they'll go with a 60-inch and say, well, I'll just run it twice as fast. Well, if the material can't go up the bale, it doesn't matter how fast the conveyor runs. So, I see undersizing a lot of times. Uh, you know, and I understand this is their money and it costs money, but a lot of times it ends up costing you why your baler’s operating too.
John: Well, I had a customer who one day he bought a, uh, a REB from us – REB-1, and I say, “Well, you need a conveyor.” He goes, “Oh, I don't need the conveyor.” I go, “Well, you're going to lose a lot of production. And, I don't know, four or five weeks after the install, I got the phone call. “You're right. I need the conveyor” because, you know, without a conveyor, people think they can direct low, but really, what percentage less production are they going to get without a conveyor? Let's say in a non-ferrous application, let's go with a non-ferrous application.
Emory: 50%. I'd say, at least 50%, right off the bat.
John: That's a lot – that's a lot of production.
Emory: It is.
John: And I think, you know, but maybe some people knows the budgets are important, but if you can afford it, you put the conveyor in, don't you think? All right. So, when you go to these MRFs and you guys have been around, you've seen these things. Europe, no MRF, no conveyor, and non-ferrous, no paper is loaded with front end loaders. It's all material handlers. In America, it's all front-end loader. What's your opinion about that?
Randy: They, you know, I liked the material handler because it's, I mean, it's basically like your hand in your arm. I think one gives the operator more reach without having to move the equipment because as Emory mentioned before, there's constantly forklifts running around either, you know, picking up bales or, or taking bins that are – are uh, collecting overflow, you know, or something like that. So, it allows us to set the machine up and have a greater radius for reach around to you. And uh, I just think it's a little better in loading the, the, uh, in-feed bale because, uh, you can do a better job of distributing the material on the belt versus having a, yeah, a great big bucket’s nice, but you're dumping all that –
Randy: Yeah, exactly.
John: Clumps don't separate well and, I think, even burdened up, in my opinion, is a much better thing. What about you? What's your – what's your thoughts: front-end loader versus material handler. What do you like – one versus the other?
Emory: Well, I like the aspect of the handler because you can reach in with fingers, pull out items that you don't want to bale. You don't have anybody stepping on the belt or stopping everything because you've got a foreign piece of material and what you're baling.
John: Well, I like it too. It's a safety thing. You know, front-end loaders can move a large volume, but they're pushing and if you don't see what's on the other side, if somebody standing, they could get pushed and covered under a big pile of waste, paper, scrap metal, it doesn't matter, whatever they're pushing. And, you'll never see that guy. I got a video, I have a video of that happening. And uh, it’s just sad.
Emory: Not pretty.
John: No. You know, so, I think safety, you know, at Sierra, we have that saying and, you know, “Safely or Not At All.” And, as much safety as we try to build in and we try, but we can't always – we're not the guys operating it. And, we try to give our advice, you know, look, not only have you guys been doing this a combined 60 years, Sierra Recycling and Demolition has been doing recycling for 60 years. So, it's not like we're rookies at this. It's not like, you know. But, we're not – we're not also, you know, it's not gospel what we say, but w – I think our experience tends to lead to probably a little more efficiency and a lot more safety. That’s the way I look at it. I don't know. So, where is the craziest place in the world you've done an install?
Randy: Oh, well, um, I'd have to say probably in a little town called them Gangstad, Norway. Um, it wasn’t in the middle of nowhere, but that was a sign that said ‘turn left’ and you'd find the middle of nowhere ‘cause it was, I mean, it was way out. Uh, so I'd have to say that that was pretty interesting. Pretty interesting. And so…
John: Was it in Winter or Summer? When were you there?
Randy: I was there in the dead of Winter unfortunately.
John: How cold?
Randy: Oh gosh, it was in the negatives every day we were there. So, it was pretty rough.
John: What about you, Emory?
Emory: For a baler or just any piece of equipment? Let's stick with balers and conveyors for our industry. Uh, probably New Jersey. We had a brand-new start-up on a prototype machine. One of the patents. Uh, it was the dead of Winter, uh, an open-sided building and, uh, it was snowing sideways. It was a very – it was a very cold week. Well, actually, Randy was – Randy was there with me.
Randy: And it was very rough. We had a torpedo heater that we just lived by for 10 days.
John: Oh, I know that. I – you know, I did one, I've – I've said it before in this pod– but I've done a, uh, install with Antonio in -48 degree with windshield was -48. It was -18, but with the wind it was -48 degrees. And, uh, that was a, well, let's, I'm just glad I don't do installs anymore. I'm out of that business. Well, Shorty once told me, he goes, “John,” he goes, “look, just sell them. We'll figure that out at install.” And so, I think that meant, ‘John, you're in the way, get out of the way.’ But you know, it's what we do. It's our experience. So, here we are, we're in our new building. Tell us a little bit about, Emory, what we've changed here in Jesup in the last year with this new building, stuff we've added to become more efficient and a little bit better.
Emory: Oh um, well, obviously the new building we're in here as a 24,000 feet expansion. Uh, it's allowed us to get the inventory out of our production building and, uh, give us that room for extra production area. We've added a paint booth. It’s, uh, heated paint booths, so we can cure our paint jobs. Uh, get things in and out, cut down all the bottleneck we have on our current paint booth. We have added a five axis, uh, plasma cutting machine so that we're processing our own plate and, uh, beveling it as we cut it.
John: And are you seeing the efficiencies now? I mean, we just finished this, you know, really August, September is really – are we starting to see the efficiencies now?
Emory: You know, I am seeing it. I, you know, I can't add an, an exact percentage to it now, but it just seems monthly to get better. I mean – I mean, it's that obvious.
John: Okay. What about for you Randy? What do you see with all of this?
Randy: Uh, you know, the – I think the burn table and all, you know, the process in house, the distribution, I actually mentioned to him about a month ago that things are coming through the shop quicker and uh, you know. It's just, uh, what I like about it is something like that and you know, we have the cut and do all the drawings here, send it to the burn table. So, we were controlling the whole aspect of it now instead of relying on someone else to do that for us and it's – I've seen – I've seen a huge increase.
John: Why does this new building already seem…
Emory: Too small?
John: Too small? We need to add to it. But we, you know – the great thing is, is over here on this wall, we can expand this building another 60 feet to the North. It's already designed in there. But to me it's already like, “You might need to do that.” But, little steps at a time. We spent some good money here, but I, you know, I see it. It's fun. I love coming here to Georgia. I love, you know, I think the people are great. There's a great spirit here and I think we have a team that we've developed here over the years that really gets what it is we're trying to do. And, you know, that's the Sierra way. You know, from – look at all the Sierra, you know – we do so many different things outside of just building equipment and selling equipment and provides here – I mean, we do oil field service work, we do actual scrap metal processing, Ferrous, non-ferrous, you know, coppers, aluminum, stainless, we process paper. So, you know, we're very versatile in what we do, but I always enjoy coming back here to the factory. It's – needs to happen. I’ve been here quite a bit here in the last six months.
Emory: You have been.
John: I've been here, uh…
Emory: Three times.
John: Three times and I don't usually get here, you know, every two months.
Emory: That’s true.
John: So… but, I enjoy coming over here. I, um, we're going to need new off–more offices, not new offices. We need more offices, don’t we?
Emory: We do.
John: Does it ever stop?
Randy: It sure hadn’t.
John: Well, I think that's the beauty of what we're doing. So, look, I appreciate your guys' time. I just wanted people that see this podcast to know, look, I think when you engage with Sierra and you engage in the process of buying a baler, conveyor for your systems, for recycling systems, engage us early. I think we can help people in their design. And, I think we're not engineer's in design, but we have so much commonsense experience and I think that's what people need to know. There's a lot of experience just sitting here between the three of us. I grew up, you know, first piece of equipment I ever operated was a broom, right? So, I know what it is. I've run sheers, I've run balers. You guys have built balers, designed balers, conveyors, and everything like that. So, I think calling us a little bit, we can help and it really is a conversation more than it is anything else. I just think sometimes communication with customers is important. What do you think?
Emory: I agree.
Randy: It is number one.
John: Well, I think that's what it is. So, anyway, gentlemen, I appreciate it. How long before we put the expansion on here? Guess.
Emory: Um… Six months.
John: Really? Ooh. What do you think, Randy?
Randy: I was going to say 18 months.
John: 18 months. Well, I was thinking a year, so maybe…
Emory: We meet in the middle.
John: We meet in the middle. But, you know what, we’re blessed with having a, uh, a great product that you guys have developed that you guys build and service. Um, the marketplace has taken to it and I think our growth – we see the growth into these other industries that we are happy to have. And uh, hey, let's hope we get to expand. That means more jobs. You know, we've got a lot of people working in this plant, you know, and can you believe it's been 12 years?
Emory: It's hard to believe, but it has been.
John: 12 years since we hatched this idea and opened up our facility here in Jesup. Doesn't look like 12 years old. I walk around here, it still feels brand new to me. I think that's a testimony. The way you guys keep it, your housekeeping is outstanding. And, we invite anybody to come visit us at any time. Come see what we're doing down here because I think when they come and they see what it is we're doing, it's more than a sales pitch, it's more than a brochure. You know, they get to interact with people like yourself, Emory, and you, Randy, design and tech and all the different little things that go with it. So, gentlemen, I appreciate your time. Anybody want to say this is another episode of…
Randy: Go ahead, say it.
Emory: This is another episode of Pile of Scrap.
John: Excellent. Thank you.
Conclusion: This has been a Sierra International Machinery original audio series. Thanks for listening. Please share this podcast and make sure to subscribe.