A new class of loaders can enhance compost producers’ efficiencies.
By Ted Dirkx
Mid- to larger-sized articulated loaders are already a staple within composting facilities. These machines are used to move and load raw materials into grinders, maintain compost windrows, assist with screening material, transport finished compost around the site, and support retail sales. The fact is: a lot of work gets done in a composting facility with wheel loaders.
However, is the same-sized loader efficient for every phase of the composting process? A one-size-fits-all equipment strategy may be impacting your composting facility’s operating costs and productivity. Material handling needs change as incoming raw material is processed and turned to mulch. In the early part of the process, larger loaders with higher lift capacities are required, but those same loaders may be too much machine for handling retail compost blends and soil. Unless your composting facility is selling end-products by the truckload, using compact articulated loaders may be a more efficient equipment solution for some of your daily operations.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the topic by looking at five reasons to add a compact articulated loader to your composting facility’s equipment fleet.
#1: Streamlined Operations
Larger articulated loaders can be a significant capital investment for composting facilities, and if yours is like many, you likely share loaders across the multiple phases of the composting process. So, the same loader used to move material to the grinder and/or trommel screen is also responsible for loading customers’ retail compost blends and soils. This approach can impact the efficiency of your facility as other equipment operators are left waiting for the material while a loader is being used elsewhere.
Pulling a larger loader from the yard to the retail section to help with loading can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour round trip, depending on the size and arrangement of the facility. Adding to that is the unpredictability of the customer’s timing and need. Facilities only selling bulk material may have a good handle on customers’ schedules, but there is much less control in the process when selling to contractors, municipalities, and homeowners. In this scenario, loader operators are forced to spend their day jockeying around the site, trying to keep ahead of it all. It is not ideal and will have an impact on other areas of your operations.
#2: Sized for the Location and Application
You also need to think about the size of the wheel loader you are using in the different areas of your operations. Big loaders work great for handling bulky, heavy material in large operating areas. However, if your yard’s retail space has a much smaller footprint, and the material is stacked much closer together, a compact articulated loader could maximize efficiency and productivity.
Compact articulated loaders achieve high maneuverability with a small machine footprint. The ability to quickly drive around stacked material, scoop, and load trailers without having to constantly make steering adjustments to avoid backing into another pile saves time. And since compact articulated loaders have a telescopic boom, they offer enough reach to load trailers with high sidewalls.
#3: Optimize Fuel and Operational Efficiency
There can also be an operational efficiency reason to consider mixing up the size of the loaders. Larger loaders are equipped with big engines to deliver the horsepower needed for heavy lifting and hauling, which may be necessary in many areas of your yard—but not everywhere. Unless you are selling bulk loads of compost, investing in a smaller horse-powered articulated loader for your retail space could help reduce your fuel bill because:
Compact articulated loaders are more fuel-efficient than an average wheel loader used at most composting facilities.
Having a dedicated compact articulated loader in your retail section cuts down the fuel bill for your larger loaders since you will not need to move them over longer distances as frequently.
Of course, adding a compact articulated loader may also impact other operational costs. Whether a machine is being walked from one end of your facility to the other or loading material into a trommel screen, hours are hours. Optimizing how you use your loaders onsite may help extend service intervals for your whole fleet.
#4: Accommodate a Broader Range of Customers
Bulk sales are important for many large composting facilities, but selling in smaller volumes can be profitable, too. The individuals buying smaller quantities are landscapers, landscape suppliers, golf course superintendents, and homeowners. These customers likely are not pulling onto your yard with a semi-truck and trailer—most are probably driving a pickup truck and pulling a trailer because they only need between a ½-1 ton (metric ton) of material. Using a loader with a 3.3-12 cubic yard (2.5-9.2 m³) can be too much machine for loading these trailers. It can also be an issue because the loader arms can hinder sightlines to the trailer, and you risk overloading these small trailers.
With a compact articulated loader, operators have high visibility to their surroundings and can control the volume of material they are dumping. The loader’s size and maneuverability can help compost producers serve customers efficiently, no matter what size truck and trailer they have.
Since compact articulated loaders can be outfitted with many attachments, including forks, they are also ideal for loading palleted material. These loaders have a multi-tool attachment plate, which means they can accommodate a wide range of authorized attachments.
#5: Facility Maintenance Support
Compact articulated loaders can also be a better option for facility maintenance than other tool carrier types, including full-sized skid steer loaders. Did you know that there are several advantages that compact articulated loaders have performing all those odd jobs around the yard, like sweeping, pushing snow, and moving material/supplies?
One of the most important advantages is their articulating capabilities: smooth turning means you will minimize ground disturbance on wet days and will help maximize tire life. Also, compact articulated loaders have fast travel speeds, the suspension system enhances ride comfort, and the operator station sites are high for visibility of the surrounding area.
Successful composting operations understand the need to optimize every part of their operations to manage operating costs. Evaluating the size of the wheel loaders used in various parts of your composting yard can help do that. As you can see, there are several ways adding a compact articulated loader can help control operating costs while potentially expanding your customer base. With compact articulated loaders, you get a versatile machine, sized right for many parts of your operation where bigger is not necessarily better. | WA
Ted Dirkx is the Sales Manager for Environmental Equipment at Vermeer. After studying composting and graduating with a degree in Environmental Studies from Central College he joined equipment manufacturer Vermeer Corporation in Pella, Iowa. For the past 11 years he has been traveling about 25 weeks a year roaming North America and beyond helping organizations setup compost facilities, manufacture mulch, clear land, and produce biofuels. As he interacts with operations he is a curious learner of all things that make their operations successful. He has presented at the Compost Council of Canada Conference, Canadian Wood Waste Recycling Association, Waste Expo, and USCC Conference on topics related to operational efficiency and maintenance. Dirkx can be reached at [email protected] For more information, visit Vermeer.com.
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