Repairing containers, versus replacing, has a been a long-standing practice in the waste industry to extend the life of an asset. New innovations offer a variety of options for container repair.
By Paul Reidy
If you own steel commercial containers, you are likely familiar with the term ‘asset management’. New containers require a significant capital investment, which in recent years can fluctuate wildly based on the price and availability of steel. Repairing containers, versus replacing, has a been a long-standing practice in the waste industry to extend the life of an asset.
While several parts of a container may fail over time, the most common repair is replacing a corroded bottom. It is no surprise that the bottom is the Achilles’ Heel of a container as it is the final destination for most liquid waste and water. Eventually steel and moisture do not play well together, driving a constant repair cycle. Research has shown that the lifespan for a steel container is approximately 10 years and over that period a container will average two to three bottom replacements. The life of a container may also be affected by harsher environments and regional conditions. A container exposed to saltwater air placed behind a restaurant with a steady stream of organic waste is likely to corrode before a container placed in a more arid part of the country. Following is a series of best practices to reduce the total cost of ownership of a container that we have developed after having thousands of conversations and site visits with our hauler customers.
Sheet Steel Versus Prefabricated Steel Bottoms
Building bottoms from scratch using sheet steel may seem like the lowest cost repair option when looking solely at material cost. However, any perceived savings earned from buying sheet steel is typically negated when factoring the amount of labor and time it takes to build and install a bottom. Depending on the container and skill of the welders, building and installing a bottom from scratch can take anywhere from three and a half hours to six hours to complete. Compare this to a prefabricated steel bottom that can be installed in less than one and a half hours.
Assuming the use of two welders per container, prefabricated bottoms offer significant labor savings. Efficiency and productivity are also a key advantage of prefabricated bottoms versus sheet steel. Based on the aforementioned time studies, building bottoms from scratch yields one to two repaired containers per day. With prefabricated bottoms, the output of repaired containers per day doubles. This is particularly advantageous to shops with a heavy backlog of containers needing repair.
Quality of Steel Matters
Whether using sheet or prefabricated bottoms, the quality of steel matters. While it makes sense to migrate to the lowest cost, there is the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’. In interviews with haulers around the country, it is clear that the savings from low-cost bottoms is often offset by the amount of extra labor it takes for welders to work with poor quality steel. This hard, brittle steel is typically harder to bend tight against the container, requiring additional tack welds and creating gaps in the corners that become entry points for moisture. Brittle steel also has the tendency to snap when bending folded sides inward, which not only requires more welding, but also presents potential safety issues for the welders.
Alternative Bottoms Solutions
For those of us in the bottoms business, we have continually tried to innovate to provide alternative solutions to repair issues we see in the field. Due to the lack of standardization in container manufacturing, there are containers in the field of every size and shape. Adjustable slider bottoms are a great option for repairing odd size front and rear load containers. Like prefabricated bottoms, adjustable sliders provide a distinct advantage over building a bottom from scratch. For regions or locations subject to corrosive elements and subsequently a high volume of repair, a container repair system that features a plastic bottom will never rust or corrode.
Safety, Safety, Safety
When working with heavy steel containers and welding equipment, the repair of a container presents opportunities for something to go wrong. A few safety tips we recommend are:
• Whether you have overhead support or a forklift onsite, we recommend always keeping the container supported during a bottom installation.
• Provide ample space for welders to work. Ensure the work cell has clearance on all sides so employees can navigate freely around the container.
• We recommend the use of two welders when replacing a bottom. The extra set of eyes and hands can help with a safe installation.
• Wear proper PPE and clothing for both welding and assembly.
If your company has sustainability initiatives that include measuring your CO2 offset, container repair should be factored into your reporting. Use of repurposed steel in bottoms as well as the number of new containers you avoid purchasing with a repair program are all positive influences for your sustainability metrics.
There are companies that are available to provide complementary consultations and recommendations on container repair topics. A technical team conducts site visits, time studies, and process maps to help improve your process. They can also provide insight into how to incorporate container repair into your sustainability reporting.
Repairing containers, versus replacing, has a been a long-standing practice in the waste industry to extend the life of an asset. Building bottoms from scratch using sheet steel is typically negated when factoring the amount of labor and time it takes to build and install a bottom, safety risks and impact on carbon neutrality goals. New innovations offer a variety of options for container repair. | WA
Paul Reidy is Vice President of Marketing for Impact Environmental Group, a global leader in wear parts for the waste industry with a comprehensive parts and service offering for commercial containers, compactors, roll-off containers, truck tarps, and residential containers. For more than 20 years, Impact Environmental Group has been at the forefront of container repair, with an emphasis in the last decade on improving cost, quality, and efficiency of replacing bottoms. IEG also features bottoms installation tutorials on our YouTube channel. For more information, contact Liz Roth, Marketing Director, at (877) 454-3748, e-mail [email protected] or visit www.impactinnovates.com.