A dedicated in-house maintenance program, engaged managers and empowered employees can make all the difference in your baler’s performance.
By John Rueckert

To the casual observer, a baler seems like a pretty simple device. Material goes in one end, and bales come out the other end. In reality, a baler is a sophisticated collection of electrical, hydraulic and mechanical systems working in harmony to optimize productivity. Whenever this harmony is disrupted, efficiency, production and performance (and your bottom line) are compromised.

The number one concern for most operational managers is bale weight and optimizing the production rate of the baler. Regular questions I hear are, “How do I improve the baler throughput and how do I spend less doing it?” Listed below are a few key items to consider in your quest to improve baler efficiency.

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Bollegraaf HBC-120S baler.
Photos courtesy of Van Dyk Recycling Solutions.

Ram Function
If the ram is not moving, you are not running at peak efficiency. Look for a baler that comes with an inherent advantage like a pre-press flap. A pre-press flap gives a baler the ability to press a charge of material while subsequently preparing the next full charge. Regardless of the make or model of your baler, whether you have a pre-press flap or not, keeping your conveyor evenly loaded, and monitoring this simple element of ram movement can immediately improve productivity.

Involved Management
Your eye for efficiency will benefit operations greatly if you take the time to observe and interact with the folks on the floor. Too many times I have heard managers complain about endless conference calls. Building a winning team takes effort, and your time is better spent monitoring and listening to your employees.

Employees
Operating a baler properly requires more than pushing material onto the conveyor and taking bales away. A good employee will watch for problems that could jeopardize smooth operation, such as over or under loading the feeding conveyor. At the best running plants, I notice that operators “take ownership” of the baler. I have seen operators wiping down “their” balers at the end of the shift. Typically, employees at these facilities are empowered by management to take an active interest in every day operations. If they see something that needs attention, they know their voices will be heard.

Maintenance
On average, an efficient baler can produce a 1-ton bale every 90 to 120 seconds. A slight variation in pressures or misguided adjustments might add 10 to 20 seconds to this equation. No big deal, you might think. I am still making a 1-ton bale in two minutes. But over time, those seconds will add up to minutes and hours. That is more time for your entire operation from forklift to loader. Your costs slowly increase to produce the same amount of bales.

The best way to improve or maintain baler production is by keeping it operating to OEM specifications. Regular checks of all vital systems are a critical part of maintenance. Preventive maintenance inspections (PMIs) help your team achieve optimum efficiency. Proactive maintenance means huge savings and less unscheduled downtime in the long run. Look for a company that offers preventive maintenance inspections (PMIs) to help your team achieve optimum efficiency with your baler. They will send an expert technician to your site to check absolutely every working part on your machine. They should have documented proof of machines running continuously for a lengthy period of time. While customers should keep an eye on their baler through routine maintenance, be sure to get periodic PM evaluations from an expert as well.

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Expert technician inspecting a baler.

Act!
Once you get a report and/or recommendations—act on them! Nothing is more frustrating for technicians than visiting every six months with best intentions and watching a baler slowly deteriorate while production numbers go down.

Recently, a larger plant manager said to me, “They complain about my maintenance costs, but never about our downtime. Our production numbers are always the best in the region!” He follows a strict maintenance schedule and his employees know they have his dedication to their mission.

A dedicated in-house maintenance program, engaged managers, and empowered employees can make all the difference. | WA

John Rueckert is a senior baler technician for Van Dyk Recycling Solutions (Norwalk, CT). He has extensive experience in automation, electronics, hydraulics and machine design. He is based on the West Coast where he works in design and service, as well as training customers and colleagues. John perfectly represents Van Dyk’s reputation as a customer driven, maximum uptime partner in the recycling industry. He can reached at (203) 967-1100 or e-mail jrueckert@vdrs.com.

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