Growing the Business
The company’s San Antonio and Conroe locations accept bio-solids from local wastewater treatment facilities. The move to make that happen, says Smith, has necessitated some major changes.
“These sites are not only a great addition to our business, it is also diverting all that organic material from the landfill, which is always a good thing.”
Several equipment purchases also assisted in the transition to the bio-solids-supplemented operation, including a Morbark 6600 Track Wood Hog horizontal grinder, which has already upped production and will be key in providing the material to blend with the Class B bio-solids.
“The decision to go with a Morbark horizontal grinder was really based on a number of different things,” says Smith. “For one, because of droughts and ban on burning, we started doing some off-site grinding for land clearing firms—essentially going to their sites to grind the tops and undesirable timber. We had a smaller machine at the time, so we felt that, if we were to continue building that part of the business, a larger grinder would get us into and out of those jobs quickly, allowing us to get back here to support the main operation. In addition, some of our bigger customers have grinding needs, so this fits that scenario as well. With that capability, we can become more of a solution provider than simply a vendor.”
Also at work was the fact that New Earth had additional machine purchases to make through Doggett Machinery, the local John Deere and Morbark dealer, putting them in a nice bargaining position.
“There is definitely strength in numbers, and Bill Talbot and Doggett Machinery treated us very well as we worked with them to meet our major equipment needs. We also demoed several grinders but eventually, after a trip to Morbark’s plant in Michigan, chose the 6600 Track Hog.”
Smith says that they had not originally intended to purchase a track-mounted grinder; but seeing one in action changed that for them. In retrospect, however, he sees it as one of the best equipment moves they’ve made, particularly in light of feedback he gets from his equipment operators.
“On the off-site jobs, our crews regularly cite the benefits the mobility offers them,” he says. “They love the fact that they can take the grinder to the material instead of vice versa and really like the speed at which the 6600 moves along. Our grinder operator tells me that these types of units generally crawl along slower than a person can walk, but the Morbark has two speeds: ‘Slow’ and ‘Get out of the way.’ That really helps keep production up and allows us to get wrapped up quicker.”
Smith adds that, though the new grinder burns more fuel than their older unit, those added costs are more than offset by the increase in productivity. “We are getting anywhere from double to triple the throughputs we were getting before—I’ll take that trade-off any time,” he says.
Right Equipment for the Job
New Earth’s Conroe location is something of a showplace for new and specialty equipment, each piece designed to maximize efficiency and productivity. That inventory includes John Deere loaders with special buckets to aid in the truck loading process; even Australian-based technology to improve accuracy and speed in measuring loads as they enter and leave the yard.
Equally impressive are the buckets with which two of New Earth’s John Deere 644 wheel loaders are equipped. Manufactured by CWS Industries, they offer a rollout capability, which has allowed the Conroe location to eliminate the need for a track loading ramp.
“These buckets feature an additional hydraulic cylinder that affords them an extra-long reach—long enough to top-load our trailers,” says Smith. “So, rather than having to go from the pile to the ramp, back to the pile, and so on, we can now just send the trucker to the pile and load him—over the course of a day there is a real time savings in being able to do that.”
The Same But Better
A pair of PremiereTech AP Series High Level Palletizers working in conjunction with their bagging operation rounds out New Earth’s process. In addition to simply ordering and stacking bags, each palletizer—the operation features two identical lines—also tracks the number of pallets filled, the number of units per minute, the number of rejected bags, the total number of bags, and more.
“On average, we do about 90-100 pallets—roughly 5,400-6,000 bags—each day,” says Smith. “The system is so complete and so automated that we can run that entire bagging/palletizing operation with just two men.”
“There are a lot of challenges to running a successful composting and soils business, but we are committed to seeing that it is done right, and that extends all the way to ensuring that we have the best equipment to make it all happen,” Smith continued. “Between this foresight, our crews and the support of our equipment dealers and suppliers, I’d say we’re in pretty good shape.”