Wednesday 1st November 2006
— Mike Ross
Steel is an alloy of iron produced by heating coke, iron ore and limestone in a blast furnace. For over 150 years steel makers and foundries have been highly dependent upon scrap steel as a raw material in the production of new steel and cast iron products. In the United States, millions of tons of steel appliances, construction materials and automobiles are recycled every year. Depending on the process, scrap steel can make up 25-100% of the raw material for new steel.
Consumption of iron and steel scrap by remelting reduces the burden on landfill disposal facilities and prevents the accumulation of abandoned steel products in the environment. It is cheaper to recycle steel than to mine virgin ore. One ton of recycled steel saves 2,500 lb (1,130 kg) of ore, 1,000 lb (450 kg) of coal and 40 lb (20 kg) of limestone. The remelting of scrap steel requires much less energy than the production of iron and steel products from iron ore. This reduces energy consumption which in turn reduces the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.
Efficiently managing and recycling used steel products is important to maximize the utility of the commodity. “Scrap steel is being traded everyday on the stock exchanges, therefore the price per ton changes daily,” says Richard Tullis. “In order to stay profitable, you have to be competitive and that means having the right personnel and the right equipment.”
Richard and Linda Tullis, owners of Tullis Metals have been in the scrap steel business for 28 years. The company purchases scrap metal from industrial accounts and the public, processes it and resells it to recycling facilities. Based out of Buford, Georgia, Tullis Metals is just a stone’s throw from Gainesville where Tigercat distributor Smith & Turner Equipment is located.
Although the Tigercat name is not widely known outside of the logging industry, Smith & Turner salesman, Keith Reems convinced Richard Tullis to try out a Tigercat T240B track loader. The machine was delivered to the Tullis Metals yard in March 2006. Tullis was immediately impressed with the overall design and capabilities of the 240B. “It was equipped with a standard Tigercat [LG4053] grapple which has been great for removing the catalytic converter, gas tank and coolers from the cars,” says Tullis. “You can also remove the engine but we typically Leave it in the vehicle.” Tullis purchased the machine shortly thereafter.
The separation, processing and packaging of the small metal products like insulated electrical wire and aluminum cans is quite labour intensive. Tullis Metals employs eight people, most of whom are involved in the handling and separating of the smaller recyclables. Cutting torches are often used to cut up larger pieces into a manageable size that can be hand fed into the metal processing machine. The company also has a machine that strips down and chops up electrical wire into pure copper which is reduced to small pellets. All the metals have to be separated and properly packaged before being shipped to various recycling facilities.
The primary function of the T240B is to top load trailers with the large recycled items like cars, appliances, hot water heaters, bicycles, lawn mowers and swing sets.
Miscellaneous steel and tin is loaded first. As the T240B operator loads the trailers, he perio
dically drops a 3,000 lb (1,350 kg) flat weldment into the trailer to compact the contents. “This method helps keep the loader in good working order. Using the machine to compact the metal with the boom and grapple is not what the machine was designed to do, so we don’t do it that way,” says Tullis.
Three cars are placed end to end on top of the miscellaneous scrap metal to help keep everything in the trailer when transporting the material to the shredder. The operator uses a heavy I-beam weldment to compact the cars before placing them in the trailer.
The average payload is 30,000 lb (13,600 kg) and Tullis Metals delivers an average of ten trailers each week.
Tullis has adapted other tools to the loader. The operator keeps the area around the trailers clean by using a roll of heavy duty chain link fence as a broom to sweep the ground. Tullis always focuses on working the machine in such a way as to avoid unnecessary stress and wear.
It is quite evident that Tullis looks after his equipment and thus far he has experienced no downtime. Although the machine has been operating in the scrap yard for five months, it is washed and looks like new. “If you look after a machine it will last a long time,” explains Tullis. (He won’t admit to waxing it.)
He is currently investigating using a Rotobec rake style grapple in an effort to decrease the time it takes to load a trailer. This type of grapple is able to pick up a greater volume of material and might better utilize the powerful boom lifting capacity of the T240B. Tullis is also exploring the possibility of a magnetic attachment on a future Tigercat machine. “First, we have to convince Richard that he needs to replace his other older pieces with another Tigercat machine,” says Reems confidently.
Tullis joked to Reems that the next T240B he purchases needs to be discounted the price of a 2006 Corvette since the first Tigercat machine cost him that much extra.
When asked to explain this, Tullis grinned and said that when he decided to buy this new toy, he figured his wife deserved a toy too. Although Linda doesn’t drive the Corvette as much as Richard operates the T240B, they both thoroughly enjoy their new toys.