June 12, 2015

Having a Good Run

Broad Run Recycling increases productivity and manages costs with help of Deere equipment.

Manassas, Virginia, is the site of Bull Run, where the first battle of the Civil War took place. It is also home to Broad Run Recycling (BRR), the first construction waste recycling facility to be certified as a sustainable recycler.

The company processes 500 tons of construction debris a day with the help of two John Deere excavators and a wheel loader. A 135D Excavator feeds the steady flow of incoming construction waste onto a mammoth conveyor. From the conveyor, the debris travels through a maze of screens, belts, magnets, and a manual sorting line to be separated into bundles of cardboard and piles of wood, metal, aggregate, and dirt.

Instead of ending up in a landfill, the material is sold in the recyclables market. A John Deere 624K Loader lifts hundreds of tons of dirt and aggregate into dump trucks all day. Residual, non-recycled waste is burned as a biomass fuel by a waste-to-energy plant in Fairfax County, generating electricity for approximately 80,000 homes. At the other end of the facility from the 135D, a John Deere 160G LC continually loads the refuse-derived fuel into trailers to be hauled to the plant.

The environment at BRR's facility is about as harsh as it gets. Construction dust gets so thick it can be hard to see. Deere machines have delivered reliable performance where lesser machines have failed.

Putting the Boom Back into a Booming Business
Manassas is just across the Potomac from Washington, D.C., a city striving to be the greenest of the green, having embraced a number of sustainability initiatives such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). BRR founder Kevin Herb saw a business opportunity in the emergence of green-building design and, with the help of partners Andrew Aman and Eric Nelson, opened the company's 26,000-square-foot plant in January 2008.

The timing was unfortunate for, as Herb describes it, an economic tsunami hit and the housing market came crashing down: "The whole world came to an end and commodity values plummeted. It was a struggle the first three years."

But in the last few years as the housing market recovers, business has been booming. In 2011, BRR began servicing Washington, D.C., and its growing number of construction and demolition contractors.

Margins, however, are thin. The monthly fuel bill alone for BRR's 17 trucks is tens of thousands of dollars. "This is a very expensive business to run," says Nelson. "It really helps to have a predictable budget."

However, the company's original excavators made by another manufacturer where giving them constant headaches. "The boons were always failing—they were actually snapping in two. Hose breakage was also a constant problem. Our machines always seemed to be down."

R & D-eere
The company switched to Deere excavators after Nelson read about their exceptional track record in trade magazines. "John Deere is more advanced in their R & D. This is a fairly new industry, and Deere has been paying close attention to our needs and wants—they are ahead of everyone else in that regard."

According to Nelson, some companies have not put in the R & D necessary to prepare the machine for this environment, which is extremely dusty. "Other machines are more geared towards outdoor work, not indoor work. Deere machines are designed to be very simple to maintain and make it easy to clean out the dust at the end of the day. Trash guards keep garbage from getting into the wheels, so operators don't have to keep jumping out of the machines. They're just better-designed machines."

Deere machines have been extremely durable and reliable. "Booms aren't breaking. We don't need to replace hoses all the time. We're not having all the constant breakdowns and high repair costs like we were with the competitor's machines. Our maintenance costs are extremely predictable now and not exceeding budget every month, which makes our jobs as managers a lot easier."

"We're Sold"
Service and support from BBR's Deere dealer have been excellent. "They always have the parts we need, and they quickly take care of any issues—which are minor—on the same day or the next day," says Nelson.

The Deere machines have been more productive, too. "We noticed immediately that they get more done. They're just quicker and more efficient. We had to slow things down so the rest of the sorting line could keep up, but our throughput still jumped a couple of tons an hour."

And the machines are spacious and comfortable. "Our operators love them. They work 10 to 12 hours in a harsh environment, so they appreciate being in a nice cab. Having nice equipment helps us retain operators.

"Deere machines are simply more efficient and easier to run in this environment. It's been just a better experience all around. We're sold."