Nebraska Company Upgrades Grinder for Mulch Production: Meyer Inc. Chooses Rotochopper MC-266 for Grinding, Coloring
Rotochopper machine is integral to operations for a Nebraska sawmill and pallet manufacturer; Meyer Inc. upgrades to a new machine to increase colored mulch production.
By Diane M. Calabrese
Date Posted: 10/1/2005
SOUTH SIOUX CITY, Nebraska — Meyer Inc. celebrated its 25th anniversary this past summer. Just over 25 years ago, Scott Meyer and his father, Leonard, evaluated the potential in two separate, existing businesses. Seeing a good outlook for each, they bought the businesses and combined them.
Today, Meyer Inc. retains the connection to its two roots. "We are a pallet manufacturer and a sawmill," explained Scott. The company, which manufactures low-grade lumber and pallet stock, is a member of the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association. Along the way, changes have been made to capture other market segments for wood products. For instance, converting bark and wood scrap to mulch was part of the plan from the start.
Meyer Inc. began grinding operations in 1990 to produce mulch that was sold to wholesalers in the landscape market. The company began by using a Schutte wood hog.
By 2000 Scott wanted to move definitively into the mulch market. He needed a machine that could meet different requirements of his customers, including the ability to produce different textures of mulch, from bulky to fine, and also colored mulch.
Scott decided to invest in a Rotochopper MC-166 for his growing mulch business. It can simultaneously grind and color. "We were looking for something that was mobile to process bark, wood and pallets," he said.
Scott recently replaced his first Rotochopper, the MC-166, with a Rotochopper MC-266 in order to increase production. He chose a diesel powered machine because he believed it would be more economical than electricity in his region. He also wanted the mobility of the Rotochopper MC-266, which is a road legal machine.
Scott purchased the Rotochopper MC-266 and at the same time the Rotochopper Go-Bagger 250 mulch bagging machine. Although only a small part of the company’s mulch production is bagged, Scott feels that providing bagged mulch is a valuable service to his customers. Bagged mulch, without labels, is sold to landscapers.
Meyer Inc. grinds primarily wood waste and bark generated by the sawmill operations. It also grinds scrap pallets as a service to some customers.
The Rotochopper MC-266 met and exceeded Scott’s expectations. He said he particularly appreciates the reversible fan on the radiator, one of several options he chose for the machine. The reversible fan keeps the radiator clean and the engine cool under the hottest and dustiest conditions, he explained. In the long run, it should translate into greater longevity and less downtime for the machine.
Designed by Rotochopper Inc. of St. Martin, Minn. to handle pallets as easily as it does slabs and bark, the Rotochopper MC-266, a horizontal grinder, has an 18-inch high by 66-inch wide opening. Because it colors as it grinds, the Rotochopper brings efficiency to the process of making colored mulch.
Under optimum conditions the Rotochopper MC-266 can grind and color whole pallets and fill a 100-yard trailer in 40 minutes with high quality 1-3/4-inch mulch. When producing natural uncolored mulch, the Rotochopper can grind and fill a trailer in 20 minutes.
Meyer Inc. has 20 acres of land for its operations. The sawmill was upgraded in 1995 and now is equipped with an HMC rosserhead debarker, an HMC circle mill with an AC-50 carriage, and a Cedar Creek vertical edger. A Precision 48-inch chipper processes residual material into chips for pulp and paper markets.
In 1996 Scott decided that there was a better way to produce pallet stock than to square cants in the sawmill and then move them across the yard to the pallet stock cut-up line. "We decided to integrate," he explained.
A new building was constructed behind the sawmill building to house the pallet stock cut-up line. The cut-up shop was fully equipped by Brewer Inc.-Golden Eagle. Cants are cut to the correct length with a Brewer Inc.-Golden Eagle cut-off saw, then are resawn on a Brewer Inc.-Golden Eagle thin-kerf, double-arbor gang saw. Slabs from the sawmill are conveyed into the cut-up shop and are put through a Brewer Inc.-Golden Eagle three-head horizontal band resaw to recover boards. The shop is also equipped with a pair of Brewer Inc.-Golden Eagle two-head band resaws and a Brewer Inc.-Golden Eagle double-head notcher with Econotool cutting heads. Finished material exits onto an 80-foot green chain to be graded and pulled.
Brewer is known for its thin-kerf circular gang saw and band resaw innovations and applications for sawmills and the pallet industry. For example, its Millenium gang saw has three arbor settings to allow for changes to smaller blades with thinner kerf. The company offers custom plant layout and design services.
Meyer Inc. employs about 35 workers, and the sawmill operations produce about 20-25,000 board feet per day of low-grade lumber. "We cross over as needed," said Scott. "We’re a small business," he noted, and employees are trained for the various operations of the company.
Meyer Inc. has about 40,000 square feet under roof. The sawmill and cut-up shop take up about 20,000 square feet. Another building housing pallet assembly operations contains about 14,000 square feet.
The company normally buys logs ranging from 7-14 feet long. Cottonwood, ash, maple and native hardwoods are among the species it buys, and cottonwood predominates. "We buy from independent loggers," said Scott. The loggers generally work within a 150-mile radius of South Sioux City, Neb.
The pallet assembly plant is equipped with a Morgan nailing machine, which is used for short runs, and a newer
Some custom pallets are assembled by hand with power nailing tools. Workers may be manually assembling pallets at as many as five tables. The company uses Hitachi nailing tools and Senco collated nails.
Custom pallets remain a significant part of the business at Meyer Inc. Over the years, custom pallets have ranged in size from 1-foot square to as large as 6 feet by 12 feet. In all, the company manufactures over 150 different pallet specifications, Scott estimated. The company also manufactures wood crates and containers, using jigs and assembly forms made by the Meyer Inc. staff.
In addition to pallets, crates, lumber and mulch, the company sells some of its pallet cut stock production as well as dunnage.
South Sioux City is the sister-city of Sioux City, Iowa. The two communities straddle the Missouri River. A town of nearly 10,000 residents, South Sioux City is located in the northeast corner of the Cornhusker State.
The customer base at Meyer Inc. is large and reflects the diverse economic base of the Upper Midwest. "We serve pharmaceutical, telecommunications, meat packing, irrigation, feed and seed," said Scott. That’s the short list. Most customers are within a 150-mile to 200-mile radius, but Meyer Inc. has customers well beyond that range, too.
Scott made another important investment decision in the last year. "We just put in a Temp Air unit this winter," he said, for heat-treating pallets. The Temp Air pallet heat-treating system, which uses natural gas for fuel, is being used for about 40% of the company’s pallet production. The company’s heat-treating operations are certified by Package Research Laboratories.
Meyer Inc. also provides pallet recycling as a service to some customers. The pallet recycling operations consist mainly of repairing odd-size pallets for certain customers.
In addition to ordering his new Rotochopper with the bagger and reversible fan options, Scott also chose three other important optional features. The Rotochopper MC-266 at Meyer Inc. has a remote control so that it can be run by the loader operator; the remote control system makes it possible for the loader operator to perform two tasks. The machine also has five screens to enable it to make different size mulch products. It is powered by a Cat 463 hp engine.
Meyer Inc. produces three colors of mulch — brown, red and gold – although the Rotochopper system can use different colorants to produce a wide range of colored mulch products. Rotochopper’s patented Power Application System (PAS) delivers water, colorant, odorants, fertilizer or pesticides to the grinding chamber via a manifold. The MC-266 is equipped with a 500-gallon tank to facilitate the system. The grinding and coloring process reaches 2,000 revolutions per minute, a speed that enhances the even dispersion of colorant.
Scott studied at University of Nebraska-Lincoln before going to Peru State College in Peru, Neb., where he earned a degree in business and finance. Entering the wood products industry was a fortuitous step. Leonard and Scott had the opportunity to buy the absentee-owned sawmill and pallet companies. Both held much promise for expansion, and he was confident he could develop the companies and grow them further.
"Working with customers, providing what they need," said Scott, is one of the things he likes most about being a business owner. Another is the ongoing opportunity of "attempting to improve" a business.
Nebraska is one of many states encouraging litter reduction and recycling with financial incentives. Meyer Inc. received a $27,690 state grant in 1999 for designing improvements to the mill. The company was one of 44 that received a total of $750,000 in state grants to enhance recycling efforts.
For all the skills he brings to his business, Scott sees the successes of his company as bound to the interaction with other people. "We’ve been blessed with very good employees and good customers," said Scott, who enjoys golf in his spare time.
"I’ve got several 25-year employees," he added, and several long-term employees who contribute greatly to Meyer Inc. He cited Terry Roberts, the sawmill manager as being "instrumental in designing and laying out the production areas of the new mill."
Clyde Banta is the company’s bookkeeper and Leland Nelson oversees trucks and maintenance. Dale Mackling is production foreman in the pallet plant and oversees the heat-treating operation, and Cipriano Castillo works closely with him. Ray Nelson is a long-time truck driver, and Mike Lewis has been a loader operator for many years. Darrell McTeer is an expert sawyer.
Do you want reprints or a copyright license for this article? Click here
Research and connect with suppliers mentioned in this article using our FREE ZIP Online service.