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Drumtech Poised in Leading Edge
Drumtech has built a strong reputation in the drum reconditioning industry by doing things right.

By Rick LeBlanc
Date Posted: 4/1/2000

ST. LOUIS, Missouri — Drumtech, a company that supplies reconditioned drums and other industrial packaging, is a shining example of doing things right.

The company is on the forefront of emerging trends in the drum industry, such as shifting material preferences (plastic drum use is growing at 5% to 8% annually), reducing solid waste, and meeting ever-escalating environmental and safety regulations. By being out front on issues facing its industry, Drumtech has turned challenges to strategic advantages.

Like many an entrepreneur, Drumtech chairman Bill Shocklee started out as a customer of the industry he would eventually join. He worked for a paint and coatings company. As an employee of a company that used drums, he developed an understanding of what drum-using businesses were looking for from drum suppliers. When two major container companies in the area went out of business, an opening was created for Bill to go into the drum business for himself.

Bill started his company in a small building on a six-acre parcel in the center of St. Louis in 1977. After years of building the business, the company launched an affiliate, Polygran LLC, in 1998. Polygran recycles plastic buckets, bottles and jugs made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic. Last year Drumtech expanded further by acquiring a Kansas City-based container company, which it renamed Drumtech-KC, LLC.

Drumtech now is one of the largest suppliers of new and reconditioned industrial containers in the Midwest. It employs more than 40 people in its two locations, and its combined operations process up to 3,500 containers per day.

The Kansas City plant processes closed-top steel drums for oil and lubricant repackagers. The new location also serves as a distribution and recovery point for other types of industrial packaging that are accumulated and transported to the St. Louis facility for processing.

"The new site allows us to serve our Western customers better and opens us up to new markets," said Chris Shocklee, sales team leader and Bill’s son. "Instead of eight states we can now serve 15 states effectively."

When it comes to plastic or steel drums, both have their advantages in particular applications, Chris noted. "You can’t put a highly flammable product in a plastic drum," he said. "Water-based and corrosives are more suited to plastic. Neutral materials may go in either."

Reconditioned drums are inspected to determine whether or not they can be reused. Regardless of its final disposition, each drum is thoroughly cleaned inside and out. Steel drums that cannot be reused are crushed flat and sold for scrap.

Drumtech also offers closed-loop reconditioning of industrial packaging. "We do a lot of that for oil companies, such as Phillips Petroleum and Conoco Inc.," Chris said. "They buy a fleet of new plastic drums and we recondition them over and over. This is obviously cheaper than buying a new plastic drum each time."

The Polygran operation developed as a result of interest from customers who wanted an environmentally responsible outlet for recycling smaller plastic containers. "It serves a niche we had not served before," Chris said. While it is illegal to discard drums, there are no such prohibitions with regard to some pails, jugs, and other small containers. Drumtech and its customers, however, took the initiative and wanted to come up with a way to reduce solid waste and increase recycling rates. It seemed like an obvious step.

"Because we already handled various drum sizes, it was a natural progression to cleaning larger intermediate bulk containers, or IBCs, and then shift the other way to smaller pails and jugs," Chris remarked.

The small containers are ground into flakes, and then the plastic flakes are washed. The material is sold to makers of plastic lumber, pipe, and other applications. It cannot be used for food or consumer products.

Pails coming in for grinding arrive stretch wrapped on a skid. Drum deliveries arrive either palletized or loose on the trailer. Floor loading allows more drums to fit on a trailer load, but palletized loads may facilitate easier loading for the customers. Drumtech can handle it either way. As an added service it sorts pallets, returning good ones to its customers and releasing damaged ones to a local pallet recycler.

The drum industry "has had a bad rap at times because some facilities weren’t operated in the most environmentally sound manner," said Chris. "As a result, those companies and their customers took a big hit financially, and some drum reconditioners went out of business."

Drumtech takes pains to safeguard its customers, according to Chris. "We stay ahead of the regulations, and we are protecting our customers from potential liability," he said. Its commitment to complying with safety and environmental regulations has allowed Drumtech to obtain pollution insurance coverage for itself and its customers. "It is very uncommon for a reconditioning company to achieve," said Chris, "because you have to have stringent controls in place and pass thorough audits."

Drumtech has designed ‘state-of-the-art cleaning equipment’ like an acid machine that brightens the steel drum interior.

Drumtech also has added air scrubbing technology, although it is not required by government regulations. "This allows us to operate a clean plant for the benefit of our employees and neighbors", Chris said.

Drumtech also designed a secondary containment system of dykes and sumps. It is all part of the effort to be environmentally responsible and to limit the liability of Drumtech and its customers. "We’re trying to engineer out the potential to pollute," Chris said.

These environmental controls are a big marketing advantage for Drumtech.

Drumtech’s pro-active commitment to the environment recently earned it the Green Leaf Award. The award, presented recently by Environmental Review Inc., recognizes drum reconditioners that have demonstrated exceptional environmental and OSHA awareness and a record of continued compliance with government regulations.

"Drumtech’s thorough attentiveness to regulation, coupled with continued employee training in all areas, has distinguished it as exemplary in the field of drum reconditioning and environmental management," said Jim O’Brien, director of auditing services for Environmental Review.

We were particularly impressed with Drumtech’s high operational proficiency and awareness," added Jim, as well as its planning for future environmental challenges. "Their management stays directly in touch with the daily operations, which results in a difference you can see in their products."

To Bill, what’s good for the environment is also good for Drumtech’s customers, and vice versa. "The Green Leaf Award confirms our reputation for product quality, which is driven by our daily dedication to pro-active environmental compliance," said Bill. "Our commitment to environmental quality is the foundation of our customer service philosophy."

For more information about Drumtech, call (314) 647-3464 or visit the Web site at www.drumtechus.com.

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