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Waste Not, Want Not: The Case for Roadmapping Your Wood Scrap
Road Mapping Waste: Finding value in wood scrap by conducting analysis on your waste streams and processes to optimize your wood utilization and reduce costs.
Date Posted: 4/1/2014
In business as in life, most of the truly valuable changes that people make begin with asking the right questions. So here are two questions that you should consider: If you had to visualize your operations – from raw material intake through to the shipment of completed product – could you do it accurately? Could you actually map the value stream in your pallet manufacturing, lumber mill, or recycling facility, with all of the material handling steps involved?
If you want to increase processing speed, do more with less, be nimble and responsive to new opportunities, and use fewer resources you need to focus in on what’s actually going on with scrap handling and material flow in your operations. You may be leaving savings, profits and the benefits of being a ‘greener’ company on the table.
Route Your Scrap
In the field of operations management, creating a map of a process or facility is called a ‘performance chain’ – a method for highlighting areas where an operation is strong, and areas where it needs improvement. When it comes to raising productivity and space utilization, “you’ve got to create a roadmap for your wood scrap” stated the director of operations engineering for a North American pallet service provider. “My motto is ‘space is finite so deal with scrap once’, and then work to establish a process that is predictable and measurable in order to contain your costs,” he continued. “Effective scrap management requires logistics in your plant – it’s just as important as when you’re shipping finished product.”
Based on years of experience and systems layout, this expert professional shared the observation that “Inefficient scrap handling can be the classic weak link in a pallet or lumber operation, and you can be overwhelmed if you’re not managing your wood scrap effectively – it can cripple you, particularly if you don’t have a wood grinder.”
This expert recommends that you
start by creating an inventory of where your scrap is generated. Track the scrap that comes off of sorter lines, from repair stations, or cut-offs from trim saws, any operation that produces material which is only suitable for reprocessing. Then place a value on the residuals of wood processing and recycling, and determine what can be conserved and reused as part of your sustainable management program. “After determining the scrap generation points and recovery options, your next question should be: Where am I generating the highest volume of scrap,” he suggested. “Cost containment and improved plant efficiency require these steps, and you need to gather ‘actionable data’ to guide your planning.”
When it comes to designing material handling systems, this individual recommends that you “keep your layout simple and choose durable equipment.” For example, positioning self-dumping hoppers near repair tables can be effective in a pallet repair facility as long as you “screen for contaminants, like hammers,” he cautioned. But in his opinion, the ideal arrangement in a recycling facility is to place a conveyor system at the inspection point for incoming pallets. “You can queue up odd-sized or spent pallets and scrap material to be ground utilizing a wide-belt conveyor.”
Lumber processing operations that run virgin material can facilitate a more direct route for wood scrap handling and processing. “With high-speed cut-off lines in pallet stock, millwork or flooring operations, a conveyor that vectors scrap directly to an inline low-speed horizontal wood grinder like a Cresswood produces the most efficient material handling flow with the least amount of wasted motion, labor and energy,” he said. “Horizontal grinders really shine in these applications.”
Grinding Scrap ‘Close-to-Source’
Implementing an effective logistics strategy for wood scrap – controlling the physical movement of low-value and often bulky material in a plant – requires that you deal with material as close to where it’s generated as possible, according to Jack Cress, CEO of Cresswood Shredding Machinery.
Cress said, “As we work with plant managers and operations engineers across the wood industry, it’s clear that inefficiencies in scrap handling are obstacles in their path to process improvement, and higher productivity.” He added, “Always keep in mind that you can’t afford to spend more time handling wood scrap than you do your finished product – and in some cases, that’s exactly what’s happening.”
From a macro perspective, when you look at the rise in material prices and other competitive pressures, the drive to take costs out of material handling is low-hanging fruit in most wood industry operations. These savings can contribute substantially to the bottom line. Cress observed, “Basically, everybody’s dealing with the same variables – slim profit margins and high fixed costs. When a business owner can capture fresh savings by reducing scrap handling costs, that realization can spur a commitment to change.”
Cress added, “At Cresswood, we concentrate a lot of our consulting energy on helping them get to that point.”
Moving from the strategy stage to the tactical realities of plant layout “requires a good logistical mentality”, the operations director said. When incorporating wood scrap grinding technology, he advised that you locate the grinder infeed as close to the initial touch point for the wood scrap as possible. “My first choice would be to put the wood grinder outside but close to the dock or to an exterior wall. If feasible, I recommend punching through the wall and using a conveyor infeed to a hopper-feed or horizontal wood grinder, and placing a chip trailer behind it, or a cyclone to blow ground material directly into an open-top trailer,” he said.
As a site manager, he noted that grinder proximity can be an issue in many plant environments. “However, when you specify low-speed technology, the noise and dust levels are substantially diminished compared with high-speed machines, and under most circumstances, you can safely and comfortably locate the grinder close to your dock facilities and processing operations,” he explained. “I like to think of it as feeding the system from the inside and keeping the business of grinding on the outside – in my opinion, it’s the best allocation of valuable space.”
Shift Your Thinking
Although identifying the ‘secret sauce’ that will entirely eliminate the need to handle and dispose of your wood scrap is an impossible goal, adopting a more rigorous approach to measuring and overcoming specific ‘non-revenue generating’ expenses certainly isn’t. The reasoning behind situating a wood grinding system close to the point of greatest scrap generation becomes clear once you start to analyze the cost of each ‘move’ in your material handling process.
Forklift trips are common ‘moves’ that deserve analysis. “Consider the impact of running forklifts to an exterior location with loads of wood scrap,” the operations engineer said. “When that driver makes the return trip empty, that’s a wasted move, with labor and propane that are costing you money. Forklift drivers are expensive and like trucking, you better have a backhaul,” he stated, adding that there is a real expense involved for ‘wear & tear’ when you operate forklifts outside.
Cress also shared his “eye-opening” experience of watching operations where wood scrap is repositioned multiple times in the grinding area before it is actually processed. “Successful companies in ultra-competitive markets like the flooring industry may have a perspective on scrap handling and rooting-out wasteful moves others in the forest products industry can learn from,” Cress remarked. “They invest in the technology to perfect their scrap processing, fully integrate it into the operational flow of their manufacturing plants, and raise overall efficiency levels.”
“These proven business models are compelling, and when you gain a clear vision of the value that more efficient scrap handling practices deliver, it’s hard to justify not incorporating effective changes into your operations,” Cress concluded. “We like to say at Cresswood – save steps, save money and adopt greener ways.”
This article was contributed by Cresswood Shredding Machinery. For questions, Cresswood may be reached at: 800-962-7302.