Robbie McKernan, FOCUS Enviro director, and Gary Moore, UNTHA Global Business Development Director, explore the 10 things companies should prioritise when buying a new shredder.
With shredders playing an increasingly crucial part in waste management and recycling facilities, operators are quite right to ensure these assets deliver on their promises.
Once required simply to act as heavy-duty workhorses, these machines must now demonstrate far more sophisticated performance criteria if they are to provide a true return on investment.
One: define your input materials
Know the specifics of the materials you wish to shred. Think carefully about the type and bulk density of the ‘waste’ you’re handling for example, as well as any likely variation in this specification and the preferred in-feed method for loading the shredder.
These factors will influence everything from the drive power, to the chamber dimensions, cutter capabilities and even the height of the machine.
It’s also important to define the likely volume of input materials that need to be processed and at what pace, as this will shape the shredder’s throughput criteria.
As difficult as it can be to predict the future – and you don’t want to invest in too large a machine unnecessarily – it is crucial to look ahead a little too.
Very few organisations stand still, so some additional capacity is often helpful, as is a shredder’s proven flexibility to handle different input materials with quick and simple reconfiguration. A mobile shredder will offer even further flexibility, if it can be relocated around a site with ease.
Two: define the output specification
Likewise, operators must be clear on exactly what the shredder must do.
Some facilities invest in shredding machinery purely to reduce the size of the bulky materials they no longer have use for and/or find difficult to store, in which case output fraction is not such a priority.
Others are driven by increasing compliance requirements – certainly as more state and territory laws seem to be coming to the fore – which means output performance matters far more.
Then there are organisations with extremely defined specifications to satisfy. If a plant is manufacturing a Waste to Energy fuel such as PEF for example, a clear calorific value and homogenous particle size of <2” (50mm) is typical.
It is therefore important to look for a shredder with a proven ability to achieve the desired output specification, and in an ideal world, the machine should be flexible to evolve alongside the operator’s changing needs too. Often this is possible thanks to just a simple screen swap.
Three: ask application-specific questions
Next, ask detailed, application-specific questions to understand the shredder’s true performance capabilities. For example:
— Confidential document shredders benefit from a low speed, high torque design, as they can shred classified material to an agreed specification without destroying the material fibre, which aids downstream recycling.
— If shredding organic waste and packaging, look for specialised bearing and seal protection systems that will eliminate contamination into the machine’s gearbox and bearing areas from this potentially aggressive material.
— E-Waste shredders must have a proven ability to liberate the various high-value composite materials ‘locked’ in redundant electrical equipment and appliances, as well as an in-built resistance to ‘foreign objects’ or unshreddables that could otherwise lead to costly downtime.
Whatever the shredding scenario, ensure the chosen supplier can provide tailored advice relevant to the specific project.
Four: stipulate safety criteria
Few people would disagree that industrial shredding has the potential to be a hazardous exercise, which is why manufacturers have worked so hard to ensure equipment safety – by design – over the years.
From easy maintenance tasks that minimise operators’ exposure to the inner workings of the shredder, to proactive diagnostic control panels that prevent the need for machine entry, and foreign object protection mechanisms that ensure equipment auto-stops should it encounter an unshreddable item, there are many ways to heighten technological safety.
But engineering innovation is driving even more safety benefits.
For example, low noise shredders mean operators are protected from the potentially debilitating effect of prolonged exposure to excessive noise; machines can now feature in-built UV, infrared, heat and spark detectors to help prevent the outbreak of fire; and ergonomic design is even being prioritised so that personnel can service and maintain equipment quickly, safely and in an upright position, without the need to hunch or over-stretch.
Five: think about the environment
Attitudes towards recycling and waste management differ across Australia, not just from state to state, but from operator to operator too. This is, in a large part, due to the absence of a cohesive governmental policy which would no doubt otherwise influence a certain type of behaviour or best practice.
Compare this to certain parts of Europe, for instance – where waste and recycling is heavily legislated and target-driven – and operators must prioritise far more than their own performance criteria when it comes to investing in fit-for-purpose shredders.
This is the reason some modern machines are driven by energy-efficient electric motors such as synchronous drives instead of diesel hydraulic drives.
Not only does such technology represent far less of a fire risk, but reduced energy consumption means the net environmental gain of such shredders is much greater.
There seems little point transforming waste into a renewable fossil fuel substitute, if the ‘cost’ of the manufacturing process is extremely harmful to the environment.
Being ‘green’ also makes commercial sense, as energy-hungry shredders don’t just have a detrimental carbon impact – they can prove costly in terms of fuel consumption too, which limits the machine’s possible return on investment (ROI).
Six: ensure the shredder is ‘tried and tested’
Identify reputable shredder manufacturers who can supply individual pieces of machinery, as well as those that can help design, source and install an entire recycling or waste management system.
Whether an operator needs a complex plant or a simple waste processing line, true shredding experts will be able to help map out a turnkey solution for maximum efficiency throughout every piece of equipment.
Also, don’t just trust suppliers at face value! ‘Seeing is believing’ so ask to speak to existing customers and better still, request a site visit to witness a working demonstration of the equipment.
The perfect scenario is a trial of the chosen shredder, using your own materials. This is the best way to evidence that the shredder will truly deliver on any promises made.
Seven: new vs used
Many industrial shredders are built to last, which means that while a machine may have reached the end of its useful life in one facility, it could still have years of operational potential with another organisation.
This presents an attractive investment option for many businesses, especially those who can procure a high-performance used shredder for a fraction of the cost of new technology.
Some manufacturers offer shredder rebuild services too, giving the operator greater peace of mind regarding the ongoing condition of the equipment.
Eight: remember non-machine considerations
Of course, the shredder needs to fulfil the performance criteria set out for it, but wider due diligence is also important.
Ask the manufacturer about typical service intervals and to what extent they are likely to affect uptime, for example. Labour intensive maintenance tasks can soon cause operational disruption which isn’t just inconvenient – it costs money, restricts the payback period of the shredder and could even put operators’ health and safety at risk.
Think also about factors such as the cost of spare and wear parts, typical wear rates, and the availability of these crucial machine components. Again, this will all impact on future uptime statistics plus the shredder’s whole life running costs.
Some suppliers take aftersales support very seriously, which means long-term ROI is far more likely.
Others don’t think much beyond the initial sale of the machine, which can leave operators feeling a little isolated when it comes to refresher training or future process optimisation.
In short, look for a shredder specialist that truly prioritises a long-term partnership approach.
Nine: ask for a project plan
While some facilities can be flexible in their lead times for a new shredder, others have to work to strict project plans.
So, whether a machine is replacing incumbent technology and downtime cannot be afforded, or the commissioning timeframes risk jeopardising the likelihood of a new plant coming online, talk to the supplier about next steps and key calendar milestones.
Shredders are commonly engineered to order, so a rapid turnaround is probably not possible.
But a serious and engaged supplier will respect the project criteria and do what they can to keep the installation moving, while communicating with the operator every step of the way. If this project proactivity is not apparent, it may be wise for the search to continue.
Ten: do the math
The ‘business case’ for an investment in new capital equipment will almost always come down to the numbers. The price tag matters, of course, although different finance routes can make things more affordable for organisations that need to spread the cost.
However, other metrics are also important. It’s crucial to calculate ongoing wear costs as this will rapidly inflate the financial impact of the investment.
Think as well about power consumption – some electric-driven machines are now so energy efficient that fuel savings alone, when compared to more traditional diesel-driven equipment, quickly accelerates the payback period.
Then there’s the possible revenue that can be generated from the sale of cleanly segregated recycled products, so include these projections in the numbers too.
If in any doubt regarding how to build the perfect business case, ask the shredder supplier to help – this exercise should be very straightforward for them.