While decision by committee is a daunting prospect for many equipment purchasers, a coalition of municipal solid waste facilities in northern Minnesota found that weighing the pros and cons of various material handlers as a team helped build consensus and instill a comfort level for operators before purchasing.

Beltrami County, Minnesota, participates in a regional integrated solid waste management program that includes the adjoining counties of Polk, Clearwater, Hubbard, Mahnomen and Norman.

Beltrami and Polk Counties, along with the four other adjacent counties, applied for, and were awarded, a capital assistance grant through the state of Minnesota to upgrade their respective transfer stations. That grant allocated funds for new equipment purchases, and the counties joined together to maximize their purchasing power.

“We originally came together to apply for grant money to upgrade our equipment. Knowing that we would need multiple machines, we coordinated our programs as an approach to leverage better pricing and lower costs for ongoing maintenance,” Beltrami County Solid Waste Coordinator Brian Olson says.

Beyond price, the group wanted to make sure the new equipment would be user-friendly and easy to maintain. That’s why Olson says the coalition left no stone unturned when evaluating their options. The group brought in a number of vendors to showcase the latest material handlers on the market.

After weighing the pros and cons of each piece of equipment, the group settled on the 818 E-Series mobile material handler from Germany-based Sennebogen.

“We invited several manufacturers to come up here and give us their spiel. We wanted to make sure we were getting the right machine for the purposes we have,” Olson says. “We had our machine operators, our mechanics and our administrators all take part in evaluating the proposals. And that’s how Sennebogen came out on top.”

The regional distributor for Sennebogen equipment, Road Machinery & Supplies Co. (RMS) of Savage, Minnesota, recently delivered a total of four Sennebogen material handlers to waste handling facilities in Beltrami and Polk Counties. One of the Sennebogen machines is being used to sort material at the Bemidji Solid Waste Transfer Station in Beltrami County, while three others are located at the Polk County material recovery facility (MRF) site in Fosston.

Different strokes

Beltrami County generates 30,000 tons of solid waste per year. Its facilities accept recyclables in the form of tin and aluminum cans, glass bottles and jars, plastics No. 1 and No. 2, various fiber materials, appliances, scrap metal, fluorescent lights, tires, auto batteries and used oil. Beltrami County operates its own local transfer stations, as do the coalition’s other counties, and has a goal of 35 percent recovery of recyclable material. All of the transfer stations truck their sorted material to a multi-stage facility in Polk County, where it’s processed through a MRF, an energy-from-waste plant and the Polk landfill.

Olson says that although the counties participating in the regional integrated solid waste management coalition work together, their needs are unique. To account for these differences, the 818s have functionalities specific to their locations.

“One factor in Sennebogen’s favor was that each machine is designed specifically for the facility that it will work in. We had the CAD drawings to be sure the boom and stick were the right lengths,” Olson says.

Beltrami County acquired the Bemidji transfer station by purchasing it from the previous operator. New material handlers were part of the plan for upgrading the completed facility, as Olson says their previous equipment reached the end of its service life and lacked the versatility they needed.

“We decided to replace the previous rubber-tired machine, which was equipped with a fixed cab that came with the assets [of the facility], with a new purpose-built material handler that includes a hydraulic elevating cab for better visibility and safety on the floor,” Olson says. “We wanted rubber-tired units because they are running on a concrete floor here and running indoors.”

We had our machine operators, our mechanics and our administrators all take part in evaluating the proposals. And that’s how Sennebogen came out on top.” -brian olson

Beyond the larger capacity clam that enables the Sennebogen equipment to handle more waste with each grab, Olson says the coalition chose the 818s for their other convenient features that meet the demands of the facilities’ layouts.

“I’m glad you can walk out onto a platform from the cab with the new unit. You don’t have to crawl up into the machine,” Olson says. “We also equipped it with a front protection guard and a guard on the skylight, installed boom limit switches to suit our ceiling height and added the lighting package. Environmental factors were important in our decision, too—especially noise. You can hardly hear this 818 run, so that was another positive point in its favor.”

The new machine’s design also protects it from undue stresses, Olson says.

“The 818 has an optional boom float capability,” he notes. “With our old machine, the pressure of grabbing garbage would shear off pins in the grapple. With this float feature, you can pick without putting pressure on the grapple or the floor.”

Olson says that ease of maintenance was a top priority when shopping for the material handlers, which was also one of the reasons the group favored the 818s. Most of the routine maintenance to alternators, pumps and hoses can now be conducted through the machine’s main access door, as opposed to techs having to remove multiple hard-to-reach panels to get to internal components. This results in minimized machine downtime and quicker repairs.

“One of the big things that sold me was the ease of maintenance on the Sennebogen 818,” Olson continues. “We can do all the servicing from the ground. The usual wear parts and hoses are all very accessible. You know any machine will go down. Being able to fix it quickly is big in our business. Waste never stops!”

Getting up and running

RMS provided initial operator training as well as maintenance orientation for the teams at the Beltrami and Polk County sites. Although the team at Polk County was used to working with front end loaders, the material handler’s more intuitive controls and features made for an easy learning curve, Olson says.

“With the onboard digital computer display and the various controls, the Sennebogen was the easiest material handler for the operators to jump in and grasp how it worked during the testing phase. All the operators took their turns trying it, and there weren’t as many buttons to push or levers to control to get the thing to do what you wanted it to do,” Olson says.

Although the cab configuration of the Sennebogen was a bit of a departure from the elevated fixed cab setup of the previous material handler in use at the Bemidji site, Olson says the operator quickly got up to speed.

“Our operator [at the Bemidji site] has been running a material handler for years,” Olson says. “There wasn’t much of a learning curve. He just went in and got to work.”

Between the material handler’s larger capacity clam, ease of operation and streamlined maintenance requirements, Olson says that the switch to the Sennebogen machine has already paid dividends for the county.

“You need to have the right equipment to handle a lot of material and load trailers quickly. The Sennebogen does just that,” Olson says.

Robert Adeland is the president of Marketing Strategies & Solutions. He can be reached at robert@marketingstrategiesandsolutions.com.