A Closer Look | NOV 2017 Sebright Products with Gary Brinkman
Sebright Products, a family owned and operated company, got its start in 1984, according to Gary Brinkmann, the company’s director of multinational sales. At the beginning, the company built compactors. Now, it’s “one of the most innovative manufacturers of waste and recycling equipment in the entire world,” Brinkman said.
“We are a solution designer that manufactures the solutions we design,” Brinkmann said. Customers come to them with the application the machinery will be used for, and Sebright figures out what sort of machine will solve the customer’s problems.
While the company has machines that can be sold off the shelf, many customers will ask for that machine, but customized, like the customer who wanted a garbage compactor made from stainless steel. “We have a robust engineering team,” Brinkmann said, so they can design exactly what the customer needs, for their particular applications.
Bright Technologies, the wet waste division of Sebright Products, specializes in stainless steel machinery for use in harsh environments, and has a separate plant dedicated to stainless steel manufacturing. Interestingly, one of those harsh environments is in the soda bottling industry, where the acidic sodas would eat through steel machinery in a short time.
Brinkmann explained that many companies need to “control the product from cradle to grave” and also make sure that “none of the product comes out the back door,” and Sebright can help with exactly that problem.
One soda manufacturer had a problem with soda that had been mixed wrong, and it had been bottled. It was imperative that the soda didn’t make it to consumers, so they talked to Sebright about a machine that would extract the liquid, bale the containers, and ensure that none of the product or containers would enter the marketplace. Of course Sebright manufactured exactly what was needed.
“We strive to avoid being a ‘me too’ business,” Brinkmann said. “We make something new or better.”
The same type of machines that extract liquids for soda manufacturers can also be used for other products including dairy, bottled water, coffee creamers and other food and non-food products. Once the liquid is removed, the bottles or cans can be sent to recyclers in either densified or baled form.
While Sebright machines are not designed to be the cheapest in the market, they are designed to last longer. Brinkmann said their equipment can last at least twice as long as similar machines that are less expensive.
Besides working with food bottles, the company makes machines for a wide range of industries. Paper mills have used Sebright extruders that pay for themselves in about four months. “They all pay for themselves in under a year,” Brinkmann said of their machines.
Another machine is designed to extract oil from oil filters. Brinkmann said that the customer “showed us their boneyard of equipment that didn’t work,” and then Sebright got to work and designed a machine that doubled the amount of oil recovered from the same number of filters.
Brinkman said that he talked to people who worked with the oil filter machines who told Brinkmann, “This machine changed my life.” Prior to the Sebright equipment, the employees had to squeegee the floors to remove spilled oil, and now they simply sweep it to clean. They also don’t get themselves covered with oil during the workday.
Brinkmann started working for Sebright in 2012, but he and the company’s founder, Brent Sebright, had met quite some time before. “We could see we were traveling down the same path and we thought we could do it better together,” Brinkmann said.
Since his start with the company, Brinkmann said that he’s seen the company become more solutions-based, but he still sees challenges ahead with customers who think it’s easier to throw products away.
To make recycling easier for those customers, Sebright said, “We design solutions to match their operational workflow.” The recycling equipment becomes part of the process, and the customer doesn’t need to change what they do. “It’s not built like a compactor, it’s built like a piece of production equipment,” he said.
But it’s not just about making recycling part of the process. Brinkman said, “We show them how to make money at it. It’s a challenge, but I also classify it as an opportunity.”
Another challenge is the way plastics are combined in the bottles used today. A plastic water bottle might be PET, while the cap is polypropylene, and the label is polyethylene. Bottles are lighter than they were several years ago, but they are also made from a wider range of materials. “You really have to know the material grades,” Brinkmann said.
Looking forward, Brinkmann sees growth in recycling aseptic containers that are made from paper, aluminum and polyethylene. Brinkman said that ten years ago, these were not considered recyclable, but now they are.
Since Sebright sells equipment all over the world, Brinkmann said that he sees upcoming trends that have not become popular in the U.S. yet. He expects to see more waste-to-energy and waste-to-fuel in the U.S., as well as landfill mining as previously unwanted materials become valuable for recycling. As trends change, he expects that Sebright won’t “just ride the wave, but create the wave” as they work on solutions for their customers.
While Brinkmann started in the finance world, he found a more comfortable home at Sebright. “It’s a legacy thing,” he said. “My children are able to say, ‘my dad helps the environment,’” and he said that’s something he’s “darned proud of.”