Largest grinder “a perfect fit” for disaster recovery firm

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Courtesy of Morbark, LLC

Bamaco, Inc. finds moving up in size means a lot more than just improved throughputs.

The recent devastating ice storms in Kentucky and Arkansas once again raised awareness of nature's power and how helpless we are against it. Events like those, however, also spotlight the valuable role played by companies who come in during the recovery effort to help an area restore some semblance of normalcy. Last year, one such firm, Bamaco, Inc., headed to the Houston suburb of Baytown to tackle the cleanup from the onslaught of Hurricane Ike. While its primary goal was, obviously, the recovery effort, the firm also chose the Baytown site as an opportunity to modify its approach to processing the nearly one million cubic yards of wood waste it encountered. At the center of that modification was the replacement of a pair of 1000 Hp grinders with a single, 1200 Hp Morbark Model 1600 tub — the largest tub grinder in the manufacturer's line. By project's end, Bamaco had not only upped production, it had also improved onsite efficiency and safety, and lowered operating costs. It also found itself facing another huge challenge, one they hadn't foreseen: finding a way to keep the new grinder fed.

What's in a Name?

Despite the fact that all the family members who head up Bamaco hail from Alabama , the company name has a totally different significance, says Jeff Mitchell, Bamaco's Assistant Vice President.

“The name is actually an acronym for ‘Beverly and Mike and Company' — Beverly being my mom and Mike being my father” — says Mitchell. “My dad has better than 30 years experience doing this type of work throughout the southeast, so he's no stranger to disaster recovery. However, in 2002, he decided to incorporate under the Bamaco name and bring my brother Jason and myself on board.”

Today the Bunnell, Florida-based firm operates nationwide, tackling a broad range of projects including hurricane clean-up; debris removal from other “events” such as ice storms, tornadoes, etc.; hazardous materials removal; demolition; beach restoration; canal restoration and more.

“We are almost constantly on the road,” says Mitchell. “Down south during hurricane season, up north when the ice storms hit, you name it. We have a huge number of pre-positioned contracts in place that allow us to come into an area quickly after a storm hits. In fact, we were in Baytown the day after Ike went through the area. Getting these areas cleaned up and getting people back on their feet is our primary goal; having those contracts in place streamlines the process and gets us working toward that goal.”

Unbelievable Volumes

Having worked all the major hurricanes in recent memory, Bamaco was no stranger to large-scale cleanups. Nevertheless, upon arrival at Baytown , they were still astounded at the volume of material they were facing.

“We were in charge of about six separate collection sites around Baytown and some of them were just filled to capacity, with more debris being picked up daily,” says Mitchell. “To make a real dent in the volume, we subcontracted out to several other grinding firms who owned their own machines. Their challenge was to try to grind it and haul it out as fast as it was coming in. Unfortunately, that was rarely the case. Their grinders were pushed to the max but just couldn't keep up with the inflow of material.”

Mitchell says that, despite pushing the pair of 1,000 Hp units they owned to the limit, they were struggling to keep up with volumes at the main Baytown site at which they were processing. A different approach was needed and a mutual friend of the Mitchells had what they thought just might be the answer.

Supersizing It

The potential solution to which the Mitchells referred was a Morbark Model 1600, a 1200 Hp tub grinder that the friend in question had seen work firsthand in Florida .

“He saw the 1600 in action and said that it was just an unbelievable piece of equipment,” said Jeff Mitchell. “He swore that anyone using it would need more than a couple of medium-sized excavators to keep up with its production. We, of course, were a bit skeptical, but wanted to see what it could do. So we called John Dale, the Morbark sales rep for this area and within 24 hours he had it down here for a demo.”

The demo apparently put to rest any suspicion that Mitchell's friend had overstated the 1600's potential.

“We couldn't believe what it could do in terms of production,” says Jeff Mitchell. “Morbark told us the machine is rated for as much as 1,400 cubic yards an hour — we feel that's a really conservative estimate. We bought the unit just a couple days after the demo and since then it has exceeded our expectations on almost every count.”

Command Performance

Given the successful results of the tests, the 1600 had to be extremely impressive onsite to make any more of an impact on the Mitchells — and it was. Jason Mitchell says the unit was put to the test immediately upon going into service and more than met the challenge.

“We had a stockpile built up at the large site that was probably in excess of 100,000 cubic yards. We knew from working another location that was similarly backlogged, that a trio of 1,000 Hp horizontals had to work round-the clock for four days to get that material processed. We came in here with just the 1600 and — working only a single shift each day — did the same volume in three days. That won us over in a hurry.”

Mitchell says the benefits provided by the larger machine go much further than simply how much material comes off the discharge conveyor each hour.

“In our business, we mostly have to work with the hand we are dealt. Often, that can mean small-acreage lots, and debris coming in at a 50,000 yard-a-day clip. In order to get it ground up and hauled off as fast as it's coming in, we've needed a minimum of three machines grinding and at least that many other loaders feeding them. The Model 1600 has allowed us to actually increase production while reducing the equipment and manpower needed. That's a huge benefit to us: having fewer machines means a better ability to control onsite traffic flow, improved safety, lower operating costs, and so on. It's really made a big impact on the way we operate.”

Bigger Iron Ahead

With throughputs at higher levels than they'd ever experienced, Bamaco's new dilemma was finding the best method possible to keep it fed. Though they made do with the pair of mid-sized excavators — a Cat 320 and a Hitachi Zaxis 200 — they found them anything but efficient for loading the new grinder.

“There's no doubt that on future projects we will have larger machines — probably a pair of 90,000 lb. machines like a Cat 330 or something similar,” says Jason Mitchell. “The smaller machines were constantly struggling to keep the 1600 fed and we were only running the grinder at 42% of its maximum power.”

According to Mitchell, there was one occasion where they ran the unit at full power — just to see what it could do. He says the tub was empty after only three or four revolutions.

“We backed it down and never ran it full out on that job again. So, essentially we ran the grinder at less than half power for the length of the project and it still easily outperformed three horizontals. That to me says it was more than worth the investment.”

The Name Says it All

Bamaco is a strong proponent of customer service and demands the same from its equipment suppliers. Jeff Mitchell says they were impressed with the support they received from Morbark from the outset and continue to be so even today, well after the sale.

“First of all, the grinder itself is designed to be user-friendly and minimize maintenance concerns. We run the machine for four hours, shut it down to do regular preventive maintenance such as greasing, air filter blow-outs, and so on, and resume for another four hours. Morbark, as a company, however, is equally impressive. They were right out here when we needed them for the demo; they stayed on to make sure we were running without any issues; and they made a service technician available to us throughout the time we were doing the Baytown job. That kind of service is invaluable.”

Mitchell is aware that it's not the same with every manufacturer. Bamaco, in fact, had different grinder break down in Florida . “We called the factory and it took two days just to get someone to come out, let alone get us back up and running.”

Moving up to the larger grinder does, of course, entail and additional expenditure. When pressed whether those costs will prove justifiable, both Jeff and Jason Mitchell are hard-pressed to hold back their enthusiasm.

“There's no doubt in our minds that, over one busy hurricane season in Florida , the Morbark will pay for itself many times over. As a matter of fact, we probably did better than 900,000 yards at Baytown , more than half of which went through the Model 1600. There's a good chance it might have come close to paying for itself on that job alone. Our business is centered around finding ways to get the job done in the safest, fastest, most efficient manner possible. While we initially chose the 1600 based on the impressive volumes of material it could handle, we've since come to find that the benefits of adding the machine run far deeper than that — and that's a really nice plus for us.”

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