By Jeff Eriks, Cambridge Companies
July 1, 2019
Upgrading your MRF is serious business and requires a lot of planning and thought prior to beginning the actual process of the upgrade. Where to Begin.
The first thing needed to begin any facility upgrade is a full evaluation of the need for the upgrade. Why do you need to upgrade? Has the volume increased? Have the materials the facility receives changed drastically and sorting needs changed? Has the end user (who accepts your commodities) changed their requirements? Has there been a territory expansion? Has the condition of, or maintenance to, the existing equipment become too large of a portion of the budget? There are any number of things that can trigger the need for an upgrade; however, identifying the reason(s) should be the first step in upgrading your MRF. Once the high-level project performance goals have been laid out and agreed upon, the appropriate professionals should be contacted to assist with the evaluation. Oftentimes it is helpful to have a third-party help determine your goals. There are several industry experts who can work to evaluate the waste stream, client requirements, permit needs, and develop the means and methods to go from the current status of your business to where you need to go during this growth or change period. These experts will help analyze your current material and equipment sorting approach and determine where you need to be in order to adjust to the business changes; once that is conceptually defined, the next step would be to determine what, if any, building changes would need to be made to accommodate the proposed changes. Let’s not get too far ahead though; let’s get back to what needs to be figured out early
in the process.
Back to the Basics!
So, a consultant has been brought on board to help evaluate the waste stream and help plan the changes you require. There are some items that will need to be thought about when going through this process that will affect you before and during the process of the upgrade.
Is it Major or Minor?
Identifying the specific changes needed will help determine if a major or minor upgrade will be required. In some cases, minor upgrades can occur while you are still in operation and changes can be made during down time or with limited down time. These can consist of updating certain pieces of equipment, adding newer technology to the line such as an optical sorter, replacing a baler or many other things. Minor upgrades are easier to plan with minimal impact on the operations. For the rest of this article, we will focus on major upgrades. Major upgrades typically require extensive planning because several pieces of equipment may be added to the system or the system will be replaced in its entirety, which could also require building modifications, leading to additional site changes and a complete shutdown of the facility for several months. Let’s dig into major upgrades some more. Major upgrades will require a team of professionals to help with planning, budgeting, scheduling and execution. This team will consist of a recycling expert, equipment expert, Design/Build team, internal operations team, financing company (if required) and eventually an equipment supplier. As you go through the initial process of working on what the plan looks like, it will likely entail some or all of the following pieces:
- Equipment Upgrades: The first thing you need to identify is what equipment changes will be occurring in the building. This will be the epicenter and affect everything else we will talk about. The building design of an MRF is based around the needs of the system. The system needs to efficiently fit within the building so the operator can clearly access all pieces of the system for regular maintenance and cleaning. Therefore, the exact plan for the equipment, whether it is as minor as adding, replacing or removing some pieces or replacing the entire system, your team should pay special attention to whether you will design the equipment to fit your existing building, or design the equipment for efficiency, performance, and cost, and then modify the building accordingly. Sorting systems, especially screen packages, like to be taller to be as effective as possible and minimize unnecessary conveyors. Many facilities try to cram equipment into buildings that are too small or too short. While this can work, the equipment often does not perform ideally, and there are many “extra” conveyors to make this work. The added equipment drives the system and maintenance costs up. Many times, it is more cost-effective to modify the building through targeted interventions, additions, or wholesale replacement and install as efficient a system as possible. Working with your assembled team of professionals should allow you to properly vet the different approaches. Remember, your specific situation drives any and all needs for building modifications, so let’s touch on those here for a few minutes.