Maximizing scrap yield

4 tips can help to ensure a metal former gets the most out of its recycling effort

STAMPING Journal September/October 2011
August 31, 2011
By: Jeff Cox

Do you feel like you are getting the best price for all of the metal that you scrap?

Maximizing scrap yield -

Metal stampers that don’t examine their scrap recycling programs are wasting a valuable revenue-generating opportunity.

Do you feel like you are getting the best price for all of the metal that you scrap?

That’s a pretty broad question, but it may cause many metal stampers to think. In all honesty, they may not know the correct answer.

Scrap is a byproduct of a money-making activity, but rarely is scrap viewed as having much worth. That assumption can be a costly one. As every step is taken to ensure that stamping presses remain up and running and employees are spending time on the next setup or other value-added activities, shouldn’t management apply the same level of scrutiny to scrap-handling practices?

The management of a metal stamping company can begin the investigation process by simply checking metal industry publications. These periodicals provide daily pricing for metals such as aluminum, copper, and steel. That gives you an idea of just what your scrap is worth on the open market; with a few phone calls, you then can calculate how much metal recyclers are charging to transport and process the scrap and, ultimately, how much they will pay per pound for each type of metal scrap.

Of course, price should not be the sole factor in deciding on a metal recycler. Other factors are whether the metal recycler will work with your company to determine the best way to set up the scrap program and what type of services the recycler will provide, allowing you to concentrate on your core business.

Following these four tips can help you to determine if you are maximizing your scrap recycling efforts.

1. Look at What Is Being Thrown in the Trash Bin

Looking at your trash is the ultimate quality check to see if metal scrap is heading for a landfill instead of a metal recycler. Many metal stampers might laugh at the idea that their employees are throwing away money, but they would be surprised to learn that this occurs more often than they think.

For steel, you are talking about $300 to $400 per gross ton for recycling. Nonferrous metals offer a much more substantial recycling reward, enough to make company managers scream in frustration if they knew that the valuable scrap was in the waste stream and not a potential revenue stream.

2. See How Much Double Handling Is Occurring

Every metal stamper knows that each time a shop employee handles a part adds cost to production. The goal in most shops is to have the part produced with as little human intervention as possible.

The same can be said for scrap handling. The fewer times you have to move scrap from one point to another, the more you can concentrate on making metal parts.

Imagine this all-too-familiar scenario. Scrap from a stamping press flows on a conveyor into a 55-gallon drum. When the drum is full, an employee removes it with a hand truck to an area designated for scrap collection. The drum is dumped in a hopper, and when that is full, the hopper is transported outside to a much larger roll-off collector. The material is handled multiple times, increasing equipment downtime and the chance for an accident involving material handling equipment. This, obviously, is not an ideal situation.

A more intelligent approach to this type of scenario is to have containers, which can be moved by lift trucks, sit at the point of scrap generation and moved to a recycler’s trailer when they are full or the trailer is ready for pickup. Metal recyclers often supply the scrap containers at no extra cost to you because they have calculated the price into their original bid. Others, however, will hit you with these unforeseen charges, which can add up quickly.

Another factor to keep in mind is the need to segregate material. Mixing ferrous and nonferrous metals only forces someone else downstream to separate those metals from each other. That’s an unnecessary labor cost that has to be absorbed by someone in the scrap handling chain.

Along with providing containers, a metal recycler should be able to provide multiple containers near presses so that materials can be segregated easily near the point of creation. Often these containers are color-coded so shop floor workers can identify them easily.

In fact, a reputable metal recycler should come in, observe the manufacturing operation, and offer a candid assessment about how to set up an efficient scrap handling program.

3. Consider Equipment for Maximizing Recyclable Content

Metal formers that produce a high volume of scrap may find it beneficial to have equipment on the shop floor that compresses scrap aluminum and maximizes the scrap yield of material being hauled away. These machines produce “briquettes” of compressed metal, which allows more metal to be shipped per truckload.

An aerospace manufacturer that installed two briquetting machines for compressing scrap aluminum chips was able to cut its scrap shipment costs in half, resulting in an annual savings of about $190,000. Also, because the recycled content didn’t contain air and had less cutting fluid in it, the manufacturer received a slightly better price per pound.

Of course, it’s all about volume. The aerospace manufacturer was producing about 400,000 lbs. of aluminum scrap monthly. If you are producing waste in the 50,000-lb. range, investing in a dedicated machine to create the pucks of recycled content probably doesn’t make sense.

4. Ensure You Are Getting the Proper Weight Information

It’s a story you don’t want to hear, but it happens too frequently. A scrap dealer weighs trailers filled with scrap on scales of its own choosing and produces weight tickets to its customers that show only half of the actual weight. The manufacturer is getting paid only half of what it is rightly owed.

To remedy this problem, you should demand that the scrap dealer weigh its trucks—unfilled and filled—at public scales or scales of your choosing. You then can have more faith that the weight noted on the weight ticket more closely reflects reality, not the scrap dealer’s financial desires.

If you have been burned to the point where you don’t trust just seeing a weight ticket, a company representative should request to ride with the scrap dealer to the scales. The request to tag along sends a message to the scrap dealer that dishonesty won’t be tolerated. A scrap dealer with nothing to hide should not have a problem with such a request.

The end of the metal forming proc-ess deserves to undergo as much financial scrutiny as the entire manufacturing process. What businesses can afford to be throwing away revenue nowadays?

Metal scrap has value, and it’s time that manufacturers start treating it like a valuable product.

Jeff Cox

Lean Scrap Manager
Shapiro Metals
9338 Olive Blvd. Suite 200
St. Louis, MO 63132
Phone: 314-218-6808

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STAMPING Journal is the only industrial publication dedicated solely to serving the needs of the metal stamping market. In 1987 the American Metal Stamping Association broadened its horizons and renamed itself and its publication, known then as Metal Stamping.

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