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Keeping up with the evolution of scrap

Ontario’s Trijan industries continues to build on 100 years in the business through expansion and adaptation to a changing industry

Doug and Lawry Slipacoff of Trijan Industries, in front of their Link-Belt excavator with LaBounty mobile shear, used for handling all oversized steel cutting.
Doug and Lawry Slipacoff of Trijan Industries, in front of their Link-Belt excavator with LaBounty mobile shear, used for handling all oversized steel cutting.

Sarnia, Ontario-based Trijan Industries is a family-run business that goes back 100 years and four generations in scrap metal. Doug Slipacoff, part of the latest generation and the current operations manager, says his great grandfather immigrated to Canada and eventually settled in Petrolia, Ontario during the oil boom era where he started collecting scrap metal from worksites using a horse, buggy and a wheelbarrow. Doug's father Lawry, Trijan's president, has now been in the scrap metal business for 44 years and has built Trijan into the company that it is today - one built on knowledge, efficient processes, the latest equipment and high-level customer service. 

About six years ago, Trijan underwent a major expansion. The company now operates from 10 acres, including a 12,000 square-foot nonferrous processing warehouse with drive-through for customers, a range of updated equipment and a new customer-friendly yard. The company buys and sells a wide range of materials including ELVs, tires and e-waste, as well as a large amount of petrochemical industry scrap metal waste, recycling millions of pounds of nonferrous and ferrous on a yearly basis. 

"Being located near Canada's ‘chemical valley', we service a large majority of the area's refineries, plants, supporting businesses and industry in our area," says Doug Slipacoff. "In fact our company goes so far back in Sarnia that in many instances we have been on some refinery sites since the first day a shovel went in to the ground to start construction."

Changing with the times
As the scrap metal industry has evolved with technology and over time, so has Trijan. "I remember, as a child, when my dad needed something, he'd take a picture. He'd send it away in the mail, and they would call him back and give him a price on it. Now, you take your cell phone, you snap a picture, you send it to a guy in Toronto or Hamilton, for example, and you can have a price in a minute. The whole interconnectivity of technology has just made the industry much faster." 
He adds that with prices being available online as guidelines, there's a lot more information out there. "Scrap recycling is much more transparent than it used to be," he says, "which is great."

For Trijan, besides keeping up with changing equipment and technology in the industry, remaining current in scrap metal recycling also means operating a cleaner yard and a more customer-friendly environment. Trijan's upgraded yard features a paved parking lot and front unloading area to keep vehicles clean, and their nonferrous warehouse has a drive-through feature for convenience and to keep customers out of the elements. For customers entering their yard, they use a truck scale from Ontario-based Best Weigh Scale, with digital readout for transparency of weighments, along with an integrated Raddcomm radiation detection system to ensure employee and customer safety with every load that comes into the yard. 

"We have really moved Trijan into the new age of scrap metal recycling," says Slipacoff. "Gone are the old days of muddy junk yards that were not customer friendly and were intimidating to the average person. We have put a premium on treating our customers the right way."
He adds that their expanded operation was also designed for the ultimate in productivity and efficiency, which is paramount in today's extremely competitive scrap recycling industry.

"From the set up and placement of our ferrous and nonferrous piles in our yard to our operational procedures, our goal is to handle our material as few times as possible to maximize efficiency. This approach allows us to receive the best possible returns on our material."

Trijan uses a Liebherr 934C wheeled material handler paired with an Al-Jon baler/logger for ferrous material, including tin, white goods and ELVs.

The move into Auto Recycling 
There was a time when Trijan left scrap cars to the auto wreckers. But Slipacoff says that as the scrap metal industry has morphed and changed it became apparent they needed to enter additional markets. This need to stay current, competitive and to become a "one-stop-shop" for all things scrap metal, was the driving force behind their move into materials such as e-waste - and they started buying scrap cars.

"ELVs have steadily become a larger part of our business than first imagined and we now buy and process all our end of life vehicles," explains Slipacoff. "With competition and margins disappearing and the need to literally be able to pull in anything you can pull in, and with industry shrinking and businesses closing up, we needed to fill a void because of material we weren't getting anymore." 

He says to be involved in auto recycling requires having a proper car rack as well as the proper draining methods, and notes recently introduced regulations in the province of Ontario that have to be considered. (Ontario's recently approved Automotive Materials Stewardship plan took effect as of April.) 

"They want to get rid of the kind of fly-by-night recyclers who aren't following environmental regulations. But, for a lot of the auto wreckers, it's a big investment to buy a car rack to make sure you're doing everything properly, if you weren't doing it before. I think that will maybe put some car recyclers out of business. For us, it's been an investment, but one we're happy to make."

Slipacoff says over the coming months they will upgrade their car rack system even further. "We have a car rack system, but we're going to invest in even better technology because that's just the way of the future, and we want to stay current."

In May, Trijan committed to buying a SEDA mobile car drainage system from Ontario-based supplier ELV Select, a portable system that is fully contained in a roll-off container and which will meet and exceed the latest Ontario ELV recycling regulations.

"This system will be very handy," Slipacoff says. "If you need to take the equipment off site or if you need to set up at a different spot in your yard, or even if it's just going to sit in one spot, at least you can close the lid and it's protected. I think it's a pretty great idea. It's something that we expect will work fantastic for our yard." 

Ship shape
For many years, Trijan handled all of their our own trucking and would ship most of their ferrous and nonferrous material loosely (unbaled). But things change, and they now contract out all finished-product transportation, though they still have a fleet of roll-off and lugger trucks for collecting material. Key to making the transition away from shipping material loosely, Slipacoff says, was when they purchased a nonferrous baler from Harris, as well as a ferrous baler/logger from Al-Jon.

"Shipping material loosely in our own trucks worked for a long time but became ineffective as scrap markets changed, competition intensified, operational costs increased and profit margins shrank," explains Slipacoff. 

"When we upgraded our company in 2010/2011, we invested in many areas. One of the first was in new baling equipment which completely revolutionized the way we operate. Inside our nonferrous warehouse, our ‘go-to' piece of equipment is now our two-ram Harris Badger which we use for baling almost everything nonferrous." 

He says that because Trijan has transitioned to sorting their own aluminum, wire, packaging and other materials, and because they have efficient baling systems for both nonferrous and ferrous materials, they can now send material to the mill, ready to go. "We get top price, for ‘primo' grade material," he says. "And we're not losing anything to sorting or labour on the other end."

For the ferrous side of their operation, Trijan uses an Al-Jon baler/logger for all tin, white goods, cars and anything else that it can handle safely, including tires. 
According to Slipacoff, their Badger nonferrous baler (loaded with a Bobcat skid-steer loader) and their Al-Jon baler/logger (loaded by a recently purchased Liebherr material handler) have been indispensable pairings in their transition away from shipping material loosely. They can now maximize shipping weights and use less trucks. 

"When we were running our own truck and scow trailer for shipping materials, and were shipping loose, we might get 34,000-pounds ferrous in a load. Maybe you're shipping 17 net tons if you're lucky," says Slipacoff. "Our balers have changed this. With our Al-Jon baler/logger, we can package everything and fit twice the amount of weight into a truck, getting twice the return per load."

Inside Trijan’s nonferrous warehouse, their ‘go-to’ piece of equipment is a two-ram Harris Badger baler.

The move into Auto Recycling 
There was a time when Trijan left scrap cars to the auto wreckers. But Slipacoff says that as the scrap metal industry has morphed and changed it became apparent they needed to enter additional markets. This need to stay current, competitive and to become a "one-stop-shop" for all things scrap metal, was the driving force behind their move into materials such as e-waste - and they started buying scrap cars.

"ELVs have steadily become a larger part of our business than first imagined and we now buy and process all our end of life vehicles," explains Slipacoff. "With competition and margins disappearing and the need to literally be able to pull in anything you can pull in, and with industry shrinking and businesses closing up, we needed to fill a void because of material we weren't getting anymore." 

He says to be involved in auto recycling requires having a proper car rack as well as the proper draining methods, and notes recently introduced regulations in the province of Ontario that have to be considered. (Ontario's recently approved Automotive Materials Stewardship plan took effect as of April.) 

"They want to get rid of the kind of fly-by-night recyclers who aren't following environmental regulations. But, for a lot of the auto wreckers, it's a big investment to buy a car rack to make sure you're doing everything properly, if you weren't doing it before. I think that will maybe put some car recyclers out of business. For us, it's been an investment, but one we're happy to make."

Slipacoff says over the coming months they will upgrade their car rack system even further. "We have a car rack system, but we're going to invest in even better technology because that's just the way of the future, and we want to stay current."

In May, Trijan committed to buying a SEDA mobile car drainage system from Ontario-based supplier ELV Select, a portable system that is fully contained in a roll-off container and which will meet and exceed the latest Ontario ELV recycling regulations.

"This system will be very handy," Slipacoff says. "If you need to take the equipment off site or if you need to set up at a different spot in your yard, or even if it's just going to sit in one spot, at least you can close the lid and it's protected. I think it's a pretty great idea. It's something that we expect will work fantastic for our yard." 

Ship shape
For many years, Trijan handled all of their our own trucking and would ship most of their ferrous and nonferrous material loosely (unbaled). But things change, and they now contract out all finished-product transportation, though they still have a fleet of roll-off and lugger trucks for collecting material. Key to making the transition away from shipping material loosely, Slipacoff says, was when they purchased a nonferrous baler from Harris, as well as a ferrous baler/logger from Al-Jon.

"Shipping material loosely in our own trucks worked for a long time but became ineffective as scrap markets changed, competition intensified, operational costs increased and profit margins shrank," explains Slipacoff. 

"When we upgraded our company in 2010/2011, we invested in many areas. One of the first was in new baling equipment which completely revolutionized the way we operate. Inside our nonferrous warehouse, our ‘go-to' piece of equipment is now our two-ram Harris Badger which we use for baling almost everything nonferrous." 

He says that because Trijan has transitioned to sorting their own aluminum, wire, packaging and other materials, and because they have efficient baling systems for both nonferrous and ferrous materials, they can now send material to the mill, ready to go. "We get top price, for ‘primo' grade material," he says. "And we're not losing anything to sorting or labour on the other end."

For the ferrous side of their operation, Trijan uses an Al-Jon baler/logger for all tin, white goods, cars and anything else that it can handle safely, including tires. 
According to Slipacoff, their Badger nonferrous baler (loaded with a Bobcat skid-steer loader) and their Al-Jon baler/logger (loaded by a recently purchased Liebherr material handler) have been indispensable pairings in their transition away from shipping material loosely. They can now maximize shipping weights and use less trucks. 

"When we were running our own truck and scow trailer for shipping materials, and were shipping loose, we might get 34,000-pounds ferrous in a load. Maybe you're shipping 17 net tons if you're lucky," says Slipacoff. "Our balers have changed this. With our Al-Jon baler/logger, we can package everything and fit twice the amount of weight into a truck, getting twice the return per load."

Trijan’s team from left: Greg Groulx, Jamie Taylor, Rob Davidson, Justin Nicholaisen, Ron Bresette, Doug Slipacoff, Lawry Slipacoff (owner), Roger Gilmour, Rockey Gordon, and Gerald Spinks.

Big iron
Slipacoff says Trijan has been running Liebherr material handlers for several decades. He refers to their latest models, both purchased within the last five years, as the "heartbeat of their ferrous yard." 

"These machines sort and separate every load that comes in, load our baler/logger and all outbound trucks, as well as perform many other daily tasks," he explains. "They're great for sorting and separating big, mixed loads, it is easy to switch between a grapple and a magnet, and they just really allow us to process our material faster."

He says many years ago, before they ran their Liebherr handlers, using cable cranes, it would take up to four hours to load one truck. Today, using the Liebherr handlers, with their hydraulics, telescoping cabs and a grapple, they load their trucks in about 20 to 30 minutes.

"Our operators can see over the sides, which you couldn't do before. They're able to see as they're loading, which allows them to be safer, more efficient, and makes for a smoother process."

Most recently Trijan also added a Link-Belt excavator with a LaBounty mobile shear to their fleet, for handling all oversized steel cutting. 

"This combination is the definition of productivity and efficiency," he says. "Our shear operator can now cut as much steel in one day as he used to be able to torch up in one week. Not only has this allowed us to ramp up our steel production, it has also drastically cut back on all our torching costs which can get pricey - and it's safer."

He adds that with the Link-Belt excavator and Labounty shear paired up, they also now have the ability to go offsite for cleanup and cut-up jobs. "We've started doing some light demolition work. We're just getting going with the demolition side of things, so the goal with our mobile shear and Link-Belt is to move a little bit more in that direction.
"We now have the ability and the equipment to perform almost any job in the scrap metal industry," says Slipacoff. "If we can't do a job, we have built a solid network of supporting companies we can source it out to."

The Safety factor
Trijan places a heavy importance on all aspects of employee and customer safety, and has focused on this part of their business for many years. Slipacoff says, for example, dealing with petrochemical industry scrap metal does pose some particular safety challenges. 

"Refineries are and can be very dangerous places to work if you do not respect safety processes and site safety rules," he explains. "For our drivers who are picking up and delivering containers they may be required to enter dangerous areas of operation. They must make sure to follow site-specific safety rules and have the proper personal protective equipment. 

"From the chemical aspect it is also a challenge because the chemicals being produced at these facilities can be lethal and can seriously harm a person if exposed," Slipacoff continues. "All plants and refineries in Ontario's ‘Chemical Valley' have strict safety guidelines for every operation and process, for almost every single job or task, so the risks are mitigated. However, if safety rules are not respected it can quickly turn in to a deadly situation. 

"At Trijan, it is incredibly important that any material or equipment that was part of a chemical-producing process be properly drained and washed out prior to being placed in our containers for scrap. The last thing you would want to do is bring a scrapped vessel or a piece of scrap equipment and have it be full of a dangerous chemical that could seriously harm an employee or lead to something worse."

For challenges such as these, Slipacoff says they turn to the Industrial Educational Co-op (IEC) for training of their staff. "The IEC was formed by local chemical plants and various other companies in the Sarnia area, and is basically a one-stop shop safety training centre," explains Slipacoff. "If you belong to the IEC, which we do, it means all your employees go there for safety training. They cover all aspects of training, whether it's basic safety, dangerous load, breathing apparatuses, scaffolding and fire safety. Because of the IEC, Sarnia is one of the safest industrial areas in all of Canada, if not the safest."

He continues, "Part of belonging to the IEC is that they come to your site and they do a site audit to make sure everything is in compliance with all current rules and regulations and that you have the proper safety manuals and information available to your employees. 

"When the IEC was last at our site, we got a 100-percent ranking, which is a nice form of recognition that our company takes safety very seriously." 

Meeting current challenges
In Southwestern Ontario, Slipacoff says, they have seen a severe decline in the industrial sector in the last 10- to 15-plus years. When factored with current high energy and hydro prices, tighter environmental regulations and higher taxes, he notes they have seen a lot of businesses close up shop and head to the U.S. or Mexico, while seeing little growth to offset the losses. 

"As southwestern Ontario continues to be hard hit by the closures of numerous industrial sector companies, this has been a driving factor behind our company goals of being as efficient as possible in order to maximize every dollar we can," says Slipacoff. 

He adds that another challenge is the scrap marketplace itself. "With the volatility of ferrous and nonferrous markets, it can be tough to try and look to the future and plan ahead when you don't know what prices are going to do. 

"Again this is another reason for the need to be focused on our customers as well as efficient in our processes, and to turn over material as quickly as possible to make sure we do not get caught with material we can't sell because of market decreases."

Besides high-level customer service and efficiency of operations, Slipacoff emphasizes the importance of hiring great people. "What sets Trijan apart from our competition is our employees," he says. "Our staff are unionized and receive excellent pay and benefits, and as a result we have near perfect employee retention and experience little to no staff turnover. We have staff who have been with our company for 10, 15, 20 and even 30 years. Because of this we have the most knowledgeable staff in our area and our employees are all highly trained and skilled and know their jobs inside and out. 

"Having employees who have been with our company since I was just a little boy coming to the scrap yard with my dad growing up is what allows us to keep our ‘family company' atmosphere. And our customers, whether doing a container pick-up or dropping material off in the yard or at the nonferrous warehouse, enjoy seeing the same friendly faces year after year. 

"As someone who has been in the industry full-time for the last seven years I can say the best advice I could give someone starting out or looking to grow their business in scrap metal is to know what you're good at and dominate that area to the best of your abilities. The easiest way to put yourself at a disadvantage is to try and cover more area than you can and to spread yourself too thin." 

This article was originally published in the May/June 2017 editionof Recycling Product News, Volume 25, Number 4.

For collection of materials, Trijan has over 100 roll-offs and lugger buckets in circulation, with roll-offs serviced using a recently purchased Mack truck.

Big iron
Slipacoff says Trijan has been running Liebherr material handlers for several decades. He refers to their latest models, both purchased within the last five years, as the "heartbeat of their ferrous yard." 

"These machines sort and separate every load that comes in, load our baler/logger and all outbound trucks, as well as perform many other daily tasks," he explains. "They're great for sorting and separating big, mixed loads, it is easy to switch between a grapple and a magnet, and they just really allow us to process our material faster."

He says many years ago, before they ran their Liebherr handlers, using cable cranes, it would take up to four hours to load one truck. Today, using the Liebherr handlers, with their hydraulics, telescoping cabs and a grapple, they load their trucks in about 20 to 30 minutes.

"Our operators can see over the sides, which you couldn't do before. They're able to see as they're loading, which allows them to be safer, more efficient, and makes for a smoother process."

Most recently Trijan also added a Link-Belt excavator with a LaBounty mobile shear to their fleet, for handling all oversized steel cutting. 

"This combination is the definition of productivity and efficiency," he says. "Our shear operator can now cut as much steel in one day as he used to be able to torch up in one week. Not only has this allowed us to ramp up our steel production, it has also drastically cut back on all our torching costs which can get pricey - and it's safer."

He adds that with the Link-Belt excavator and Labounty shear paired up, they also now have the ability to go offsite for cleanup and cut-up jobs. "We've started doing some light demolition work. We're just getting going with the demolition side of things, so the goal with our mobile shear and Link-Belt is to move a little bit more in that direction.
"We now have the ability and the equipment to perform almost any job in the scrap metal industry," says Slipacoff. "If we can't do a job, we have built a solid network of supporting companies we can source it out to."

The Safety factor
Trijan places a heavy importance on all aspects of employee and customer safety, and has focused on this part of their business for many years. Slipacoff says, for example, dealing with petrochemical industry scrap metal does pose some particular safety challenges. 

"Refineries are and can be very dangerous places to work if you do not respect safety processes and site safety rules," he explains. "For our drivers who are picking up and delivering containers they may be required to enter dangerous areas of operation. They must make sure to follow site-specific safety rules and have the proper personal protective equipment. 

"From the chemical aspect it is also a challenge because the chemicals being produced at these facilities can be lethal and can seriously harm a person if exposed," Slipacoff continues. "All plants and refineries in Ontario's ‘Chemical Valley' have strict safety guidelines for every operation and process, for almost every single job or task, so the risks are mitigated. However, if safety rules are not respected it can quickly turn in to a deadly situation. 

"At Trijan, it is incredibly important that any material or equipment that was part of a chemical-producing process be properly drained and washed out prior to being placed in our containers for scrap. The last thing you would want to do is bring a scrapped vessel or a piece of scrap equipment and have it be full of a dangerous chemical that could seriously harm an employee or lead to something worse."

For challenges such as these, Slipacoff says they turn to the Industrial Educational Co-op (IEC) for training of their staff. "The IEC was formed by local chemical plants and various other companies in the Sarnia area, and is basically a one-stop shop safety training centre," explains Slipacoff. "If you belong to the IEC, which we do, it means all your employees go there for safety training. They cover all aspects of training, whether it's basic safety, dangerous load, breathing apparatuses, scaffolding and fire safety. Because of the IEC, Sarnia is one of the safest industrial areas in all of Canada, if not the safest."

He continues, "Part of belonging to the IEC is that they come to your site and they do a site audit to make sure everything is in compliance with all current rules and regulations and that you have the proper safety manuals and information available to your employees. 

"When the IEC was last at our site, we got a 100-percent ranking, which is a nice form of recognition that our company takes safety very seriously." 

Meeting current challenges
In Southwestern Ontario, Slipacoff says, they have seen a severe decline in the industrial sector in the last 10- to 15-plus years. When factored with current high energy and hydro prices, tighter environmental regulations and higher taxes, he notes they have seen a lot of businesses close up shop and head to the U.S. or Mexico, while seeing little growth to offset the losses. 

"As southwestern Ontario continues to be hard hit by the closures of numerous industrial sector companies, this has been a driving factor behind our company goals of being as efficient as possible in order to maximize every dollar we can," says Slipacoff. 

He adds that another challenge is the scrap marketplace itself. "With the volatility of ferrous and nonferrous markets, it can be tough to try and look to the future and plan ahead when you don't know what prices are going to do. 

"Again this is another reason for the need to be focused on our customers as well as efficient in our processes, and to turn over material as quickly as possible to make sure we do not get caught with material we can't sell because of market decreases."

Besides high-level customer service and efficiency of operations, Slipacoff emphasizes the importance of hiring great people. "What sets Trijan apart from our competition is our employees," he says. "Our staff are unionized and receive excellent pay and benefits, and as a result we have near perfect employee retention and experience little to no staff turnover. We have staff who have been with our company for 10, 15, 20 and even 30 years. Because of this we have the most knowledgeable staff in our area and our employees are all highly trained and skilled and know their jobs inside and out. 

"Having employees who have been with our company since I was just a little boy coming to the scrap yard with my dad growing up is what allows us to keep our ‘family company' atmosphere. And our customers, whether doing a container pick-up or dropping material off in the yard or at the nonferrous warehouse, enjoy seeing the same friendly faces year after year. 

"As someone who has been in the industry full-time for the last seven years I can say the best advice I could give someone starting out or looking to grow their business in scrap metal is to know what you're good at and dominate that area to the best of your abilities. The easiest way to put yourself at a disadvantage is to try and cover more area than you can and to spread yourself too thin." 

This article was originally published in the May/June 2017 editionof Recycling Product News, Volume 25, Number 4.

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