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Vermeer tub grinder helps mulch supplier meet strong seasonal demand

A tub grinder grinds wood waste into mulch
An Ener-Con Vermeer TG9000 tub grinder Vermeer

Ener-Con, Inc. says that it is the largest wood recycling company in the state of Wisconsin, specializing in making high-quality mulch for large landscape companies and garden centres. The company also supplies a full range of landscaping products including decorative stone, aggregate stone, and topsoil.

The company has a reputation for innovation. Ener-Con was one of the first companies in the United States to purchase a mulch colouring machine. This addition helped them provide new options for a growing customer base.

Ener-Con strives to keep pace with demand by investing in horizontal and tub grinders that can efficiently process upward of 800 to 1,000 yards (611.6 to 764.6 cubic metres) per hour. Even with this pace of production, strong seasonal demands can still translate into long hours for the grinding crews. Most of the company's product is sold in a three-month window, so it must be available when needed. 

"Labour is always a big challenge," said Jeff Justman, co-owner of Ener-Con.

By increasing throughput, a grinder can allow the crew to work fewer hours and still meet the production goal. This maximizes Ener-Con's most important asset: labour.

Ener-Con emerges

Prior to forming Ener-Con, founder Ken Goeman and two of his sons built bottom boards and pallets to hold hot metal casings. The family received their lumber from logging mills. They noticed the mills stored giant piles of chipped bark created from debarking logs. Ken and his sons recognized the opportunity to recycle this waste into a usable product – and Ener-Con was formed.

Today, the company offers custom grinding services that transform bark, pallets, stumps, and other wood materials. Producing the volume of end products needed to meet ever-growing demand requires a reliable high-production tub grinder. 

Ener-Con is always exploring ways to maximize production with its current workforce. To increase product throughput, the company purchased a Vermeer TG9000 tub grinder – which was engineered for large wood processing applications and features a large 11-foot (3.4-metre) tub opening.

This tub grinder has proven reliable while helping boost production rates compared to the company's previous grinders. 

"The TG9000 is very consistent, very reliable and very high production. We have been upward of 1,400 cubic yards (1,070.4 cubic metres) per hour of finished product through that machine," said Justman. "It gives us an advantage over our competition. It can almost do the work of two machines. If we didn't have the TG9000 on our site, we would have to rely on two more workdays per week, which we don't have in the busy season."

Machine productivity saves work hours

Retaining employees is critical in a tight labour market. The speed of the Vermeer TG9000 tub grinder helps a key employee fulfill production requirements in less time. As a result, he gets more time with his family.

"It is faster than anything I ever ran. I can barely keep up with it," said Kyle Wolf, manager at Ener-Con. "Working with other machines, the day just dragged on. I had to work 14 or 15 hours a day. Now I get out of here in nine hours and I have twice as much done. The Vermeer TG9000 tub grinder gives me a lot more time at home."

Selecting the appropriate screen configuration for a grinder is a vital step in achieving the desired end product while helping maximize production. The crew saves time with this task, too. 

"Sometimes during the day, I have to go to a different product or make a finer product. Sometimes it's two or three times a day. I have to change the screens and can get it done in 15 minutes. It's given me a lot more time to get more stuff done," said Wolf.

Grinding inconsistent source material 

Paper mills and sawmills provide Ener-Con with a steady source of material. But every supplier has a different procedure for removing bark, which results in inconsistent source material that varies widely in size. This can create challenges when attempting to achieve a consistently sized end product.

The TG900 tub grinder has been able to handle this material and produce a consistent end product for Ener-Con.

"The consistency of the product is great," said Justman. "We don't worry about going back and looking for spears or inconsistency in our product. Everything comes out perfect the first pass through the grinder."

Ultimately, minimizing the need for second passes during the grinding process helps save Ener-Con time and labour.

Dealer support provides an advantage

Another adjustment Ener-Con made to help maximize its throughput was the decision to invest in machinery supported by local dealerships. 

After running competitive units for nearly 25 years, Ener-Con made the switch to Vermeer grinders due to the diligence of the team at Vermeer Wisconsin. Ener-Con's main contact at the dealership is Recycling and Forestry Specialist Brad Van Rheenen. 

"Grinders are a unique animal," explained Justman. "A lot of people are not familiar with grinders. It's hard to just call a repair shop and have a grinder fixed. It's nice to have a team close by that can answer questions and help with repairs. Brad is always there."

Van Rheenen draws on 30 years of experience visiting mulch facilities and applying what he's learned to help maximize customer efficiency. He recommended the TG9000 tub grinder for Ener-Con because it's primarily a regrinding operation. Tub grinders are a great tool for regrind because the gravity feed system minimizes maintenance and there are no infeed chains to maintain.

During a plant tour at the Vermeer manufacturing facility, Justman learned that Ener-Con could order a custom-coloured machine. This was an opportunity to differentiate the company from its competition.

"We wanted to make a statement," said Justman. "We wanted something that would be bold and strong. We decided to paint it black."

Company info

1210 Vermeer Road East
Pella, IA
US, 50219


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