by Jon M. Casey
Morbark President, Jim Shoemaker, welcomed more than 150 people from six nations to 2013 Spring Demo Days, the first of two such events for Morbark this year. The two day event held May 16 and 17, featured a manufacturing plant tour, equipment demonstrations of nine of Morbark’s grinding and chipping line of products, and a trio of presentations by industry experts who offered insights into marketing opportunities for those in the recycling industry. Host and Morbark CEO Lon Morey, said that this year’s event looked to highlight innovative machines for biomass production.
Dividing up into groups of four to six people each, attendees spent the morning touring Morbark’s massive, 32 acre, manufacturing facility, where they were able to see how the company manufactures their product line from “the ground up.” Noting that it was company founder Norval Morey’s desire to do as much manufacturing in-house as possible, the staff emphasized that by not relying upon sub component manufacturers for many of their product parts, Morbark is able to build equipment with the kind of quality they are seeking. A stop at the hydraulic cylinder shop emphasized the point.
Our tour guide, Michael Stanton, recalled a time in the past when Morbark was having quality issues with hydraulic cylinders that were being supplied from an outside source. Once the problem was resolved, Mr. Morey determined that Morbark and Morbark’s customers were not going to be inconvenienced with component parts that did not meet up to his high quality standards for reliability and function. In short order, Morey implemented his own cylinder manufacturing segment which remains to this day. Stanton said that this standard of excellence prevails throughout the entire company.
Afternoon activities continued with three seminars focused on how recyclers might more effectively respond to current and future economic and regulatory conditions as they pursue growth in their industry. Bill Turley, Associate Publisher and Editor of C&D World spoke on behalf of the Construction & Demolition Recycling Association as the association’s Executive Director, giving an industry overview of how much business is actually estimated to be “out there” for recyclers in today’s markets.
Delton Dructor, executive vice president of the American Logging Council, recalled recent lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., where, to his frustration, regulatory agencies do not seem to be working toward the same objectives when it comes to the timber and recycling industry. He said that different agencies often are influenced by groups who are not familiar with timber and timber management. He said that the crossed purposes of differing regulations can tend to put timber industry professionals out of business because the intrusiveness of these regulations.
Delton Alderman, Research Forest Products technologist for the USDA Forest Service, gave a presentation on the future of the housing market. Based on his service’s estimates, he forecasts a slow but steady growth in the housing industry. He said that overall starts would be about 60 percent less than historical averages, with single family starts being around 54 percent less than historical average. While his data supported a modest recovery, he said several indicators show a lackluster recovery at this time. These factors included new banking regulations, a sluggish economy and a lack of good paying jobs to help fund family housing desires. With consumer confidence still fragile and a declining real median family income level, the strict new home loan lending standards still tend to thwart new homeowner purchases, especially first time home buyers.
On Friday, attendees moved to Morbark’s demonstration area a few miles distant from the plant where they had opportunity to observe nine machines in action. Once the grinding or chipping demonstrations had concluded, they were allowed to gather around each of the pieces of equipment for closer examination. Of special interest was the new configuration of the 40/36 Whole Tree Drum Chipper, re-worked to produce superior microchips for use by pellet mills and as supplemental fuel for cogeneration at coal facilities.
The 40/36 Whole Tree Drum Chipper was first introduced in 2008 as a compact, affordable and productive biomass chipper. The model was improved by the addition of the Advantage 3 high performance chipping drum in 2011, which significantly improved chip quality. The latest model includes an enhanced drum set with 16 knives utilizing standard hardware, an operator friendly slide-in forestry grate system to reduce oversized chips and a mechanically driven chip accelerator to fully load vans with the microchips.
John Foote, Morbark vice president of Sales and Marketing said that with new biomass plants being built in the United States and the rapid expansion of wood pellet exports to Europe to meet the European Union’s mandate that 20 percent of its energy come from renewable sources by 2020, a cost effective system for making microchips was needed. “This newly re-engineered 40/36 MicroChipper is the solution,” he said. “We are able to produce a far superior product, producing 95-98 percent acceptable microchips at volumes of more than 70 tons per hour.”
The 3200 Wood Hog horizontal grinder was another new product featured during the event. This new unit was created to fill the gap between Morbark’s 2600 and 3800 Wood Hogs for the recycling market and mulch producers. Aimed at wood and green waste recycling applications, the 3200 is a compact and aggressive unit.
“We saw a need for a horizontal grinder in the 400-600 horsepower range that was smaller than our 3800 Wood Hog and more powerful than our 2600 Wood Hog,” said Foote. “This is a smaller, lighter and more affordable unit with all of the benefits of our larger grinders.” He noted that the 3200 Wood Hog can handle green waste, regrind, sawmill residue, pallets and logs up to 14-inches in diameter ease. The 30-inch diameter feedwheel is powered by an internal drive Fairfield torque hub with no chains or sprockets for more torque, greater durability and less maintenance. Other standard features include a Poclain infeed chain drive, dust suppression, remote control, air brakes and hydraulic oil cooler.
Other products demonstrated included the Beever M20R Forestry chipper, the 30/36 NCL and 50/48 WCL Track Whole Tree Drum Chipper, the 23 WCL Chiparvestor, the 4600XL and 6600 Wood Hog horizontal grinders, and the 1600 Tub Grinder.
For more information on Morbark products, visit their website at www.morbark.com.
Service after the sale is Morbark’s goal
During Morbark’s Demo Days activities, Lon Morey, CEO and host for the two day event, took a few moments between demonstrations, to share his thoughts with WHEN. “We enjoy the opportunity to showcase our people in manufacturing,” said Morey, referring to the plant tour that took place the day before. “The workers produce the quality products that we see here in operation today. We have a great number of long term employees and they take great pride in their work.”
Morey said that while Morbark goes to great lengths to make their products to the highest quality standards, their service after the sale is one of their primary goals in business. With the move to LEAN manufacturing techniques and QRM (quick response manufacturing), Morey said that the improvements in quality manufacturing has emphasized the need for the best service after the sale, possible.
As a testimonial to Morbark product quality, Morey noted the longevity of many of their machines. “We have machines out there that are more than 30 years old that are still in operation,” he said. “We are one of the few companies in the world who stocks parts for machines that have been in service that long. I’ve heard of machines dating back to the 1970’s still in service. Service after the sale has always been important to me.”
Morey recalled how in years past, he served as the head of the parts division of the company. He said that in that role, he regularly had contact with the customer, whose machine was out of service for whatever reason. He said that he gained important understanding from those customers who were awaiting the arrival of a needed part. That was when he became acutely aware of the importance of service after the sale.
“I’ve never forgotten that,” he said. “The customer is most important to us. When their equipment is not working properly, we want it back in service. We are here to support the customers for the long haul.”