Excavator Moves Scrap Yard’s 20-Ton ’Lawn Ornament’

Mon January 01, 2007 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

For what seemed like forever, a 20-ton (18 t) interior rotor part salvaged from a hydroelectric dam sat in the scrap yard at Thompson Metal Services.

“Nothing we owned could move it, we couldn’t even budge it,” said Vice President Bradley Thompson. “It was simply easier to just work around it.”

It was not long after Thompson Metals took delivery of its new Volvo EC360B excavator in April 2006 that someone decided to put the machine to the test on the rusting lawn ornament.

“The EC360B not only lifted the rotor, it towed it 75 or 80 yards to the metal processing area,” said Thompson. “Right then we knew we had something special on our hands.”

Thompson has become a huge fan of the Volvo EC360B excavator. He said the Kingsport, Tenn. industrial scrap metals recycler has been working it hard at least 55 to 65 hours a week ever since. The company recycles all types of ferrous and nonferrous metals, with a special niche in working with stainless steel and alloys.

Tough and unusual jobs are the norm for Thompson Metal Services. Thompson said that over the years the company has recycled boats, cargo barges, airplanes, even railroad cars and locomotives. And in doing these jobs they’ve come to rely on Volvo excavators.

“We bought a used EW170 rubber-wheeled excavator in 2001,” he said. “It has worked hard ever since, and we’ve never had a problem with it.” In 2002, Thompson acquired a Volvo EC240B excavator to operate a metal shear.

“Again, that machine has been reliable in what amounts to a very tough job,” he said. “Those machines convinced me of the quality and reliability of Volvo. So when we started looking for a new excavator to handle the big shear, I was confident Volvo would be a good choice.”

Last spring, Thompson realized he needed a stronger, heavier machine with optimal pressure hydraulics to add efficiencies to his yard operations.

“We had some very specific things we were looking for in our new excavator,” Thompson said.

“We wanted a strong, stable machine that could lift and carry more, reduce the amount of handling time and increase throughput.”

Thompson consulted with Scott Harvey of ASC USA’s Knoxville branch, who suggested he take a close look at the Volvo EC360B.

“We knew we could get more productivity out of our shears if we added a machine capable of handling higher hydraulic pressures,” he said. “And we were right.”

In addition to greater hydraulic pressure, Thompson said the “out-of-the-box” readiness of the Volvo EC360B made that machine even more attractive.

“We wanted an excavator with standard capabilities, one that would be ready from the get-go,” he said. “With our last excavator, it took eight weeks of downtime and $20,000 in optional add-ons to get it job-ready. We didn’t want that again.”

According to Thompson, the immediate need was for an excavator that could effectively operate his new LaBounty 2500R SL shear.

“The LaBounty is a very powerful, capable piece of equipment, but to get the most out of it, you need to operate at the right pressures,” he said. “The EC360B was the only machine we could find that could run all day that way.”

Thompson said his experience with his other Volvo excavators taught him that Volvo made high-quality, reliable equipment, “and would give us a lot of value without breaking the bank.”

A high-pressure shear like the LaBounty 2500R SL puts a lot of wear and tear on the machine and the hydraulic system.

“Volvo could handle the optimal pressure settings for this tool and even has a booster button when a little extra is needed,” Thompson said.

The high-force hydraulics on the Volvo EC360B allows the shear to generate 1,500 tons (1,360 t) of force at the big 36-in. (91 cm) mouth. That means the shears can slice right through significantly heavier gauge steel.

“With the Volvo we go through 1.25-inch steel like butter,” Thompson said. “Before, we had to torch these items into ’more manageable’ pieces before we could reduce them. This has meant huge time and cost savings.”

Thompson said the higherpressure muscle of the EC360B hydraulic system has made a big difference in productivity and profit.

“It makes it possible for us to work more efficiently, with faster cycle times, fewer steps and less torch work,” he said. “We can handle larger pieces of metal and heavier gauge metal a lot easier.”

Thompson explained other factors in his firm’s decision: the EC360B was the largest model the company could transport without breaking it down; and it was a heavy, powerful machine that could handle even the toughest jobs in the yard without as much stress on the machine.

Thompson added that the EC360B has “all the big stuff” including power, high-pressure hydraulics, faster cycle times and excellent fuel economy.

“It’s also the best machine I’ve ever seen ergonomically,” he said.

Thompson added that other “seemingly small features” — like logically-placed controls, buttons and easy-to-read gauges — make the EC360B operator-friendly.

“You could say these aren’t the most important things, but they’re very important to the man who sits in that chair 10 to 12 hours a day,” Thompson said. “I don’t think any big excavator on the market has as much to offer as the EC360B … or gives as much value for the money.”

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