A Plant Grows Near the 'Burgh

Growth Strategy Reflected in Versatility of Sennebogen Machines at Alco Iron & Metal

Wed June 26, 2013 - West Edition
CEG


Kari Fletcher, manager of the Vallejo yard in California with the 825 M that gives them the ability to move about the yard.
Kari Fletcher, manager of the Vallejo yard in California with the 825 M that gives them the ability to move about the yard.

It all started with just a quarter-acre site in San Leandro, Calif., in 1953 but now, in its 60th year and with a network of four scrap-processing locations throughout the greater San Francisco region, Alco Iron & Metal Company is finding that old-school values are still the best path to growth.

Still owned by the same family, Alco Iron & Metal is spread out over 35 acres in four separate locations in Northern California. The company currently employs more than 200 employees including scrap metal buyers, processing crews, new and usable buyers, sales staff, demolition experts, certified welders, and a complete fabrication shop staff.

“Our business model evolved from our customers,” said Kari Fletcher, manager of the Vallejo yard. “We build good relationships based on trust with our service and our knowledge and the right equipment. Then the customers ask us what else we can do for them to assist them in their businesses.”

A Complete Circle

in Metals

Unlike many recycling businesses, Alco is engaged in the full circle of metal and iron services. Along with collecting and processing both ferrous and non-ferrous metals, Alco takes on demolition projects, which provide a primary source of materials for recycling.

The company also is a large distributor of new structural steel, aluminum and copper. Backed by its service ethic, the scope of Alco’s metal interests creates opportunities to grow within its own customer base, as both a seller and a buyer of its customers’ metal.

At Alco’s newest recycling yard in Stockton, General Manager Jerry Lynch has also seen first-hand how its growth strategy works. “Our business plan is all about taking care of the core customer,” said Lynch. “We’re your one-stop shop: we’ll recycle your materials and we’ll sell you your new materials from the mills.”

Versatility Supports Responsive Business

This underlying philosophy reveals itself in every aspect of Alco’s business, from its administration to the equipment it operates.

The newest machines in the Alco recycling yards are Sennebogan 825 M rubber-tired scrap handlers. “Our facilities here (in Vallejo) and in Stockton are very similar,” Fletcher continued. “They are both 15-acre paved sites. We buy ferrous metals at the rear of the yard and we make our non-ferrous purchases in the building at the front of the yard. At any time, we could need our material handler to move right to the opposite end of the yard. We were looking for wheeled machines for their mobility, and Sennebogan won out. It’s very helpful being able to bring the Sennebogan right into our warehouse.”

In the Stockton yard, Lynch sees his 825 M as more than a scrap handler. “We have a lot of jobs that need equipment like this, so we use the Sennebogan a ’utility’ type of machine. It gives us the versatility we need to be flexible. It can load different containers and move material in the yard. Or we can put it on a truck to help process material on a demolition site.”

Speed, Simplicity, Service

Lynch’s yard still relies on older tracked equipment for much of the day-to-day loading work, but he sees a growing role for the 825 M. “We’ve been limited by the tracked equipment. It tears up our concrete, so we’d be hesitant to zip over 100 yards to move some material. The Sennebogan can go 12 mph without damaging the yard. Its speed and ease of handling lets it step into multiple uses.”

Alco’s scrap handling operators are experienced with various makes and models of equipment. Their reports to Fletcher and Lynch have been more than favorable, according to Fletcher. “They like the visibility from the elevating cab and from the safety cameras strategically placed on the machine. The high resolution monitor allows them to see their working area. They have also mentioned how the wheels make it much easier for them to get around the yard,” she said.

The operators at the Stockton yard are agreed on the 825’s visibility. Its large window area is complemented by backup safety cameras, now provided as standard equipment. “They appreciate the adjustability of the cab height,” said Jerry Lynch. “Its 360 degree range of vision gives them an extra measure of safety. They also say it just feels more rugged — they have a real sense of quality and stability in these machines.”

Lynch also credited his Sennebogan distributor, Bejac Equipment, for helping to keep his operation lean and flexible. “They just show up,” he said. “They’re there to help. When we were considering our purchase, we wanted somebody that would be there for us after we bought the equipment. The Bejac mechanics and all of their staff have been very helpful.”

Family Values at Work

The right equipment reinforces Alco’s ability to respond flexibly to market demands. According to Lynch, the dynamics of a family-run business are strategically valuable, too. “Our ownership is directly involved every day. It’s great to have them involved so our decision-making can be very fast. It allows us to be responsive to opportunities and customer requests.”

That sentiment is a familiar one to Jay Alias, the Bejac representative who has been working with Alco. “We see it, too, in the way Sennebogan operates. It’s also a family-owned business that’s very focused on meeting the needs of each customer,” he said. “We can be successful because, from the factory to the yard, we’re all on the same page.”