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Homework Pays Big Dividends for Detroit Company

Wed March 04, 2020 - Midwest Edition #5

A bird’s eye view of the Sennebogen 825 M working the pile.
A bird’s eye view of the Sennebogen 825 M working the pile.
A bird’s eye view of the Sennebogen 825 M working the pile. With the Sennebogen 825M material handler, the operator has a clear view into the shredder. Paul (L) and Hunter Cunningham. Whether it’s with a magnet or a grapple, at Lake Pleasant, they are ready to work. The Sennebogen 825 with a hydraulic Maxcab is perfect for loading a shredder or dump truck.

Lake Pleasant Recycling and Demolition (LPRD), located in Michigan's beautiful Irish Hills, 2.5 hours southwest of Detroit, seems an unlikely location for a flourishing scrap operation. This is a rural area most notably home to Michigan International Speedway (MIS) and Hillsdale College. This is farm country, where tractor pulls, monster trucks and demolition derbies head the list of summertime entertainment.

Lake Pleasant Recycling and Demolition has claimed its stake as the "go-to" recycling yard in the region for the past 15 years. Determination, hard work, persistence and a keen eye for niche opportunities LPRD's founder and president Paul Cunningham has steadily guided the company's growth, all starting from the back of his pickup.

Fast forward to the LPRD operation today. On a 15-acre site there are multiple trucks and trailers, open top cans, shredders, shears, wheel loaders, scales and material handlers. Cunningham knows heavy equipment. Starting as a teenager, building a landscaping and snowplowing business, then an aggregate business, Cunningham is now a passionate recycler.

Paul (L) and Hunter Cunningham.

But an operation of LPRD's size has long since grown beyond a one man show. Cunningham's son, Hunter, has become a key part of LPRD, as foreman and head equipment operator. Hunter has been hanging out with his Dad at the yard for three-quarters of his life. Hunter is "equipment smart" well beyond his 22 years of age and Paul is laser focused on improving the company's productivity, cost control and customer service.

You might be wondering where the scrap comes from in this sparsely populated, rural SE Michigan setting. LPRD runs their own fleet of trucks collecting its onsite bins placed at customer sites throughout the surrounding counties and welcomes drive-in customers. But what's LPRD'S secret to success? Propane tanks. LPRD's niche is prepping and pre-processing expired propane tanks that range in size from the small 20 lb. BBQ variety through to semi-trailer shipping tanks. LPRD's expired propane tank customer list reads like the who's who of propane distributors throughout the mid-west.

"We've seen our business ramp up and we want to continue growing the expired propane tank business", said Paul. "It's not for everybody. It takes a lot of expertise but we're really good at it, and we've pretty well seen and done it all in the tank business."

Paul, Hunter and the staff were having problems keeping up with LPRD's growth, identifying the two 2012 material handlers with 5,700 and 7,500 hours as the culprits. Poor reliability, no parts and extended service downtime was beating the business up.

"We couldn't get the material where it needed to be in an efficient or timely manner", said Paul. "That's what we do at LPRD and we needed to come up with an economical, long-term solution."

Paul and Hunter set out to find the "best fit" material handler out there that suited LPRD's operation. Best fit to Paul consisted of many factors in his search: Purchase price was first, followed by safety, productivity, operating costs, reliability, durability, service and parts availability. Paul's first deal was already on the table for the same brand of equipment that they purchased in 2012. However, not one to repeat past mistakes, Paul wanted to dig deeper into what the market had to offer.

The Sennebogen 825 with a hydraulic Maxcab is perfect for loading a shredder or dump truck.

Paul's search for the best fit led him to Alta Equipment, a multi-line full service dealer that represented Sennebogen material handlers. Alta had many satisfied Sennebogen customers already operating in Michigan that were eager to share their positive experiences with their Sennebogen material handlers. Alta also had a full support staff, dedicated Sennebogen product specialists and a comprehensive Sennebogen parts inventory with field service mechanics who were trained specifically on the Sennebogen equipment. And Alta was armed with a fleet of service trucks to get on site fast to get the job done.

"Mike Adams, Alta account manager, was a key element in building my confidence in both Alta and Sennebogen equipment. Mike was there from the start, through the whole process and he still stops in here often, even after the sale. We were very tough on Mike through the negotiation process but he bounced back every time we knocked him down. That tenacity further strengthened our relationship. Once Alta came to terms with our budget, our deal fell into place. Sennebogen was clearly the equipment frontrunner and most qualified to meet my "best fit" equipment criteria", said Paul.

Adams said, "Uptime matters. We strive to live up to our mantra every day; Alta is a service company that gets to sell equipment."

Six weeks later, the first of the two Sennebogen 825 M E series units arrived at LPRD. The second unit was on site eight weeks later. Both Sennebogen material handlers were identical units equipped with the Cummins Tier IV engines. One was equipped with a 4-tine .75-yd. grapple and the other with a magnet. Either machine can operate either the grapple or magnet.

"Our yard is really spread out and we need rapid mobility, maneuverability and quick set up. Whether we are at the scale, the shredder, loading or unloading trucks or anywhere in the yard, we need to get there and get there quickly with minimal setup time and get to work. The rubber tired all-wheel drive and steerable axles let us travel rapidly. We needed a machine with full under body protection. We also needed a machine with responsive controls and good visibility that would allow us to surgically remove engine blocks from scrap cars. We got it all with Sennebogen. We also got other things like the beefy cushioned cylinders that make it easier on both the machine and the operators. From a safety perspective, we got a bulletproof front windshield and guarding, a sliding door for quick and easy in and out of cab and full handrails on the outside to prevent falls while performing service work. Most importantly, we needed a rock-solid stable platform that runs hour after hour, day after day. The Sennebogen 825 M has it all and more", said Hunter.

Paul has worked to quantify productivity and has seen improvements of 25 percent since bringing the two Sennebogens online in the yard.

Whether it's with a magnet or a grapple, at Lake Pleasant, they are ready to work.

"These units are easy to operate, reliable and are quiet and safe both inside and outside the cab. My operators only have praise for the Sennebogens. As well, I have tracked a significant reduction in our fuel costs. My operating cost are way down and my productivity is way up. As an owner of a yard, what more could I ask for", said Paul.

The two Sennebogens have been in service for several months and the LPRD team of Paul, Hunter and the rest of the staff all agree they made the right decision.

"No buyer's remorse here", said Paul. "We did our homework, we built the relationship and without a doubt we bought the best material handlers out there. Bring on the expired propane tanks by the truckload guys, we're ready to handle the growth with the Sennebogens in our fleet."

Paul's final words to those in the market looking to buy a material handler:

"Sennebogen — Try it, you'll buy it."

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