Sun State Trees knows a thing or two about grinders.
The clearing and grinding specialist has been active processing wood and green waste for nearly a decade, growing steadily in that time. And, as the company has grown, so too, has the size of its grinders.
Today, the Casselberry, Fla.-based firm runs a trio of large-scale machines including the largest one currently available from Morbark, its Model 1600, which Sun State officials said has really helped take their operation to the next level.
The full scope of Sun State’s business is evident in its name: A Sun State Trees & Property Maintenance. According to Brett Stovall, the company’s general manager, Sun State has nearly a decade of experience serving the recycling industry, but has been providing tree care, land clearing and other services for much longer than that.
“Randy Nellis, our president, has been active in a number of related businesses for about 25 years so he knows this industry like the palm of his hand. When he started Sun State, he did so with a small grinder, a Vermeer TG400 and quickly learned that the operation is only as good as the equipment supporting it. It wasn’t long before he added a Morbark 1200, at which time production really took off,” Stovall said.
Today, Sun State is one of the region’s specialists in tree removal, clearing and grinding, it operates a full-service landscaping operation and owns a nursery at which it replants trees for subsequent resale.
Growth Feeds Growth
In the last decade, as the company’s clearing and grinding business grew, Sun State continued to invest in newer and larger grinders to keep production up. Doing so, said Stovall, provided multiple benefits.
“The most obvious is that we are able to create more product for sale; we currently sell mulch both to the public and to an area paper mill for hog fuel. However, having a machine that can offer consistently-high throughputs also shortens the time we have to be at a site, allowing us to move on to the next project. So a grinder really can dramatically impact profitability,” Stovall said.
Driven by that rationale, Sun State replaced its Morbark 1200 with a Model 1300, then added a Model 7600 “Boss Hog” horizontal grinder. That lineup proved highly successful and would probably still be in place had Sun State not gotten wind of a new, bigger tub grinder making its way through their area. Morbark’s Model 1600 tub grinder was already garnering good word of mouth and Sun State needed to see what all the talk was about.
Meeting the Needs
Morbark said its Model 1600 — the largest tub grinder available today — was designed in direct response to companies like Sun State who need high-volume production of mixed loads: stumps as well as general wood waste. It features the largest base in the industry — a base diameter measuring 11-ft.-2-in. (3.38 m) — and a tub capacity of 20 cu. yds. (15.3 cu m), as well as a 22-hammer pattern designed for high-volume applications. To accommodate the high production rate, the discharge system has been beefed up to match: material exits the unit via a trio of 16-in. (40.6 cm) diameter augers onto a 60-by-34-in. (152.4 by 86.4 cm) heavy-duty belt conveyor. Morbark’s IQAN system, standard on the 1600, also boosts production by allowing the operator to quickly adjust material infeed from the control panel, maximizing production rates while keeping engine load constant and fuel consumption to a minimum.
“When we heard Morbark was bringing the new 1600 into Florida to demo,” said Stovall, “we asked to have them stop here to show us what it could do. They did and then headed downstate for the other demo. When we found out that customer wasn’t ready to buy, there was no hesitation on our part: we told them to bring it right back up here and it’s been at work ever since.”
Just in Time Delivery
Sun State took delivery of its new unit in late December, just as it was starting work on a challenging Seminole County project clearing areas for renovation of the region’s 5-mi.-long (8 km) Lockhart-Smith Canal.
“On that project, we were working as subcontractors to Contract Site Services Inc.,” said Stovall. “The job included a good deal of clearing to widen the canal to improve its overall flow and effectiveness. It was an excellent project for that new tub to show its stuff and it didn’t disappoint.”
Stovall added that they got into some very tough material, including trees with diameters in excess of 6 ft. (1.8 m), yet they still maintained a consistent production rate in the 800 cu. yds. (611 cu m) an hour range.
“That’s exactly the production we were looking for,” he said. “The job was predominately clearing-related and kept us there for a total of about a month and a half. In that time, despite only operating the tub for about three days, we still generated better than 25,000 cu. yds. of ground material. We were definitely pleased with the performance.”
Sun State’s new grinder is ramping up an already impressive volume of production the firm does on a regular basis. Stovall estimated that, between the land clearing projects it tackles and the material it processes at its yard, it is grinding more than 1.82 million cu. yds. (1.39 million cu m) a year. He said the power of the new 1600 becomes very evident when it works alongside another grinder — a situation that recently presented itself.
“We are always getting offers from grinder manufacturers to come in and demo their newest equipment,” Stovall said. “So one firm brought in their latest model — a 1,000 hp unit — and we got to see just how productive our grinders really are. Simply put, there’s no comparison: our Model 1300 could out produce their new unit and the 1600 would put it to shame.”
While maintaining high volumes is key to profitability in the grinding market, Stovall said the new grinder offers them benefits that go beyond that.
“The real value the 1600 holds for us is not just in the massive volumes it can generate, but also in the fact that we can get in and out of a job much quicker now. We can take on more projects — and bigger ones — per year than ever before. Between the remote work and grinding at our yard, none of our units ever sits idle and that’s a very good sign,” he said.