(L-R): Waste Connections Inc. – Midway Division District Manager Lacy Ballard and Project Manager Bob Lichty meet quarterly with Scott Ruderman and Jenkins Davis of Komatsu as well as Roland Territory Manager Jeff Lovgren for Joi-Ful (Joint Follow-Up Log) meetings to discuss issues and share ideas.
When consumers are finished using an item, it typically ends up on the curb ready for garbage collection. With more than 100 landfills in 43 states, Waste Connections Inc., is the third largest waste services company in the United States — and an increasingly safe bet as that item's final resting place.
"We've been in business for 20 years," explained Midway Division District Manager Lacy Ballard. "Founder and CEO Ron Mittelstaedt started the company on the West Coast, and now we've spread across the country and throughout Canada."
Through acquisitions of locally owned and operated landfills, Waste Connections has extended its reach. While expansion allows the business to grow, applying best practices from its locations around the country helps it thrive.
"When we come into a market, we purchase well-run companies with a good reputation and then improve upon their systems," detailed Ballard. "We have 20 years of data from nearly 100 landfills that we implement to help increase the productivity, scale and safety at the new sites to help make them more profitable."
Ballard heads the Midway Division, which began serving the Chicago area three years ago from its 500-acre Winnebago Landfill in Rockford, Ill. With 35 employees, the facility handles 8,000 tons of garbage per day. Coordinating that much traffic requires a level of specialization that few companies can match.
"What sets us apart from the competition is our safety record," noted Ballard. "We have to protect our employees, in addition to the public at large. Seventy percent of our business is trucking-based, so we go to great lengths to make sure that our safety protocols are implemented properly — parking, dumping, communication — all need to be coordinated clearly. We focus on safety over productivity; that's our culture."
Providing ‘Significant Value'
With 16 million pounds of solid waste arriving at the landfill daily, having reliable equipment that can perform every day is paramount to the success of the Midway Division. In an effort to improve efficiency, Ballard took inventory of his fleet and decided it was time to make a change. In late 2017, he turned to Komatsu and Roland Machinery Company to add a D155AX-7 dozer with a waste package, which offers enhanced features such as striker bars and additional gap sealing to protect the machine's vital components.
"We were having some component failures with our dozers, so we looked to Komatsu," recalled Ballard. "I was very impressed with the D155AX. Right away, from a financial standpoint, we were able to purchase a brand new dozer with amazing warranties for less than what we were quoted for a competitive brand's used dozer with 3,000 hours. Even before putting it to work, the D155 provided significant value for us."
That worth continued to increase once the dozer got into action. "The D155 doesn't have to work nearly as hard to push the garbage; we haven't had any overheating issues with the torque converters," said Ballard. "The regeneration process is the best of any Tier 4 machine we've owned, the tracks are easy to clean and the visibility from inside the cab is amazing. It's the total package."
To top off the acquisition, Ballard says that the service and attention he receives from Komatsu and Roland is above-and-beyond.
"The experience is second-to-none," shared Ballard. "Each quarter we have Joi-Ful (Joint Follow-Up Log) meetings with Komatsu and Roland representatives. Those sessions are extremely beneficial in helping us address concerns, receive training and be proactive. For example, we had an issue with the design of the radiator because debris was getting into it. Komatsu came and retrofitted a fix and plans to incorporate it into the design of future D155 models. The attention we receive with just one machine speaks a lot about how Komatsu and Roland treat their customers."
Good Neighbors, Bright Future
While the Midway Division is still in its infancy, it has been thinking long-term since it commenced operations. In early 2019, that planning will come to fruition when the Winnebago Landfill will open its East Expansion Unit. This 225-acre section is expected to have a 15- to 20-year lifespan.
"We've worked on the East Expansion since we took over," said Ballard. "It will be a great addition to our facility, and one that will ensure that this is the site where we will dispose of waste for quite some time."
The expansion also makes certain that Waste Connections and Rockford will be linked for the foreseeable future, a union for which the company has a deep appreciation.
"Having a landfill in town isn't something that people typically celebrate," noted Ballard. "However, we aim to be the best neighbor we can be. We canvas the roadways weekly to pick up debris, grass our slopes and try to make the landfills as presentable as possible. We are also highly involved in local philanthropy. We work closely with the fire department, run an annual bike drive and invest in the community. We are proud to be here, and we want the community to be proud to have us."
(This article originally appeared in the Roland Industry Scoop magazine which is produced by Construction Publications, Inc.)