Those who work in the demolition business have a wealth of experience with equipment such as skid steers, loaders and tracked excavators. For taking down structures, sorting material, and loading trailers and crushers, these are the primary tools of choice. Historically, the excavator has been the heart and soul of a demolition contractor’s operation, the primary tool used to take down structures and sort material.
But there is another piece of equipment beginning to show up on more demolition projects, replacing the excavator. As a matter of fact, one demolition contractor with roots reaching to the scrap and recycling business says his purpose-built material handler can replace multiple pieces of equipment at the project site.
“We have taken down four-story structures and loaded our trailers and crusher with one machine, the Terex Fuchs MHL360 material handler,” says Joe Rich, CEO of Sunshine Recycling LLC, Orangeburg, South Carolina. “Often demolition contractors will use skid steers, loaders and trackhoes for the job, but the capacity and flexibility of our purpose-built handler allows us to replace three machines with one handler.”
When it comes to material handlers, companies often think of their place as being at the recycling facility where much of the ferrous and nonferrous material from a demolition project is taken. However, Rich sees many similarities between scrap and demolition applications and likes to take advantage of the flexibility of the material handlers used at his scrap yard.
“The versatility of purpose-built material handlers allows these machines to be used in a variety of applications, including at quarries and loading grain onto vessels at a port,” comments Rich. “The loading process at the scrap yard and on the demolition site is very similar, and the design and capacity differences of the handler over an excavator really allow us to be incredibly efficient on a demolition project.”
Primary reasons for efficiency gains can be traced back to the many design differences that make the material handler seem like an extension of the operator. “Our MHL360 handler does the work for us through the rotating grapple, handling heavy loads and giving us the reach we need,” says Rich, “but with an excavator, the operator has to do much of the work for the excavator.”
From their core design specifically for lifting and handling material to the ability to hydraulically elevate the operator, purpose-built material handlers offer several advantages that boost production efficiencies, which has these machines popping up at more demolition sites.
UNDERCARRIAGE AND CAPACITY
There are substantial differences between the undercarriage design of an excavator and a purpose-built material handler. One major advantage for the material handler is the slewing ring position for the upper carriage. “The slewing ring of the excavator is positioned off-center of the undercarriage base, but with a purpose-built material handler like a Terex Fuchs machine, the ring is positioned directly in the center,” explains Andreas Gruber, port application manager for Terex Fuchs.
With more than 20,000 hours in the chair of excavators and material handlers, Rich has experienced this advantage firsthand. “I’ve positioned a 25,000-pound load, 5 feet from the center of an excavator and couldn’t walk it without the machine being tippy,” he explains. “Conversely, I’ve lifted and walked with more than 36,000 pounds, 10 feet out from the MHL360, and it is very stable.”
RISE ABOVE IT ALL
Material handlers offer a hydraulically elevating operator’s cab. This enables the operator to see over the sides of high-wall trailers for better loading efficiency than achieved with modified excavators built with a stationary cab. “In this business, safety is critical, and the elevated cab has the operator sitting in the catbird seat,” says Thomas McKellar, president and owner of Site Prep, New Orleans, Louisiana.
Rich appreciates the elevating/extending when loading the company’s Powerscreen Metrotrak crushing plant. There isn’t a need to build a ramp up to the feed hopper for a loader to load material. “The operator can see in the tub to avoid overloading and jamming the crusher, so it can crush more efficiently,” he says. “Rather than getting 75 tons per hour by loading with a loader, I can double the production by loading it with the material handler.”
Taking a look at the boom and stick configuration of a purpose-built material handler, one trait immediately visible is the number of junctions on the handler. This, according to Gruber, is where the kinematics advantage of the material handler comes into play.
“The excavator configuration includes three junctions, which works well for digging but limits its reach and slows handling capacities,” he notes. The straight boom/stick configuration for the material handler improves reach and reduces cycle times for the purpose-built machine.
“Excavator hydraulics are set up for digging, so they are not well equipped to handle heavy weight when the boom is extended,” says Jay Young, scrap and recycling sales manager for Roadbuilders Machinery and Supply Co., Kansas City, Kansas, an authorized distributor for Terex Fuchs equipment. Chuck Rosenberg, president of City Iron and Metal Co., Hastings, Nebraska, adds, “You could only reach so far with our excavators, and there was too much stress and strain put on the fittings when lifting heavy material at the end of their reach.”
At the end of the stick, owners of purpose-built material handlers reap one additional advantage—the rotating grapple attachment. Compared with the excavator’s standard fixed attachment, material handlers can rotate demolition material when placing it into a trailer, and this shaves substantial loading time. “You don’t have to move the excavator to accommodate the position of the load,” says Rich. “We have an eight-minute average load time for loading 45,000 pounds into a 40-foot trailer.”
NEED FOR SPEED
Rich offers several advantages to the tire drive system of a material handler versus the track drive of an excavator for demolition applications. When completing work at a plant, for instance, the tires do not leave marks or gouges in the asphalt or concrete, and crews don’t have to lay down planking as is customary when using excavators. “We can also drive the MHL360 handler onto a lowboy without damaging the trailer decking,” he says.
Tire-driven machines also enable the operator to get around the demolition site with a load much faster than a tracked excavator. “Depending on the model, Terex Fuchs handlers with tire drive systems offer speeds reaching 12.4 mph, which is about four times that of a tracked machine,” says Steve Brezinski, technical sales manager for Terex Fuchs.
The tires for these material handlers are designed specifically to withstand the demands of harsh applications such as demolition sites, scrap yards and material recovery facilities (MRFs).
FULLY INTEGRATED EFFICIENCY
Purpose-built material handlers have a fully integrated design that meets the needs of most demolition operations without modification. For example, generators come standard on Terex Fuchs handlers, whereas they must be added to an excavator. “We can easily pick up a long beam with the magnet, rotate it and load it onto a trailer using the material handler,” comments Rich.
High capacity. Long reach. Elevated cabs. Quick drive systems. Fuel-efficient designs. Today’s purpose-built material handlers offer quite a significant return on a demolition operation’s investment. While it may initially be hard to part with previous experience and move up to a material handler, once an operation chooses to move forward with a purpose-built machine, it typically does not go back, similar to the experience of City Iron and Metal. While the investment in the company’s Terex Fuchs material handlers was initially thought to be a little bit more than what the company could afford, “As time went by, we realized we couldn’t afford to be without the material handlers,” says Rosenberg.