Photos provided by Volvo

Excavators designed to dig into dirt provided the platform upon which today’s hydraulic material handlers are based. While excavators and material handlers still have many components and parts in common, equipment makers have identified serving markets with customized machines as a profitable activity.

For operators of transfer stations and recycling plants, the customization has provided good news in the form of productivity improvements.

The improvements can be measured in cycle times, the amount of material that can be moved or loaded in an hour, or by reduced downtime because of measures taken to allow machines to work in rugged conditions.

Manufacturers also tout healthy safety upgrades as a key selling point when they address buyers in the waste and recycling sector.

Inside the machinery

Volvo Construction Equipment’s (Volvo CE’s) material handler designers for the waste and recycling market have paid close attention to the hydraulic fluid system that allows the arm and handler of the machines to perform optimally, says the Shippensburg, Pennsylvania-based company.

“Most of these machines will use dedicated attachments, so it’s crucial to have a hydraulics system that can be set to match the exact specifications of any attachment the customer may use,” says Dave Foster, VP of marketing and communications at Volvo CE.

The company’s EW240E-MH model was launched in North America in 2019 and its EW200E-MH was introduced in January 2021. Foster says the bolstered hydraulic system was designed with the notion that while the waste and recycling sector uses a variety of attachments as a whole, individual machines may use the same attachment all the time.

“Most of these machines will use dedicated attachments, so it’s crucial to have a hydraulics system that can be set to match the exact specifications of any attachment the customer may use,” says Foster.

“Besides being able to set flows and pressures, the settings for up to 32 attachments can be stored” in the two waste-specific models now offered by Volvo, says Foster. “In addition to flows and pressures, those settings will include how you want the function to be controlled: either momentary, toggled-on or proportionally.”

The company says the hydraulic system also is “matched to the Volvo engine,” which “allows the machines to find the sweet spot between engine speed and hydraulic efficiency.”

Equipment maker Doosan Infracore North America says buyers should seek out a handler that will not require excessive hydraulic system modifications. “You shouldn’t have to order special hydraulic options to operate a scrap grapple on a material handler,” says writer Mike Slusark in an essay submitted to Construction & Demolition Recycling on behalf of Doosan. “Most machines come standard with the hydraulic setup to operate a rotating grapple.”

The use of grapples is widespread enough that Volvo CE says it has included a safety feature with grapples in mind. “In many cases, the grapples hang from the arm, and even when they don’t, it’s possible to have material that sticks out several feet from the grapple,” says Foster.

He continues, “The arm-in limitation [feature] prevents the load from getting too close to the cab, unless the operator holds down an override switch.”

Sennebogen LLC, the North Carolina-based subsidiary of its Germany-based counterpart, calls its 821 M hydraulic handler model, and others in the same series, purpose-built for the recycling and waste markets. The company’s origins are in material handling as opposed to excavating.

The buyer of an 821 M handler at work in a New Jersey material recovery facility (MRF) says the operational improvements owing to the reliability of the 821 M have been a difference maker compared with the machine it replaced.

Avoiding dustups

Michael Portannese of Paterson, New Jersey-based Gaeta Recycling is part of the fifth generation of that family business, which collects and processes material from some 30 municipalities in the Garden State.

Portannese acknowledges that machinery at the company’s MRF faces a dusty, harsh environment, moving and loading materials ranging from old corrugated containers (OCC), shredded paper and construction and demolition (C&D) materials.

The mobile equipment at the MRF doesn’t spend a mere 40-hour work week in these conditions, he adds. “Our machines run,” Portannese told Sennebogen for a recent case study prepared by the firm. He said the MRF runs “16 hours a day, five days a week plus a Saturday shift.” Adds Portannese, “Whether it’s idle hours or utilization hours, there isn’t a moment we don’t have a trailer backed into the building; as soon as one trailer pulls out loaded, the next one is in there to be loaded.”

For his company’s purposes, Portannese says he was looking for a machine that is easy to maintain and fix on the spot—a trait not always common with the increasingly sophisticated and computerized models made by larger firms.

Of his 821 M, Portannese says, “There’s very little computerization in it. ... I felt like we could work on it and maintain it much better than all these high-tech machines with these technologies that, in the end, just result in headaches.”

Seeking better visibility

Sennebogen was among the pioneering companies in making operator cabs that can elevate when conditions call for it, and the two Volvo CE models feature the same capability.

Volvo says the cabs in its EW200E-MH and EW240E-MH models can be raised more than 16 feet above the ground.

Portannese says the Maxcab features of his Sennebogen machine offer flexible elevation, plus safety cameras that provide an additional method of spotting any potential hazards. The increased visibility is among the features he mentions when he says of his workforce, “Our operators are very happy with [the 821 M and] with the cleanliness of the operations; [they also like] what they are able to see from the cab, the hydraulic functioning and the fact that it’s not always breaking down.”

“Operators have a better view of their surroundings from the cab of a material handler,” says Slusark on behalf of Doosan. “Another benefit is that operators can enter and exit the machine closer to ground level rather than climbing the cab riser,” he adds.

Slusark also says that “rearview cameras are moving from an option to a standard feature on many material handlers sold today.” He continues, “Sideview cameras—and even cameras offering 360-degree around-the-machine visibility—are also available as options. These advances have the potential to make recycling yards safer and reduce damage to machines caused by environmental hazards.”

Volvo’s Foster says, “Heavy vibrations when you’re sitting over 10 feet above the ground [in a raised cab] are quite noticeable,” but the company has sought out a remedy.

“Repeated exposure to heavy, physical shocks is never good for the human body, and some countries even mandate the amount of shock and vibration a worker can be exposed to during the day,” adds Foster.

He continues, “Air-ride seats or seats with isolators help, but it’s better still to minimize the amount of vibration that comes into the operator’s compartment. By isolation-mounting the cab on a piece of construction equipment, you can make a big reduction.”

The EW200E-MH and EW240E-MH “use double-damped cab mounts to minimize the impact on the operator in the air,” says Foster. The feature reduces not only vibration, but also noise, according to Volvo.

The industry-specific consideration being given to waste and recycling sector equipment buyers seems to be appreciated by the people purchasing them.

Portannese says his previous machine, an excavator, had been “nothing but problematic; it was constantly out of service [and] we had diesel particulate filter (DPF) and regeneration issues.”

Portannese also says he is much happier with the purpose-built model now on the job, and it has even excelled in one task for which he thought he needed an excavator.

“With the way [an] excavator is configured, you get a downstrike to help pack the load,” says Portannese. “We thought we would lose this capability with a material handler, but we found that we don’t need it. The size of the scoop gives us the weight we need, so we don’t have to tamp down the loads at all. We also aren’t destroying our trailers anymore.”

The author is a senior editor with the Recycling Today Media Group and can be contacted at btaylor@gie.net.