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Plotting the course: setting up an efficient in-plant shredding system calls for forethought and flexibility.

Once a secure destruction company has decided to offer in-plant shredding services, whether in combination with on-site services or in lieu of them, it still faces a number of questions.

In determining the most logical and efficient plant set up, secure destruction professionals must consider a number of factors, ranging from the type of shredder or shredders they'd like to employ to whether shred size will take precedence over throughput.

Other considerations include how to present material to the shredder and the overall system design. But before they can consider either of these questions, they must first determine the material they will be processing most frequently.

PROCESSING FLEXIBILITY. Dave Wilson of SSI Shredding Systems Inc., Wilsonville, Ore., suggests that secure destruction professionals begin their in-plant shredder system selection by clearly identifying the markets they want to serve and the needs associated with that market.

"Clearly identify what you want to process and what level of destruction you want to achieve," he says. "Depending on your requirements, one type of shredding equipment may meet your needs or it may not. No one piece of shredding equipment can do everything, but it may do what you want," Wilson adds.

Len Beusse, chief operating officer of Vecoplan LLC, Archdale, N.C., says to select a shredder that offers the most flexibility in order to shred the entire spectrum of materials that a company intends to destroy. "This is particularly important if, in addition to paper documents, product destruction opportunities will be pursued," he says.

Also with flexibility in mind, Beusse suggests selecting the largest shredder that a company's budget allows. "First, study throughput requirements extensively and project future increases. Allow as much over capacity as your budget allows," he says. "Conduct performance demonstrations at the vendors' facilities to see for yourself the capabilities of the equipment you are about to purchase."

Tom Wagner, vice president of systems design for Allegheny Paper Shredders, Delmont, Pa., stresses the importance of properly sizing shredding equipment to adequately meet the needs of one's business. "Unlike mobile shredding in which a shredding company can add more shred trucks to increase capacity, in-plant operations generally incorporate just one or two shredding/baling lines," Wagner says. "When purchasing destruction equipment, you should ensure that your equipment won't be hopelessly undersized when bidding on a large contract."

Nick Wildrick, CEO of Shred First LLC, a secure destruction company based in Spartanburg, S.C., with plants in Georgia, Texas and California, says he and his partner John Bauknight IV have designed their plants with growth in mind. "The important thing is to think into the future," Wildrick says. "In the plants that we build, the shredder that we put in is usually overkill in the beginning, and then we grow into it."

Wagner says that the initial overcapacity of a company's shredding equipment could benefit the business. "Even though your shredding tonnage may be low at the start, you'll benefit by processing paper faster and freeing up marking time to get accounts," he says.

Wildrick recommends that secure destruction professionals plot out the system that they would eventually like to have.

Even if they cannot afford the pit and baler at the time they install their shredder, Wildrick suggests they position their shredder to allow for these additions in time.

Once a destruction company has determined the focus of its operation, whether it will be paper, X-ray film and microfiche or electronics, Wilson suggests selecting the shredder that best meets the processing needs associated with that material.

"Test shred all the materials you want to process on the equipment you are considering," he comments. "Make sure each material processes at an acceptable rate and produces the desired particle size." Wilson adds: "Check with the supplier on the expected maintenance or cutter life on each material."

Wilson also says to consult with other shredding professionals. "Check with users that are processing your exact application to ensure the system is proven and performs as expected. The only way to confirm long-terra reliability and maintenance costs is to check with experienced users," he says.


The shredder is the lifeblood of a secure destruction company; therefore, choosing the correct unit is critical to the success of a company. It's important to keep in mind that all varieties of size reduction equipment offer advantages and drawbacks.

Wilson says to expect some tradeoffs when selecting a shredder. "Systems that produce the highest processing rate may not produce an acceptable particle size," he says. "Or systems that produce the desired particle size and rate may not process all the various materials that you want to process."

Wildrick also points out the inverse relationship between smaller shred size and throughput. "A strip shredder will get the greatest throughput but the largest shred size," he says. "A pierce and tear will reduce the shred size, but you will lose a little bit of throughput. With a single-shaft rotary grinder you get a much more consistent shred size, but you lose quite a bit in throughput."

Wagner says shredders that create 5/8-inch strips are the "easiest" choice. "This will give you high throughput at an accepted shred width." However, Wagner says that 5/16-inch strips are gaining popularity with some government agencies.

When a company has decided to handle a variety of materials, Joe Roberto of Shred-Tech Inc., Cambridge, Ontario, suggests working closely with the shredder company. "The shredder should be design-built to accommodate the range of material it will need to handle. Configuring a system to handle this wide range of material will require customization by the manufacturer.

However, Roberto says that if space, volume and budget permit, companies should have two shredders specifically designed to shred certain materials.

Once a secure destruction company has determined the type of shredder that best meets the needs of its target market, Wagner says it needs to be certain the baler and feeding system are sized to accommodate the shredder.

He also says that product flow and sufficient space should be considered when selecting a building for one's operation. Wagner says, "Ask the following questions: Where are the loading docks located? Can I bring the full carts into the staging area easily after weigh-in? Will I need additional room for sorting? Is there adequate storage space for bales?"

Roberto also mentions the importance of considering material flow. "Identify key building features, such as drive-in doors, dock doors and where your conveyor, shredder and baler will fit in the space," he says. "Will you have a pit conveyor and floor scale? Where will you store your bales; inside near the dock, inside trailers or both?"

Once a confidential shredding company has a basic idea of how it would like its processing system laid out in its building, equipment companies will be able to provide scale drawings.

Of course, once a shredding system is in place, maintenance becomes the crucial factor, ensuring trouble-free operation.

MAINTAINING A SYSTEM. "Selecting the right system for your application is your best assurance of low maintenance," Wilson says. "Maintenance consists of cutter replacement, general lubrication of moving components and general cleaning around all the equipment, including conveyors."

Wilson says that cutter cost and downtime associated with cutter change are the most important areas to evaluate. "Check with experienced users of the equipment you are considering for the best information on the cost of operating and maintaining the equipment," he says.

"Maintenance should be an ongoing operation," Roberto says. "The operator should be inspecting the equipment daily to observe changes in operating characteristics." He also suggests regular monitoring of the system's throughput, as a drop in production could indicate worn cutting chamber components.

Beusse suggests developing a routine maintenance program for one's shredder and selecting a dedicated person or staff members for the task. "We see many operations that either ignore this key function and wing it only when something happens or simply do not understand the need for this critical step in the operation," he says. "An investment in this aspect of operating a shredding system will yield returns most people don't believe until they do it. The shredding system is the core and heart of your business. Give it the attention it deserves, and it can serve you for many, many years."

This article originally ran in Secure Destruction Business magazine. The author is managing editor of the Recycling Today Media Group and can be e-mailed at dtoto
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Author:Toto, Deanne
Publication:Recycling Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2005
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