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Quick-attach systems help scrap processors get more out of their material handling equipment.

Any businessperson, in the scrap industry or other wise, knows that time is money. Not only do scrap processors strive to keep their machines up and running with as little downtime as possible, but with today's bullish market, they also try to squeeze every last bit of productivity out of each piece of equipment.

A small arsenal of attachments is available to for use with material handlers. By changing an attachment, a scrap processor can get two jobs out of one machine--switching out a shear for a magnet, for instance, gives the machine the ability to pull double-duty in the yard. Quick couplers can cut attachment change-outs from hours to minutes, according to Uwe Kausch, product line manager at Stanley LaBounty, Two Harbors, Minn., which manufacturers a quick coupler called the Rapid Tach III.

Quick couplers are especially popular in the demolition industry, where carriers like excavators are expected to perform a wide variety of tasks on the jobsite, Kausch says.

But multi-tasking is becoming more important at scrap yards, too. And this emphasis on equipment's flexibility makes quick-attach systems useful at the scrap yard.

THE NEED FOR SPEED. "Quick-attach systems are the perfect answer for jobs that call for machine capability and versatility," says Betsy Haskell of National Attachments, Gorham, Maine. National Attachments' quick-coupling systems are geared more for the demolition industry, but the principles of saved time, minimal manpower and increased use also apply to material handlers working on scrap yards.

In the scrap industry, all the commonly used attachments--grapples, magnets and shears--can be used with a quick-coupling system so that the same machine can perform a variety of tasks, from sizing material to feeing a baler to simply transporting scrap around the yard or loading it into trucks and barges.

"Basically, any pin-on attachment can benefit from a quick-attach system, providing that the quick-attach system is robust enough to handle the breakout or leverage forces that the attachment applies," says Kevin Loomis, hydraulic applications manager at Atlas Copco Construction Tools, Independence, Ohio.

While standard couplers are generally limited to making or breaking mechanical connections, quick-attach couplers make or break hydraulic or electrical connections in addition to mechanical connections between the machine and tool, says Neil LeBlanc, senior marketing consultant for Caterpillar Inc., Peoria, Ill.

Systems can be hydraulic or mechanical. With a hydraulic quick coupler, the machine operator can change attachments without ever leaving the cab. In these systems, the coupler connects by picking up the tool and makes hydraulic hose connections simultaneously, says David Palvere, product line manager for Genesis Attachments, Superior, Wis., which manufactures a quick coupler designed for excavators.

In addition to being convenient, this feature also increases safety, says Paul Hill, products manager at Liebherr America Inc., Newport News, Va. "It is far better for the operator to be changing equipment from the cab instead of manually," he says.

Mechanical quick couplers require the operator to leave the cab, but the change can still be accomplished in a timely fashion, he says.

Supporters of quick-attach systems say that time and labor seem to be equally important issues for scrap processors who turn to a quick coupler. Not only do the systems cut the change-out time, they allow the job to be done by one person, Haskell says. "Really, contractors want and need both," she says.

Changing attachments more quickly and allowing change-outs to be a one-man job saves time, Kausch agrees. "Either way, time is money," he says.

Quick-attach systems can be particularly beneficial when taking machines off site, says Palvere. "Making machines mobile is very expensive," he says.

Kausch agrees. "The main advantage is to quickly change the attachments in the field. This allows a contractor to take one machine and two or more attachments to a jobsite to perform several functions vs. having him haul two or more [machines] or taking several hours to change out attachments," he says.

WEIGHING COSTS. Though it may seem self-explanatory, when considering using a quick-attach system, scrap processors should take a serious look at how often they change attachments to see if they can justify such a system, says Scott Sutherland, a product manager at LBX Co., Lexington, Ky., which manufacturers Link-Belt equipment. "If you're going to change attachments, there's a lot of advantages to using a quick-attach system," he says. "But if your attachment is designed specifically for a quick attach, you may have an issue using it with other machines."

There are other limitations that can be associated with quick-attach systems, manufacturers say.

"The main limitation is performance," says Kausch. "Since the quick coupler adds another piece to the equation and sticks the attachment out further, you will lose some breakout force."

Kausch says the loss is somewhat compensated for by spreading the pin centers on the coupler/stick tip connection. Adding a quick coupler also tacks on to maintenance time and costs, Kausch says.

In addition, frequent change-outs can put extra strain on connecting valves and hoses, Kausch says. "You will also see faster pin wear with a coupler vs. a direct pin-on," he says. "In the end, the customer has to weigh the advantages with the disadvantages for his particular application."

Loomis also points out that repetitive coupling and uncoupling puts the machine at greater risk for contaminant ingestion every time a hydraulic line is removed and re-installed.

Costs and risks can look like prohibitive factors at first, says Palvere. "But when you add up the costs of operating two machines--the maintenance, the labor--making one machine more efficient often pays off," he says.

Kausch is quick to point out that he doesn't recommend quick couplers to all of his customers. If a scrap processor is moving material with a grapple and wants to change to a magnet every couple of weeks, he is not likely to benefit much from installing a quick-attach system. "A coupler is for the customer that needs to change attachments every day or every other day," he says.

If a processor wants to increase his machine's versatility, there have also been a number of advances in multi-use tools, manufacturers say. Tools such as grapples with magnetic tines perform more than one task no matter what kind of coupler is in place.

The grapple, for instance, is a pretty versatile tool all by itself, no matter how it is attached to its carrier, says Kausch. "It can be used for scrap handling, demolition, rock handling, land clearing and more," he says. Kausch says universal processors favored by demo contractors and some recyclers allow customers to change out jaws so the tool can perform a variety of tasks, crossing over into the construction and demolition market with the ability to separate concrete from rebar and cut steel down to managable sizes.

"Multi-tasking is the buzz-word in today's attachment markets," says Loomis. "Products that can accomplish two distinctive functions with one attachment add value and versatility."


Many manufacturers point out that the quick coupler seems to be more of a phenomenon in the European scrap market, where yards tend to be smaller and mobility is more of a factor, says Sutherland.

"They're not as common in North America," Palvere agrees. "Some yards don't process enough material to have two machines," Palvere says, making a quick attach system a good way to maximize the potential of a yard's existing equipment.

In today's scrap market, quick attach systems are starting to make their mark outside of the European market, as well.

Whether they achieve it by using a multi-tasking tool or a quick-coupling system, many U.S. scrap processors are also trying to use their machines to their fullest potential, manufacturers say. The environment in today's scrap market is conducive to anything that makes the process more efficient.

"The fact is that heavy equipment and primary carriers are in short supply and very expensive," Palvere says. "The lead time on new [machines] is very long. Having a piece of equipment and investing in utilizing it better makes good financial sense. If you can use one machine that does multiple tasks, you get as close to 100 percent utilization as possible."

The author is assistant editor of Recycling Today and can be contacted via e-mail at
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Comment:Quick-attach systems help scrap processors get more out of their material handling equipment.(SCRAP HANDLER FOCUS)
Author:Gubeno, Jackie
Publication:Recycling Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2005
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