Sun Companies Looks Toward Sustainable Growth
When Brian Shipp graduated from college, he approached his father, Gary, with the idea to get into the trash business. Gary, who owned a kitchen countertop firm, supported this idea by purchasing a garbage truck. Shipp enlisted the help of his friend, Andrew Springer, and went to work establishing the company. Twelve years later, the trio is still at it.
"We really had to prove ourselves in the beginning," Springer revealed. "Several customers said, "˜take this job, and if you really can perform, then you can start doing more of our work.' We thought some of those customers were making things up to see if we would do them. It was a gamble, but we took every job. It's paid off."
Shipp would drive roll-off trucks home after delivering dumpsters at midnight because they required a 4:00 a.m. pick up. Performing well on those jobs not only built the company's reputation, but also gave Shipp and Springer advanced degrees in logistics and commitment.
"When a customer wants a container for four hours in the middle of the night, you find a way to make it work," Shipp explained. "We tried to be better than the industry standard because that was the only way we were going to make it."
The venture led to the creation of Sun Companies, an umbrella organization that includes Sun Recycling, Sun Equipment and a trucking division called Sun Services. Today, Sun Companies has 50-plus regular and temporary employees. Shipp and Springer run the day-to-day operations while Gary serves as an advisor.
Recycling Pays Off
Gary assumed the idea of starting a trash company would be short-lived, and he was correct - to a point.
"It became evident that there wasn't much money in hauling trash," Gary recalled. "To increase revenue, we would need a disposal site. We believed recycling was the wave of the future."
In 2009, Shipp and Springer began the nearly five-year process of attaining permits, acquiring land and building a proper recycling facility in Prince George's County, just outside of Washington D.C.
"It was a long process, but we finally opened the doors to the facility in 2013," Springer reported. "Maryland has very strict requirements for recycling facilities. All processing must be done inside, and we are only allowed to accept construction and demolition debris."
Now, Sun Recycling processes nearly 500 tons of material per day. Roughly 30 percent of it comes from Sun Services, which has 15 trucks and a healthy roll-off business. Sun Recycling receives material at its facility on the tip floor before it's sized and placed on a metering belt. From there it's screened, sorted by hand, run under a magnet and then passed though an air separator, which divides material by density.
"We manually pull out metal, steel, plastic and cardboard and ship it to raw markets; concrete is crushed; and wood is used for mulch," said Shipp. "This accounts for 50 percent of the material we collect.
"Another 40 percent is the residual material, which is sent to waste-energy plants and can be burned to create energy. Only the remaining 10 percent - whatever materials they can't take - is sent to the landfill."
Recycling as much material as possible is more than Sun Recycling's job, it is the passion that drives the organization.
"We are serious about recycling; we don't just pay lip service to it," said Springer. "We believe recycling will only become more important. There aren't many companies recycling at our level."
Safer, Efficient and Easy
Shipp and Springer designed their facility so that it's easy for companies to dump materials there. Location plays a big role, but Sun Recycling goes above and beyond to simplify the process.
"Trucking has a high cost, and most drivers are going to dump their loads at the closest facility," Shipp shared. "Our drivers will unload at someone else's place if it means they can save half an hour.
"Drivers are going to use a facility that is the most convenient for them," he continued. "We have employees on the tip floor who direct the drivers, open tailgates and manage the process. This allows drivers to stay in their trucks, saves time and it's much safer."
While a dumping site is an inherently dirty place, Sun Recycling is dedicated to cleanliness. For example, the company paved the facility's lot and runs a sweeper with a magnet regularly to pick up objects, such as nails that can cause severe tire damage
"Anything we can do to be more user-friendly helps us earn additional customers," said Shipp. "We take numerous measures to keep drivers safe and clean, and I think they appreciate that."
Dependable Equipment and Relationships
To maintain an efficient flow on its tip floor, Sun Recycling turns to Komatsu equipment from Midlantic Machinery and Territory Manager Shane Pinzka. The recycler has three Komatsu wheel loaders (two WA380s and a WA270) and two Komatsu Hybrid HB215LC-1 Excavators.
The wheel loaders help manage the stockpile of materials and once it's separated, load it onto trucks, while the excavators separate the items and load the metering belt. Sun Recycling is impressed with how both the wheel loaders and excavators perform - 10 to 12 hours a day - in such an extreme environment.
"Going with the Hybrid excavators was a decision that has paid off well for us," related Shipp. "We basically have the machines swinging from one spot to load the system. The fuel savings have been significant, and that's where the Hybrids shine.
"The wheel loaders have exceeded our expectations," he continued. "They have the power and maneuverability to handle this work, and they are comfortable. Our operators love the cabs."
Both the wheel loaders and excavators are equipped with waste-handling packages, which maximize uptime. "In the past, with a competitive brand, we were blowing out the radiators three or four times a day, and the machines would still go down," said Shipp. "With the Komatsus, we don't need to blow out the radiators until the end of the shift."
The machines came with KOMTRAX, Komatsu's remote machine-monitoring system, in addition to Komatsu CARE, which provides complimentary maintenance through Midlantic for the first 2,000 hours or three years. Sun Recycling also purchased Extended CARE that covers equipment through 8,000 hours.
"Komatsu and Midlantic treat us like we're their most important customer," said Shipp. "We all have KOMTRAX updates sent to our phones, so we always have the latest information. Plus, Midlantic takes care of all the maintenance on the machines, which eliminates a lot of work for us and keeps the machines running. Our relationship with Midlantic and Komatsu has made a huge difference in our business."
Calculated, Green Growth
Sun Companies is involved in many different ventures, but recycling serves as its engine for growth. Both Shipp and Springer expect that to remain the case in the future.
"We want to continue to grow," said Shipp. "There is the opportunity to do so, through small, calculated growth. We need to do it in a way that makes sense. We'd love to have another facility in the future."
"Growth is going to happen, so we are being cautious in how we expand," echoed Springer. "It's easy to buy more trucks and build a new plant, but we have to explore the downstream effects. More trucks mean added maintenance and a greater number of shifts. Is that sustainable? We are looking at all of that."
In keeping with its commitment to recycling, both Springer and Shipp say the company will continue to explore more efficient waste-energy applications.
"We have a lot of material that would serve as great fuel," said Andrew. "We believe in green technologies, so our goal is to discover a way to get more of our material into that industry."