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Wednesday | 31 October, 2012 | 12:36 pm

Return on remnants

By Gretchen Salois

Old apparatuses offer new value if the right demolition team does the work

October 2012 - Shut-down assembly lines rusting on a factory floor are more than unpleasing to the eye, they’re a waste of space that could be used for productive means. There are companies devoted to the removal of these and other relics to make way for new developments.

Whether in an open field or cramped next to buildings in tight urban settings, it takes a certain set of skills to dismantle unwanted, massive fixtures from buildings that either need to be torn down or repurposed. “You have to take down an obsolete building that’s an eyesore and clean it up, but there are buildings right next to it to consider,” says Al Ross, president of Ross Manufacturing Services Inc., Plainwell, Mich. “These companies need a nice, clean piece of property to sell.”

Ross says demolishing the interior of a building can cost in excess of a million dollars. “We can sometimes cut those costs in half by salvaging the scrap,” he says. 

To do so, the company calls upon the services of RJ Torching Inc., Flint, Mich. The demolition team, headed by Jason Roughton, goes in, assesses the situation and determines the best way to tear out unwanted materials without harming the structure of the facility.

“We have trucks and smaller shears that can get into tight places,” Roughton explains. RJ Torching has created a niche for itself, tackling projects for buildings 500,000 square feet or less and interior demolition of larger buildings. “We are fast and know the markets and have connections all over the U.S.” Ninety-five percent of RJ Torching’s business is 5-foot plate and structural and 5-foot heavy melt. Much of the scrap RJ Torching works with is obsolete-grade scrap with very little prime scrap.

As demand increased, the company opened its own scrap yard in 2005 to serve customers in the Flint and Detroit areas. “We go right to the steel mills and foundries. A lot of other people go to scrap yards,” Roughton says. “We try to go directly to the mill or bring it back to one of our own scrap yards to help cut costs.” 

Delicate demolition

Jason Roughton’s father started the company in 1984. By 1998, Jason joined him full-time, where he learned a lot about the scrap and demolition business. “My father taught me that someone had to put the machines together, so someone has to be able to take them apart,” he says. 

Roughton’s carefully selected team does a walkaround to understand how the fixture has been constructed in order to formulate a plan to take it down. “We systematically dismantle it,” Roughton says. “We try to have a game plan, and if anything goes wrong, we stop, re-evaluate and fix the problem before moving on.” 

Ross says the majority of recovered scrap from the demolition includes steel, aluminum, copper and guarding. The scrap saved from the demolition often can cut apparatus removal costs and can sometimes absorb the costs completely. 

One situation comes to mind when Ross thinks about a particularly challenging job. A company needed to remove four separate air filtration systems weighing roughly 10,000 pounds each. These solid steel systems all sat atop the mezzanine and needed to be dismantled and removed from the building. “The engineering manager at the location and I were having a hard time figuring out how to get it out without tearing out the roof,” says Ross, noting removal or cutting through the roof would be extremely costly to the customer. 

“RJ Torching managed to notch the legs of it like a tree, and it went down easily in a matter of minutes,” Ross says. “Once down, we were able to get it out unbelievably quickly using a forklift.” Removing the system without damaging the roof saved the company approximately $100,000 in extra costs. “We’re not the only company in this industry,” Ross says. “But we’re one of the few that gives the customer the most credit for their scrap. Most demolition companies will charge the company and then sell the scrap as profit.” 

Ross Manufacturing tackles buildings ranging from 20,000 square feet to more than 3 million square feet in size. “We’re fairly new to this market, and the requests keep pouring in,” Ross adds. “While we do all sizes, we specialize with smaller-sized spaces that most other demolition crews won’t even consider. We know we can get in and out quickly with RJ Torching.” 

The company currently is slated to take on a 400-foot boat on a 400-foot railroad car ferry in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., between Lake Huron and Lake Superior. Although the company has dismantled barges in the past, a full-size freighter boat is a new challenge. “We got a good game plan, and we know we can cut the ship up faster than anyone else in the area,” Ross says. MM

SPARKING INNOVATION

The demolition industry requires workers to have the right set of skills and equipment to dismantle heavy, awkward equipment carefully. Using handheld torches to cut through various metals, including steel, aluminum and copper, produces emissions. To prevent EPA VE-9 violations, RJ Torching Inc., Flint, Mich., developed Torching Solutions LLC, also located in Flint, to sell the SPARCS system to reduce opacity emissions.

“If you produce a high particulate count and can only see 3 feet in front of you, then you’re making air pollution,” explains Jennifer Roughton, operations manager, Torching Solutions. “My guys are cutting 12-foot-thick pieces of steel and can be at it for more than nine hours, so we came up with SPARCS, a vacuum that draws in the smoke. The air released is less than 20 percent opacity and within regulations.”

gotsmoke torchingsolution 140x140The portable vacuum, fabricated from heavy-gauge steel, is a self-contained filter. The new filter has not been available long, but orders are already coming in as customers seek to be proactive in avoiding heavy fines for EPA violations. “We’re getting more and more people interested in purchasing one of our SPARCS units,” says Jason Roughton, owner, RJ Torching Inc. “We just sold one to a customer in Chicago Heights [Ill.], and he loves it. We retrofitted it with the latest filter rack system since he was having EPA problems.”

In Kankakee, Ill., another customer purchased a SPARCS unit in June 2012 as part of a proactive effort to avoid fines. Charlie Fritz, vice president at Area Material Inc., says his scrap company wanted to prevent problems because it does a lot of torching. With more than six decades in the scrap industry, Area Material prepares and packages ferrous, nonferrous, stainless and alloys for direct mill shipment.

“I couldn’t find any other portable options out there,” Fritz says. “You could put a bag house in a building and do your torching indoors, but that’s costly and time consuming. This SPARCS system really is the best of both worlds.” 

Fritz says the company hired an independent consultant to test the SPARCS system. “We did about 17 opacity readings inside and outside the box, and SPARCS cut the opacity by 40 percent,” he says. Although the company doesn’t currently produce a lot of opacity, SPARCS produced a significant reduction. As demand increases, that is encouraging.

 

 

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