July 2000

New Scales House Helps Streamline Feeder Yard Operation

Hugo Neu-Proler's Downtown Metal Center speeds its scrap recycling process by as much as 35%

Consult any Spanish/English dictionary, and you might be surprised to find that the first definition for the word peso is "weight." The fact that the Spanish use this same word for their monetary unit is not entirely by accident. In any language, heft often equates with value. When you mix in the element of time, the result indicates that the more weight you can move in the shortest amount of time, the bigger the payoff.

Nowhere is this truer than in the scrap metal industry. Yet, sometimes profit is hindered by simple things such as the logistics involved in handling the input of scrap metal into any given yard. Such was the case for Downtown Metal Center, a major feeder yard for the Hugo Neu-Proler Company.

In operation since 1962, Hugo Neu-Proler is one of the nation's largest scrap iron and steel processors in the U.S. From its seven strategically located feeder yards, Hugo Neu-Proler recycles and exports over 10 percent of the scrap metal in the U.S.

Located near the heart of downtown Los Angeles, California, the Downtown Metal Center specializes in gathering scrap steel and iron. But despite the fact that it features two scales—one to weigh incoming loaded trucks, and one to weigh the lighter outbound vehicles—the operation was hindered by a solitary cinder-block scale house that possessed all the charm and openness of a checkpoint along the Berlin Wall during the height of the Cold War.

"We have to handle up to 200 trucks coming in and out of this place all day, and the old scale house just wasn't cutting it," says Kevin Trant, the yard manager for Downtown Metal Center. "We have to weigh each truck and grade the material as it comes in. After the customer unloads their vehicle, they come back to the scales, we weigh them out, and we pay them for what took off."

Pointing to a scale house that could easily do double-duty as a bomb shelter, Trant continues, "Obviously, we had to step away from our work station, come out the door, and walk all the way around a truck to check for prohibited material, such as stainless steel. But the whole process of inspecting the trucks in and out took much more time than it should have."

About three years ago, Trant, along with the management team at Hugo Neu-Proler, realized that if they wanted to continue to handle increasing capacity with the same workload—two operators per shift—that they desperately needed a new scale house. Yet, building one on the sight that could meet the unique needs of a scrap metal yard meant retaining an architectural firm, going through a lengthy permit process, finding a competent builder, and then waiting for a protracted construction process to play itself out.

However, on a tip from a yard employee who knew about the quality and flexibility of today's pre-fabricated booths, Trant contacted B.I.G. Enterprises, Inc™, located in South El Monte, California.

In operation since 1971, B.I.G. is a leading manufacturer of prefabricated surveillance and revenue-control structures and booths. B.I.G. booths can be delivered to any site as fully approved, pre-fabricated structures that, once mounted on a cement pad and connected to available utilities, are almost immediately ready for occupancy.

Trant quickly recognized how a pre-engineered booth could aptly serve as a scale house. However, a recycling operation has special needs, so he arranged a meeting to see if alterations could be made.

"I met with David King, Vice President at B.I.G., and told him exactly what I required to make our job easier," says Trant. "We needed a 360 degree view, so we could keep our eye on the entire yard as well as the scales. Additionally, operators had to be able to quickly and easily leave their workstations to examine the truck loads. Plenty of counter space was important, too."

"Dave and I sat down and put our heads together to come up with a design, the perfect scale house for our company. In very short order it showed up in our yard on the back of a semi. They lowered it between the two scales, plopped it down on 12 x 24 square foot slab, and 'Bingo,' we were in business."

The booth came with factory installed electrical and mechanical systems; two heavy-duty commercial-metal swinging doors; industrial-grade floor tile; galvanized steel construction; built-in cabinets, shelves, and counters; along with glass windows beginning at the waist-high counter tops and extending to the ceiling.

"It worked out just as we planned it. Everything is centered now, so the weighmaster can make the minimal amount of moves to complete a transaction," notes Trant as he walks toward two doors on opposite sides of the booth. "For example, these doors are offset from one another. So as the customers pull up, we can swing open the door and easily look inside the truck without having to go completely outside the booth. As they pull in, we can observe if they have any material that we don't buy, and then write it down on the ticket that we give them. When they come back, we open the outbound door to make sure they still have it, and didn't just dump it. These offset doors speed the process immeasurably."

At the Downtown Metal Center, a computer automatically calculates the weight difference and displays the amount on an LED screen for both the weighmaster and the customer to see. The computer then generates a check on the spot. A printer pops it up at counter level through a pass-through slot in the specially-designed counter top. The weighmaster then tears off the check, signs it, and hands it through a built-in slot in the window.

"Now we have everything centered where we can greet our customers without having to leave the counter area where the computer displays the weight," says Trant while in the middle of a transaction with a customer. "Buenos Dias, Humberto! Como esta Usted, hoy?" he speaks through a microphone in the window strategically placed at same level as the driver in the pickup truck parked on the outbound scale.

"This project was done the correct way, from top to bottom," says Trant. "This scale house works so well, that we had B.I.G. construct a similar booth for one of our East Coast locations. It was just shipped back there."

"We can handle a few more trucks now because they aren't kept waiting as long," sums operator Debby Gillam from the inbound side of the booth. "I'd say we save as much as 35% more time."

In any language (whether you use the term dinero or money--time saved in moving heavy metal through any operation, equates with money saved.

For a catalog of B.I.G.'s selection of 300 different booth models and their wide range of options, or to inquire how B.I.G. can custom design a booth solution to fit your specific application, contact B.I.G. Enterprises, Inc. at 9702 E. Rush Street, South El Monte, CA 91733-1730; 800.669.1449; fax 626.448.3598; or contact: Dave King (626) 448-1449