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A Closer Look E-mail the author

Remcon
Dennis Lux • 509-244-9439

Remcon’s history began when a structural steel company switched directions and started manufacturing equipment for the recycling industry. At first, the company made equipment for small recyclers, but in the early 80s, larger scrap companies came knocking at the door looking for equipment.

—A completed Remcon installation in Sweden

The owner of that company decided that he was only interested in manufacturing non-custom machinery. He wanted to build off-the-shelf units, but realized there was a market for custom machinery. So, he talked to Dennis Lux and suggested that Lux branch off to make custom machinery. From that, Remcon was born, and they’ve been making custom machinery for recyclers since 1991.

Lux said that many of Remcon’s original customers were small communities that didn’t have large single-stream systems for waste recycling. Many of those communities needed to hand-sort the waste material to separate the recyclables, but Remcon’s magnetic separators, trommel screens and other separating equipment made the job easier.

The company still sells those sorts of systems, but also focuses on conveyor systems and support systems for recyclers of all sizes. Some of the conveyors are for shredder facilities, used for feeding into the shredders and transporting the finished product away from the conveyors. The company also makes rotating screens and other support systems for the shredders “Everything but the shredder,” Lux said.

He said that he often works directly with the manufacturers of the shredders. “They don’t like making the parts we do – it’s always custom and it’s always messy.” Remcon also makes add-on machinery for existing systems. While the manufacturers might make similar product for new installations, trying to fit a new part onto an existing system can be “a bit of a challenge,” particularly when the equipment is in a building or surrounded by other equipment that can’t easily be moved.

Lux said that manufacturers don’t want to do that sort of custom work for a one-time installation – and that’s exactly what Remcon is good at. “We like taking on a challenge,” he said.

Besides building custom systems and add-ons, Remcon also does repair work on large chain-belt conveyors and builds new chains for existing conveyors. “We build it and install it,” Lux said. By replacing the chain and doing other repairs, Lux said, “It’s like a new conveyor for much less cost.”

When Lux first started his company, he had about 10 people in the shop, and about half of them migrated over from the old company. Now, he’s got six people in the shop along with four office staff, three of whom work on design, installation, and some production work as well. “We feel it’s important that the three of us who design and sell the equipment also help to install it,” he said. “This helps us to better understand what’s needed by our customers and how the equipment works.”

But there are more people who support Remcon, including a company that helps with steel work and platforms and support structures and an engineering firm that does design work. Local steel service centers cut, burn, and bend material so it’s ready for use when it arrives at Remcon’s shop. By outsourcing work to trusted local business, Remcon can focus on what it does best.

Since the company’s beginning in 1991, Lux said that recycling equipment has improved “vastly” and engineering has improved as well. “It used to be more seat-of-the-pants,” he said of the old days. It wasn’t that long ago that drawings were done on paper, to scale, sometimes requiring 10’ lengths of paper for one design.

“When we draw a system, we draw every piece and every bolt,” he said. This ensures that when the machine gets to a location, often in pieces to be assembled on site, all the pieces fit as they should. Not only are the engineering advances better for companies like Remcon who do the work, it also makes it more affordable for small communities to become more efficient and more automated with waste handling, sorting, and recycling. And it also benefits the residents because more material can be recycled with less fuss at home.

Looking to the future, Lux said he doesn’t expect the repair and add-on business to change very much. “There are always replacements, repairs and retrofitting,” he said. And he will continue to sell to smaller customers, private businesses and smaller communities.

What he does expect to change is the use of his products for new materials and in new industries. More materials are recyclable now than when he started in the business, and he expects that trend to continue.

He said that people are “figuring out how to take material that used to go to landfills and turn it into products.” Tires and electronics are two examples, and there could be more on the horizon. He also expects that more material will be processed and re-used in the U.S. rather than being shipped overseas.

With all the changes in the recycling industry, Lux said that it’s always going to be a challenge to keep up with the needs of the industry. He said that while some of the machinery will remain the same, the use of the machine might be new, and the end product could also be something new.

Recently, a customer talked to Remcon about machinery to be used to process waste from an old mining site. When the mine was in operation, the waste had no value – but now, with new techniques, that waste can be converted to something with enough value to make the recovery efforts worthwhile.

“We get a lot of odd inquiries,” Lux said, but the best part of his job is taking those odd requests and designing a machine that will do what the customer needs it to do. “We take pride in really listening and finding out how to do it in the simplest way.” He said that Remcon can often “figure out how to do the same job with fewer conveyors,” saving the customer money and taking up less space.

“It makes the job a challenge,” he said. “And more fun.”