To the casual observer, a baler seems like a pretty simple device. Material goes in one end, and bales come out the other end. In reality, a baler is a sophisticated collection of electrical, hydraulic and mechanical systems working in harmony to optimize productivity. Whenever this harmony is disrupted, efficiency, production and performance (and your bottom line) are compromised.
The number one concern for most operational managers is bale weight and optimizing the production rate of the baler. Regular questions I hear are, “How do I improve the baler throughput and how do I spend less doing it?” Listed below are a few key items to consider in your quest to improve baler efficiency.
If the ram is not moving, you are not running at peak efficiency. The balers that I have spent the last 20 years working around are Bollegraaf balers. A Bollegraaf baler comes with an inherent advantage, a pre-press flap. The pre-press flap gives the Bollegraaf the ability to press a charge of material while subsequently preparing the next full charge. Regardless of the make or model of your baler, whether you have a pre-press flap or not, keeping your conveyor evenly loaded, and monitoring this simple element of ram movement can immediately improve productivity.
Your eye for efficiency will benefit operations greatly if you take the time to observe and interact with the folks on the floor. Too many times I’ve heard managers complain about endless conference calls. Building a winning team takes effort, and your time is better spent monitoring and listening to your employees.
Operating a baler properly requires more than pushing material onto the conveyor and taking bales away. A good employee will watch for problems that could jeopardize smooth operation, such as over or under loading the feeding conveyor. At the best running plants I’ll notice operators “take ownership” of the baler. I’ve seen operators wiping down “their” balers at the end of the shift! Typically, employees at these facilities are empowered by management to take an active interest in every day operations. If they see something that needs attention, they know their voices will be heard.
On average, a Bollegraaf HBC-120 can produce a 1-ton bale every 90-120 seconds. A slight variation in pressures or misguided adjustments might add 10-20 seconds to this equation. No big deal, you might think. I’m still making a 1 ton bale in two minutes. But over time, those seconds will add up to minutes and hours. That’s more time for your entire operation from forklift to loader. Your costs slowly increase to produce the same amount of bales.
The best way to improve or maintain baler production is by keeping it operating to OEM specifications. Regular checks of all vital systems are a critical part of maintenance. My company, Van Dyk, offers preventive maintenance inspections (PMIs) to help your team achieve optimum efficiency. We have documented proof of machines running continuously for over 30 years. Check with the company that supplied your baler. Proactive maintenance means huge savings and less unscheduled downtime in the long run.
Once you get a report and/or recommendations, act on them! Nothing is more frustrating for our technicians than visiting every 6 months with best intentions and watching a baler slowly deteriorate while production numbers go down.
Recently, a larger plant manager said to me, “They complain about my maintenance costs, but never about our downtime. Our production numbers are always the best in the region!” He follows a strict maintenance schedule and his employees know they have his dedication to their mission.
A dedicated in-house maintenance program, engaged managers, and empowered employees can make all the difference.