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Va. Company Expands Grinding Operations

KW-1 adds second Continental Biomass Industries machine, invests in mulch coloring system

By Diane Calabrese
Date Posted: 4/1/2005

VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia — When Hurricane Isabel pummeled the Mid-Atlantic region in September 2003, the powerful storm toppled trees onto buildings, vehicles and utility pole wires. The tangled mess the hurricane left in its path demanded quick attention, and local governments looked for companies that could respond fast.

      Mike Couch, general manager of KW-1, remembers vividly the call that his company got from the city of Virginia Beach. KW-1, which is owned by Kevin and Wendy Sims (the ‘K’ and ‘W’ in the name), had already been in business for two years and was well known as a land-clearing firm in the region. Virginia Teach officials wanted to mount a comprehensive, rapid response to the damage from Isabel.

      KW-1 wanted to help. However, the sheer volume of the work ­— the number of trees and branches that had been blown down — as well as the size of the trees
required a bigger grinder. Mike immediately began calling manufacturers of grinding equipment.

      “I called CBI,” said Mike. “I said, I need a grinder in three days. Two days later, it was on site, with a trainer.” That began a strong relationship with both the machines and the people of CBI (Continental Biomass Industries).

      That CBI Magnum ForceTM 4800 grinder is still a workhorse for KW-1. In fact, Kevin liked the machine so much that KW-1 invested in a second grinder from CBI in late 2004, a Magnum ForceTM 6800T track machine.

      Continental Biomass Industries, based in Newton, N.H.., manufactures and distributes portable and stationary grinders, shredders and chippers. It designed the Magnum Force 6800T specifically for land-clearing companies, yard waste processors, and other businesses that need high-volume throughput from a track-mounted grinder.

      The track-mounted, self-propelled machine provides significantly greater flexibility in grinding operations for KW-1. “I can take it places,” said Mike, that would not be possible with a grinder that must be towed. “You can take it any place you can walk,” he said. If an excavator can maneuver to a job site, the CBI Magnum Force 6800T can get there, too.

      The region around Virginia Beach where KW-1 does most of its work is relatively flat, but it has been particularly wet in recent years. The 6800T negotiates the wet ground well with its tracks, Mike noted.

      Since being introduced to CBI when KW-1 bought its first machine after Isabel, the company’s staff has come to appreciate the performance of the Magnum Force grinders. CBI itself deserves credit as a company, Mike added.

      “CBI has a very, very well-organized company,” he said. “Anything we need is right there.” Whether KW-1 needs a replacement part or an on-site consultation, CBI responds quickly.

      Adding the 6800T was an easy decision, explained Mike. “We had such good success with the 4800,” he said, that that when it came time to increase grinding capacity, CBI was the logical choice.

      KW-1 has undergone some significant changes in recent months, and the 6800T made them easier. For example, the machine can grind everything from brush to 36-inch diameter hardwood logs. That flexibility is important because it allows KW-1 to work a broad range of jobs.

      The company tries to have at least three jobs going at one time, according to Mike, deploying machines to suit the task. KW-1, with 26 employees, also is equipped with a Diamond-Z Mfg. grinder.

      KW-1 uses a CBI stump shear to break apart stumps before grinding them. That reduces the size before the wood goes into the grinder. In addition, rocks and dirt are removed by shearing the stump, which increases production, reduces grinder operating costs and produces a cleaner end product.

      KW-1 encounters tough hardwoods in the Tidewater region of Virginia, including oak, maple, ash and others.

      In the recent past, KW-1 sold most of its grindings for mulch or for boiler fuel for biogeneration plants in Italy. However, the company is entering the colored mulch business. In early March KW-1 added a Becker-Underwood mulch coloring system. At the time Mike talked to TimberLine, the company had just recently received the Becker-Underwood system, and it was not operational yet. KW-1 will use the new equipment to color mulch for sale to wholesale markets.

      As part of its expansion into mulch coloring operations, KW-1 moved in November 2004. The company now occupies a 9,500-square-foot metal building on a 60-acre site. The large yard area enables KW-1 to collect brush and trees from other companies, which pay a tipping fee.

      The new location for KW-1 has a street address that reflects its activity. The company is located on

Mulch Landing Road
. “We had to get it accepted by the city” once Kevin came up with a name for the road, explained Mike.

      KW-1 performs a variety of land-clearing, tree removal and demolition services. The company some times uses logging contractors to remove timber that can be merchandised. When KW-1 crews fell trees, they rely on tree saws, excavators and dozers.

      Being equipped for versatility expands the business options for KW-1, enabling it to go after many different types of jobs. The mobility of the CBI Magnum Force 6800T gives the company that kind of versatility. “The mobility of the 6800 on and off the road” adds to the reach of KW-1, explained Mike.

      “It’s a very well-designed machine,” said Mike of his 6800T. The horizontal grinder design contributes to safety, he added.

      There are a number of features of the machine that Mike finds noteworthy. “It’s very compact,” he said, and the machine is very accessible for routine maintenance, which is performed by KW-1 personnel. “The hog box raises straight up in the air,” said Mike. “You can replace all the tips in 30 minutes. You can replace the screens in 30 minutes.”

       “You’d call it very well-designed ergonomically,” he added.

      KW-1 uses an excavator mounted with a grapple to load material into the grinder. Since the machine can be operated and even repositioned by remote control, the person running the loader can also control the grinder.

      The CBI Magnum Force 6800T exceeded the expectations of Kevin and Mike for durability and performance. The hammer tips, for example, can be used for more than 40 hours on one side. Since they can be changed and used on the other side, one set of tips will last for 80 hours or more.

      Because KW-1 works with some big trees, the company chose the biggest engine option. The grinder is powered by a Caterpillar 3412 1,050 hp engine.

      “It’s probably the finest machine on the market today,” said Mike, “the crème de la crème.” That’s quite an appraisal coming from someone who knows machines as he does.

      Mike and Kevin have an interest in race cars and the International Hot Rod Association, although they have had little time for it recently because of the hectic pace at KW-1. Mike maintains a long-standing interest in riding motorcycles, though. He has more than one motorcycle, but his favorite is a Harley-Davidson Ultra-Classic model.

      As much as Mike likes working with machines, he is also a person that likes the human contact his job gives him. “Probably dealing with people,” said Mike, is the part of his job that he most enjoys. Each day is different and each challenge unique.

      The CBI Magnum Force 4800 is powered by a Caterpillar 1,030 hp diesel engine. It has a 19,000-pound solid steel rotor. Equipped with heavy-duty, high-torque gear boxes, it achieves a smooth, continuous feed of wood into the grinding chamber.

      As productive as the CBI 4800 is, the CBI 6800T is even more productive in land-clearing operations. That was precisely what CBI wanted, said CBI sales representative Aaron Benway. The 6800T can grind as fast as a 30-inch chipper, according to analyses made by CBI.

      CBI had other objectives, too, when it designed the 6800T, Aaron noted. Just as crucial, CBI wanted the design objectives to complement one another.

      For example, since the 6800T is transported via lowboy trailer, it was designed to meet legal weight limits. “Depending on options, the 6800T weighs approximately 78,000 pounds, said Aaron.

      One option is an overband magnet. The heavy-duty frame allows the machine to accept the magnet and support it without a dramatic increase in weight.

      The CBI Magnum Force 6800T is equipped with the IntelliGrindTM operating system, which automatically adjusts throughput speed for optimum grinding. The operating system governs the automatic variable feed speed and controls adjustments to the upper feed roller, depending on the load on the engine.

      In addition, the IntelliGrind operating system has optional built-in wireless modem communications for real-time diagnostics, analysis and program adjustments. The operator can assess the machine’s performance and make adjustments, even while the grinder is operating, minimizing downtime.

      The 6800T also is equipped with Rexroth® hydraulic pumps, a Donaldson® air filtering system, a Twin Disc® HP600 PTO hydraulic clutch, and InterTrack® tracks with the draw-bar torque of a 100,000 pound excavator. CBI engineers aimed to couple the lightest materials and components possible for maximum strength and durability. When ready for transport, the machine is 38 feet, 10 inches long, 11 feet, 2 inches wide and 11 feet, 11 inches high.

      The unit also has shear pin protection; if the rotor contacts tramp metal, the anvil can swing out of the way. “When we designed this machine, we incorporated [the protection] for avoiding catastrophic damage,” said Aaron.

      The clam shell doors that open the hog box for easy access to change tips and screens have drawn positive feedback from customers, he noted. The new feature provides better access to perform these maintenance tasks.

      Both past experience and good feedback from customers went into the design process of the 6800T. The new machine already is working hard for companies in Massachusetts and Maryland, as well as in Virginia, he said.

      Virginia Beach is an independent city located in the southeastern part of the Old Dominion. Approximately 400,000 people make their homes in Virginia Beach, a city that is as widely known for its naval facilities as for its beach front.

      Neither Virginia Beach nor the environs of the city are strangers to hurricanes. Not far to the south are the Outer Banks of North Carolina and Roanoke Island, known for the Lost Colony.  John White established a colony on the island following a 1587 voyage from England. More than 100 people remained behind to inhabit the island. When White returned three years later, however, they were gone. A hurricane most likely demolished the community. All that was left behind were some cryptic inscriptions the inhabitants had carved in tree trunks.

      Following Hurricane Isabel, it took the city of Virginia Beach months to clean up. KW-1’s Magnum Force 4800 stayed busy a full six months, grinding downed trees and limbs. Those post-storm grinding operations produced more than 500,000 yards of mulch.

            The volume of trees that Isabel uprooted or damaged in the Virginia Beach area alone was staggering. At some points, as many as 500 to 600 trucks per day brought tree debris to the KW-1 grinding site.


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