Proper equipment selection is crucial to developing a successful composting operation. But don’t go about it blindly. Know what you need and how to get it.
The number and variety of composting facilities continues to grow as do the numbers of people who select equipment for them. These people have a wide range of experience. Some have made many equipment selections over a long career and some have made none. However, both can be perplexed by the number and variety of equipment options on the market to choose from. So how do you go about it? Whether you’ve done it dozens of times before or if you somehow just ended up with the task of selecting equipment for you operation the most important technical selection steps are essentially the same:
- Understanding the composting process, specifically your composting process.
- Understanding the functions that each piece of equipment is required to perform in that process.
- Describing the equipment’s functional requirements in a bid specification.
- Soliciting equipment proposals.
- Evaluating the proposals received based on demonstrated operations in similar operations, cost, delivery, maintenance/support and the experience of others who use the equipment.
- Negotiating a purchase agreement.
Of those steps, clearly the most important one is to understand the basic composting process and more importantly your composting process. For instance, a grinder that performs well at a neighboring facility might not work for you at all. Scary but true!
Understand Your Feedstocks
Fundamentally you’ll need to know things like what your feedstocks are and how they are collected and delivered; how much of each you will receive; where you will put the feedstocks and what you need to do with them once they are delivered, how you will process them to set the initial structure (particle size/porosity), how you will establish the initial nutrient balance (C:N Ratio) and moisture content, how you will move the material through your process, how you will maintain moisture content, porosity and oxygen levels during the process, how you will meet pathogen and vector reduction levels, how you will screen and refine your compost to prepare your products for market, how you will manage you rejects, etc. Once you answer these questions, you need to make sure that you have the right equipment at each step to process the required amount of your materials.
Helpful Equipment Hunting Hints
- Talk to lots of other compost facilities about their equipment before you commit to yours. Learn from their mistakes!
- Multiply equipment manufacturers printed capacity (tons per hour for example) by two to get a realistic long-term capability of the equipment. Remember, their number is based on a perfect world operating under perfect conditions, a condition you will rarely experience at your real-world facility!
- Plan for peaks and growth. Remember that you’re not purchasing that grinder to process your daily “average” of incoming feedstocks. You’re buying it to handle the peak day of the year! And don’t forget that (hopefully) your operation will grow! So buying additional up-front capacity might be worth considering.
- “Cost” includes a lot more than how much you pay for a piece of equipment. Don’t forget operating cost (operator, fuel, servicing, replacement parts, etc), scheduled maintenance, emergency repair, downtime (if that grinder breaks down how does it affect you in terms of equipment rentals, overtime, odor generation, etc.), etc.
- Remember this is your operation, make sure you understand it and select proper equipment for it!
Don’t Go It Alone
If you’re still lost on what kind of equipment to purchase, give GMT a call! We’ve designed over 400 facilities worldwide and can solve even the trickiest compost problems. Contact us today, or give us a call at 206-319-7102. With over 25 years of composting experience, we can help answer all your equipment questions.