Five CBI grinders work long, hard and reliably for NOVUS Wood Group, a wood recycler in Texas.
HOUSTON, Texas – How do you define durability? For Steve M. Ghormley, the vice president of NOVUS Wood Group, any measure of toughness includes the component of longevity.
NOVUS bought a model 4800 wood grinder from Continental Biomass Industries, Inc. (CBI) in year 2000. That CBI 4800 has just been “repowered” with the installation of a new CAT engine, said Ghormley. “It had 21,000 hours on it.” With the added horsepower and new engine it’s now ready to run another 20,000 hours!
The 4800 is one of five CBI grinders in service at NOVUS. The five grinders contribute to an annual production of ground material that ranges as high as one million tons in peak years.
NOVUS recycles wood fiber to produce a full array of landscaping products – from mulch to environmentally-friendly support for coastal dune growth, or Eco-DuneTM, and it produces biomass feedstock.
The newest grinder at NOVUS is a CBI 8600-B track-mounted machine. Tracks enable the grinder to move around the company’s Houston yard — a 30-acre site — on its own power. CBI offers customers a choice of tracks or wheels on its 8000 series, or Magnum Force, machines.
The other four CBI grinders that NOVUS owns are wheel-mounted. They are the newly refurbished CBI 4800, a CBI 4000-B and two more CBI 8600 machines.
NOVUS does 60% of grinding at its own yard and 40% at customer sites. To streamline throughput, NOVUS offers customers the option of drop and hook collection. Roll-off containers and ITI or Travis walking-floor trailers are used as receptacles and for transport.
John Deere equipment has been tapped for supporting roles in the yard at NOVUS since 1993. In use today are many JD 624 loaders and JD 210 excavators.
As part of a non-stop quest for improving efficiency, NOVUS recently added an 80-ft. stacking conveyor from McCloskey International Ltd., and it is converting the tractors in its fleet to natural-gas powered Freightliner models.
NOVUS Wood Group has two sites in the Lone Star State. There is the Houston headquarters and there is a facility in Dickinson-League City, Texas. A major U.S. port, Houston is located in Harris County. Essential industries and a population of six million people make Houston a vital center of economic activity.
William H. (Bill) Winters is the president and founder of NOVUS Wood Group. The oldest root of NOVUS extends to 1985 when its founder established it as a waste reduction company with a different name and a niche in rental and management of waste compaction equipment. The company expanded into all aspects of the waste industry, operating landfills, recycling centers, transfer stations, and collection companies.
Ultimately, there was a move away from waste business. In 1998, the company divested itself of the waste components and started focusing primarily on wood recycling. The name of the company became NOVUS Wood Group.
Some managers at NOVUS partnered in a new venture known as Woodfuel.com in April 2000. Woodfuel.com is a virtual broker of wood fiber that operates in 22 states. Scott C. Mactier is president of Woodfuel.com.
From providing grinding services to municipalities and land-clearing companies to responding to storm events, NOVUS is fully engaged in all sectors where wood fiber can be captured and then recycled. In short, the company extends the life of wood fiber. As its name signals, NOVUS is always ready to do more through innovative approaches and new directions.
More than 30 employees work for NOVUS. Ghormley explained that his philosophy of doing business begins with employee harmony. “Treat your employees fairly and they will treat your customers fairly,” he said. With a strong, collaborative foundation in place, a company is poised to sustain itself and grow.
It’s not surprising that a 20-year relationship would develop between NOVUS and CBI. Headquartered in Newton, N.H., CBI focuses on designing equipment that keeps biomass out of landfills. It does so in the context of ensuring energy gains from reclaimed fiber are matched by the most energy-efficient tools for reclaiming fiber.
The do “more with less” philosophy of CBI is built into all of its equipment, and it is a visible feature of the CBI IntelliGrind Variable Speed System that ensures the horsepower output coincides with the task.
The mix of species in the wood NOVUS reclaims includes pine and hardwoods. So flexibility built into the CBI grinders is important.
Ghormley was involved in the purchase of the first CBI grinder that NOVUS added. “We had operated some tub grinders,” he explained, but the urban setting for NOVUS raised safety and permitting concerns for the tub design.
The concerns could be addressed with a horizontal grinder. Consequently, CBI’s horizontal grinder configuration coupled with an enclosed grinding chamber got Ghormley’s attention, and it kept his attention. The newest CBI grinder on the NOVUS equipment roster is the 14th CBI grinder NOVUS has purchased across 20 years.
“I think that CBI is the heaviest, strongest built equipment on the market,” said Ghormley. “The long life” is really noteworthy, he explained. “When you get 21,000 hours out of one [machine] and then repower – they’re great machines.”
How hard does each CBI grinder work? “At our yard [in Houston] in sales alone of products, [we are selling] one-half million yards per year of product,” said Ghormley.
NOVUS does not do bagging of its products, but it does sell product to two companies that bag.
Recognition and awards to NOVUS are many. One particularly captures the spirit of the company, which is to constantly reassess and be ready to change direction with innovative products. Asked by the local utility to help with a wetland project, NOVUS made new links, including one to Dow Chemical.
In the course of helping the chemical manufacturer with a project, NOVUS developed its trade-marked Eco-Dune product. Eco-Dune, which is the organic base that encourages sand to collect in a dune formation, earned the Coastal America Partnership Award for Environmental Excellence in 1999.
The contribution that CBI equipment makes to the Eco-Dune product is just the sort of participation that CBI envisions for each of its machines. With its emphasis on 100% conversion to useable product of what would otherwise be waste, CBI promotes environmental sustainability.
As important as keeping wood fiber out of landfills is ensuring that any piece of equipment built will have a long life. Not only does a long-lived machine rein in the equipment budget for its owner, but it also reduces the amount of raw materials and energy expended in building replacement machines.
To meet the preferences of the fullest spectrum of customers, CBI builds machines with options. For example, both upswing- and downswing-style grinders are offered by CBI. The latter are generally lower-speed machines ready to process a heterogeneous waste feed, while the former easily handle cleaner more homogenous material.
At the core of CBI grinders is the CBI Grizzly Mill. The mill has multiple rotor options.
Encompassing every dimension of sustainability, CBI also makes its parts as similar as possible. “The 8600s and the 4000 [CBI grinders] all run the exact same hammer tip,” said Ghormley. “Our wear parts are pretty standard.” That eases maintenance, saving time and money and energy.
Each installation that CBI does is customized. CBI offers the ancillaries a customer requires to fortify the day-to-day commitment of the grinder. The ancillary equipment includes shredders, feeders, screens, sorters and conveyors.
In the two decades he has worked with CBI to procure machines and discuss needs for equipment, Ghormley has gotten to know the CBI team well. “Anders Ragnarsson is a business acquaintance and a friend,” he said. [Anders is the president and owner of CBI.]
Like CBI, NOVUS tailors its solutions to customer needs. The Woodfuel.com enterprise that involves many of the managers at NOVUS does more than broker the to and fro of wood waste and useable wood fiber. The principals at Woodfuel.com can provide biomass turnkey procurement management solutions to clients, for instance.
The biomass that transits the virtual world via Woodfuel.com becomes feedstock for energy producers, fire-log manufacturers, particle board makers, pellet makers, playground substrate. Woodfuel.com also conducts feasibility studies for clients with ideas for new products that incorporate wood fiber as a raw material.
In the NOVUS portfolio are a number of projects related to storm debris management, such as the collection and processing of debris after Hurricane Ike in Houston in 2008. Among the products NOVUS offers is the Cushion of Wood playground surface that meets safety standards established for engineered wood fiber used in play areas.
Before joining NOVUS, Ghormley worked in the construction industry. “I grew up in the construction industry,” he said.
Ghormley was first introduced to Bill Winters through a mutual friend who is an engineer. The two men found common ground that put then on the same path.
“I actually came to work here [at NOVUS] to build the first recycling facility for Mr. Winters,” said Ghormley. Like all the members of the NOVUS team, Ghormley has an abiding interest in solving problems and making things work better.
In his free time, Ghormley pursues two sports. “I do a lot of sailing and racing sailboats,” he said. He is also an avid dirt bike rider, completing the Baja course in 2009.