BRENTWOOD, New Hampshire – Seven HogZilla grinders power the operations at P.R. Russell, the largest privately owned mulch and soil producer in New England.
The newest grinder in the array is a HogZilla TC-1564P towable tub grinder. It is the 12th grinder that P.R. Russell has purchased from C.W. Mill Equipment Co. Inc over the years.
The relationship between P.R. Russell and C.W. Mill Equipment, a 45-year-old company based in Sabetha, Kansas, is a long-standing one. The founder of P.R. Russell, Peter Russell, established a working relationship with the maker of HogZilla grinders, explained Zach Eaton, the yard manager at P.R. Russell.
Today, P.R Russell is owned by two brothers, Marco and Richard Carrier. The Carriers bought the business from Russell in 2007.
“P.R. Russell has chosen to stay with the HogZilla tub grinders because of the customer service, durability, and consistency of the machines and the products they make,” said Zach. “Having a number of machines that can do the same thing and are interchangeable is a large time saver on our end.”
How the grinders are put to use “depends on the product,” said Zach. In addition to mulch, P.R. Russell manufactures certified playground chips and various soil products.
With a heavy production schedule, reducing downtime is a must. With the HogZilla grinders in service, reliability is the norm.
Should there be an issue with a grinder, an adjustment can be made quickly. “If one machine is down, we can slide another machine in its place,” noted Zach.
Having numerous models of the same machines also simplifies stocking and replacing parts, said Zach. However, it’s about much more than ease of maintaining equipment and product flow.
The HogZilla machines have proven their longevity, durability, and reliability. For example, P.R. Russell still has in service a HogZilla TC-1464P grinder that was purchased in 1998. The Caterpillar 3412 engine has been rebuilt.
Zach is knowledgeable about heavy equipment. Before the 43-year-old native of Auburn, N.H., joined P.R. Russell in 2007 he worked for 10 years with heavy equipment – first refurbishing machines and then as an operator. He also spent five years in the wood products industry.
It was during the transition of P.R. Russell to its Brentwood, N.H., headquarters that Zach joined the company, which was founded in Maine in 1989. In addition to the Brentwood location, the company now has facilities in Jefferson, N.H., Weare, N.H., and Freetown, Mass.
Brentwood, part of Rockingham County, is a town of 4,486. It is located in southeast New Hampshire, just under 25 miles west of Portsmouth. The location puts it only 50 miles north of Boston.
P.R. Russell produces more than 700,000 yards of mulch annually; 90 percent of it is sold in bulk.
Every one of the company’s HogZilla grinders is a diesel machine powered by a Caterpillar engine. “We chose diesel engines due to the amount of products we manufacture,” said Zach.
Machines are moved around the Brentwood yard and sometimes moved to other facilities.
“It is imperative that we be able to mobilize our equipment as our yard changes yearly,” said Zach. At the time he was interviewed for this article, the company had its seven HogZilla grinders stationed at one yard, but how and where the machines are deployed can vary. “We have multiple directions that we go in our yard,” said Zach. “Some machines pre-hog, which is breaking down the large pieces or stringy bark that comes from the sawmills. Others are doing a first-grind of mixed material.”
What a given machine is used for depends on what raw material is being processed as well as the finished product. “Some grinders are set up to make the finished products with finer screens,” said Zach. “Some are set up for our grinding and screening operations that mainly feed our bagging department.”
Some grinders are designated to produce playground chips. The certified chips require the grinders to be set up to produce chips that meet certain specifications. “All that product needs to be a certain size to pass its tests,” said Zach.
The versatility of HogZilla grinders has been demonstrated across the decades the machines have been used in waste reduction, recycling, land clearing, and construction and demolition applications.
C.W. Mill Equipment manufactures both tub grinders and horizontal grinders, including both types of machines that are mounted on tracks to be self-propelled. Tub grinders are available as diesel-powered or electric models.
The TC series of HogZilla grinders takes its name from the torque converter drive. It allows the engine to perform at peak efficiency with multiplied torque. Because of the converter, governed speed is maintained irrespective of the load. Torque converters allow the engine to avoid lugging and needless racing while protecting the engine from shock and loads from torsion. The strength and reliability of industrial torque converters was proven decades ago in the rock crushing industry, and C.W. Mill pioneered and perfected their use in tub grinders.
The TC series of HogZilla grinders come standard with a Caterpillar C32 1,000 hp diesel engine. Other standard features include electronic horsepower controller, remote control, stacking conveyor, vulcanized conveyor belts, auxiliary hydraulic power, hydraulic rod puller, and more. Options include deflectors and restraints, rigid and swing hammer variations, mulch coloring system, fire suppression system, and more.
C.W. Mill Equipment recognized early on that the dirt and contaminants swirling around pose a potential problem for engine efficiency. To compensate for the dirt and dust in grinding operations, C.W. Mill installed the biggest possible radiator pre-cleaner. It also arranged the engine intake air duct so that it captures the cleanest and coolest air available.
(For more information about HogZilla grinders, visit www.hogzilla.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (800) 743-3491.)
P.R. Russell has 23 employees. Among them are four managers and five office and sales personnel. The other 14 individuals work in manufacturing, maintenance, and distribution.
“Our company is operated on 85 acres with 23 acres paved,” said Zach. The headquarters site has three buildings for offices, production, and storage. The storage buildings are important because they keep dry products that will be bagged.
“P.R. Russell brand products include an array of bulk mulch products, bagged bark mulch, and high-quality bagged soils,” said Zach. “We focus on quality bark, soil products and customer service.”
About 90 percent of gross sales are for mulch, whether bulk or and bagged mulch. The 10 percent of the mulch that is sold in bags is packaged by two Premier Tech FFS200 bagging systems. Bags are palletized with an AP 400 palletizer. And the pallet loads are wrapped with a LW300 wrapper.
The bagged mulch is packaged to be sold under the company’s own brand name, and P.R. Russell also packages it in bags with private labels for other businesses. Packaged materials range in size from 8 quart bags of potting soil mixes to 3 cubic foot bags of playground chips.
“Co-packing (private label) accounts for 70 percent of our annual packing volume,” said Zach. “This portion of our business is seeing the fastest growth, and we are currently investing in a third bagging line to keep up with demand.”
The raw material for grinding consists of residual wood material from sawmills. “All material coming in from the sawmills arrives in trailers, which is dumped off of our dumper or unloaded from the live floors,” said Zach. Wood material from other sources also is used to make mulch, including low-grade softwood logs. Most of the wood material is hemlock and spruce, and the company also gets pine bark. Volvo 120 and Caterpillar 962 high-dump loaders that can pick up between 10 and 13 cubic yards are used to load raw material into the grinders.
Some mulch is colored. P.R. Russell has used different brands of granular dyes over time. “We do two different processes,” said Zach. “For some material we use a liquid dye and a color machine. For our bulk mulch we batch it together with our loaders to the precise pounds per yard then grind it.” The company buys colorant from T.H. Glennon and Amerimulch and uses a Colorbiotics coloring machine.
Currently, “natural products are the biggest hit” among customers, said Zach. “Our black mulch has definitely increased (as a customer preference) – 60 percent over six or seven years.” Customer preferences change from time to time, and the company keeps pace with them.
P.R. Russell serves customers throughout New England, although most business is done in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The company has some customers in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, “and beyond,” said Zach.
The company relies on affiliated trucking businesses for delivering raw materials and delivering finished goods. “P.R. Russell depends largely on its sister companies, including RCT, Haynes Trucking, and Ingerson Trucking to supply its raw material as well as aid in the delivery of products,” said Zach.
“Most bulk live floor deliveries are done via owner-operators,” explained Zach. “Flatbed deliveries are handled almost exclusively by a local trucking company.”
“The raw material that arrives is ground through the HogZilla tub grinders with large screens and stacked into large piles,” said Zach. “If we are making a certain aged product, we then age it appropriately.”
P.R. Russell purchases screens from C.W. Mill Equipment. The tie between P.R. Russell and C.W. Mill Equipment goes beyond the HogZilla grinders and screens, though.
Both P.R. Russell and CW Mill Equipment emphasize quality and customer service. The shared business approach – core philosophy – enables a reciprocity that serves both companies well.
P.R. Russell has been able to grow, and grow more, by maintaining a great reputation. And C.W. Mill Equipment machines have made that growth possible along with enabling P.R. Russell to produce its high-quality products. It’s the sort of reciprocal link that fortifies the business community.
P.R. Russell is a member of the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association (NHTOA), and Zach worked in the logging industry a couple of years before joining the company. He was part of a cleanup crew and operated an excavator with a stump shear, sometimes filling in as a skidder operator.
“What I enjoy most about what I do at P.R. Russell is that I am never going in the same direction,” said Zach. “We have so many different things going on, it keeps it interesting, and it’s fast-paced and I am always learning.”
And in his free time? “I like to spend time with my family, coach youth sports, and work in my garage,” said Zach.