BUSINESS: Apex Recycling Services
IN BUSINESS SINCE: 1997
LOCATION: Fairmont City, Illinois
DOOSAN MACHINES: Doosan DX225MH-5 material handler, DX225LC-3 crawler excavator
DOOSAN DEALER: Bobcat of St. Louis
Chris Ahring founded Apex Recycling Services in 1997 with a one-ton truck, a storage unit and an idea: to focus his business on buying automotive cores from local auto wreckers and reselling them to parts purchasers. After more than 20 years, he is staying true to his vision while diversifying and growing strategically to position his company to be the wrecker’s best possible partner.
Apex Recycling Services is located in the St. Louis suburb of Fairmont City, Illinois, and includes a 40-acre yard, 170,000 square feet of warehouse space, and 12 loading and unloading docks. Recent investments by Chris and the company include 20 more acres of land (doubling the yard from 20 to 40 acres), a new steel service line and a Doosan® material handler.
“The bigger auto wreckers, smaller auto wreckers, salvage yards and recycling companies – they don't have to sell their catalytic converters to a converter buyer; they don’t have to sell their nonferrous metal to a nonferrous buyer or their steel to another buyer,” Chris says. “They can sell it all to us. We’re a one-stop shop; they can deal with one customer.”
Adding a New Service Line
Chris started his business buying components from auto wreckers: alternators, starter cores, catalytic converters, harness wires, aluminum wheels – essentially everything on a scrapped car other than the car body. “I started with a one-ton truck, going directly to the yards and buying there,” Chris says. “A lot of these yards now ship direct to us, and we spot the equipment there at their site. We still offer that service. We still have trucks that run the road. I have buyers that travel and buy at their facilities, but it's just something that has evolved over the last 20 to 22 years.”
In 2002, to accommodate his company’s growth, Chris purchased 20 acres of land immediately across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Louis and near two major highways. Then, in 2012, Chris decided to add steel recycling to Apex Recycling Services’ offerings. That proved to be a success, so in 2016 he purchased an adjacent property that doubled his acreage and gave him rail access. Chris says the expansion opened the doors for him to begin sourcing steel from demolition contractors.
Apex Recycling Services was previously using crawler excavators to stockpile and transload the new influx of steel. While the excavators were serviceable, Chris thought a dedicated Doosan material handler with attachments would be a better, more efficient machine for the future of his recycling business. Chris says the visibility offered by the DX225MH-5 material handler’s fixed 4-foot cab riser makes the machine significantly more efficient for some of his jobs. And the machine’s straight boom and droop nose arm assist with loading tasks.
“You can see from the top of the material handler a lot better than from the standard excavator that we were using,” Chris says. “Time is money. We can see down into these open-top gondolas a lot better. You can see the ground a lot better. If an operator makes a mistake loading and has too much on an axle or misses a piece of scrap left in the trailer because he couldn't see down in it, and then he has to go back in and reload and unload – all of that costs money. You need to be able to operate as efficiently as you can.”
Chris had purchased compact equipment from Clete Kaemmerer at Bobcat of St. Louis and had a good relationship with the dealer. When Chris decided to rent a material handler, Clete introduced Chris to Doosan. Chris, who called himself a “Caterpillar guy,” decided to take a chance on an unfamiliar brand and rent a Doosan® DX225MH-5 material handler. During the rental period, temperatures were very cold, and the Doosan machine proved its performance and reliability.
“The Doosan [machine] started every morning for us,” Chris says. “It ran great. I talked to other customers that bought other material handlers at that time, and a couple of them had problems starting. We had problems with our equipment running as well in our yard, but that Doosan [machine] had no mechanical issues. And the economics of it – it ran really well. It didn't use a lot of fuel.”
Chris says the experience was “an eye-opener.” When he decided to purchase a material handler, Doosan was in the running. A customer of his who owned multiple pieces of Doosan machinery told Chris he wouldn’t buy anything else. At that point, Chris, who owns multiple pieces of Caterpillar equipment, had a decision to make. He had experienced the performance of a Doosan machine firsthand and had heard a positive testimonial from someone he trusted. He also liked the service he received from Bobcat of St. Louis. Finally, despite his loyalty to Caterpillar, he could not ignore the performance of the Doosan machine. With those factors considered, Chris purchased the DX225MH-5 with a grapple and a magnet for his growing steel recycling business.
A Workhorse Machine
Apex Recycling Services is split into two yards: its original yard, which accepts all incoming retail and street traffic, and the iron yard. Material is constantly being loaded in and out of the yards. The material handler is almost always in motion.
“All of our heavy industrial or big dealer accounts come into our new iron yard, and anything small and retail we keep at the old location,” Chris says. “We keep it separate so we don't have retail guys and street traffic in our iron yard. The Doosan machine is used in both yards, eight to 10 hours a day.”
In the original yard, operators run the magnet on the DX225MH-5 material handler to separate ferrous metals from incoming material. In the iron yard, operators use the DX225MH-5 equipped with the grapple to place material into the charge box of Apex Recycling’s 950-ton stationary shear. Once the guillotine-like shear has cut the steel to spec, the material handler loads it into a rail car or truck to be transported to a mill.
“The operators are really happy with the material handler,” Chris says. “They like that they can disconnect and reconnect the grapple and the magnet quickly. They like the raised cab because they can see how they need to load into the open tops or unload without missing materials.”
Chris’s operators run the material handler 50 to 55 hours a week and perform daily maintenance on the machine. He depends on the DX225MH-5 to hold up, because it’s become a vital part of his growing business.
“I can't sell fast enough at times, but it all depends on the markets and processing,” Chris says. “If metal comes to the yard, it does not necessarily go back out in a 30-day period, but we are constantly loading material out. The loading and unloading goes on nonstop.”
Focus on Safety
Apex Recycling Services owner Chris Ahring makes safety a priority. He says, “The company puts safety, health and well-being of our customers, employees and vendors first and foremost.” The company has partnered with a third-party safety and environment company – QualSafe Solutions – to help keep it accountable. According to Chris, the firm performs quarterly audits to ensure that Apex Recycling’s facility is safe and that the company is properly following OSHA regulations. The firm is OSHA compliant, and Chris says, “our facility has received exemplary status reports every quarter.” In addition, Apex Recycling employees are offered state-certified training safety courses from QualSafe Solutions.