When Cat® waste experts came on site for a three-day consultation in July 2017, the team at the Santa Fe Solid Waste Management Agency (SFSWMA) wasn’t sure what to expect. They weren’t looking to make big changes or anticipating any major problems would be uncovered.
“We were just looking to discover some ways to improve on what we were already doing,” says Danita Boettner, SFSWMA Landfill Manager. “We thought Caterpillar would make a few recommendations, give us a report and be gone.”
Instead, three days turned into an ongoing partnership, and small adjustments to basic practices translated into significant results for SFSWMA — including an approximate 40 percent increase in compaction and a 10 percent reduction in daily cover use in just 12 months.
“The tweaks we made led to real gains in terms of compaction and dirt use,” Boettner says. “Today we’re able to get more waste in our footprint, and it costs less per ton to dispose of material.”
Curious how a three-day consultation resulted in such dramatic improvements? Read on for more of our conversation with Boettner.
BOETTNER: We’re responsible for the Caja del Rio Landfill and the Buckman Road Recycling and Transfer Station, which collect material from the City of Santa Fe and Santa Fe County. The landfill processes about 150,000 tons of waste per year. We operate an 826H, 836G, 836K with GPS, two Cat scrapers, three Cat water wagons, two Cat motor graders and a D8R. We just purchased a new D8T with grade control for building and excavating purposes.
BOETTNER: Prior to his first visit, Tom [Griffith, market professional for Cat Waste] asked me about our hot-button issues so he’d know what to address on site. I told him our goals were to increase compaction, reduce dirt usage and get our compactor’s onboard GPS system fully functional. Tom connected me to a technology expert prior to the consultation who helped me work through issues with the GPS to make it more operator-friendly. He also showed me how to access and look at the data collected though VisionLink®.
When Tom got here, he sat in the compactor and dozer with our operators, which opened their eyes to a different way of rolling and placing the waste. He also conducted a best practices session with all the operators that led to some real “aha” moments. Then he came back a few months later to sit down with our superintendent and see how we were doing with some of the changes we had implemented. That was very productive. Since the consultation, Tom and the technology experts have been accessible for a variety of discussions — specifying equipment, data sharing, etc.
BOETTNER: The biggest takeaway was learning a new way to roll the waste. Historically, we went in one direction and inched our way across the trash. Now we go two ways, back and forth and then on a 45-degree angle across the trash whenever possible. The 45-degree rolling really knits in the trash and makes it more solid. You can see now that the face is more compact, and I can see it for sure in the data. Another takeaway for our operators was learning to be more patient, more methodical, as they push the material into place in thin layers. Tom really helped them see the benefit of that as he sat with them in the cab.
BOETTNER: There was some skepticism at first. Some thought Caterpillar was just here to sell us equipment. But it wasn’t like that at all. They were here to show us how to best compact the trash, how to use the equipment in the most efficient manner. Because Tom could speak to them as an operator himself, and sit in the compactor with them, they started embracing the changes pretty quickly. Once the data became available from my end, they had some “aha” moments as well.
BOETTNER: Absolutely. Everyone can do better, no matter who you are. You don’t need to embark on a massive overhaul of your operation. For us, it was more about refining the details, and just by doing that we were able to add to the life of our landfill. Depending on how you look at things, if a landfill our size gains an extra year of life, it could potentially mean up to a million dollars of deferred savings — well worth the small amount of coordination time the onsite consultation required.
Would your operation benefit from a consultation with the Cat Waste experts? Talk to your local Cat dealer for more information about scheduling one of these no-cost, onsite sessions with your team.