Shredding Cars and More
Quad Plus in Joliet, Illinois, provides industrial control systems, solutions and services. Its team of mechanical and electrical engineers provides “technology-based solutions for all types of plant automation platforms. This includes plants, mills, factories, mines, et cetera. Essentially, anything that includes process or line control/automation,” says Joe Kowalkowski, General Manager of the Quad Plus Large Drive Division.
As a systems integrator involved in the recycling industry, the company is particularly well-known for supplying motors, controls and other parts for industrial shredders (machines that shred cars that is, not office paper).
Where do you get an industrial motor with enough horsepower to run a shredder that can reduce a car to a pile of metal pellets? Quad Plus of Joliet, Illinois, of course.
“In 2021, we will have had to work with almost all of our [shredder] clients with replacing at least one of their DC motors. Auto shredders go into the business knowing full well that shredders require extensive, frequent maintenance. The machine is shredding a car, so you can imagine how much it is getting banged up day in and day out,” says Joe Kowalkowski. However, the industrial automation company is about much more than just these tough motors.
“Our systems are based on standard engineering practices that Quad Plus has developed over twenty-five years of providing advanced automation solutions throughout various vertical markets,” says Kowalkowski. “All of our engineering and fabrication is done in-house, with Quad Plus employees from professional engineers to AutoCAD Inventor 3-D designers to our skilled panel building technicians.”
It has worked with many Fortune 500 clients in sectors that include industrial (specifically rubber and plastics, paper and pulp, building materials and nonwoven production), shredding and recycling (with a focus on auto shredding), circuit breakers and power systems.
The systems integrator provides clients with total automated systems or sectional upgrades for multi-drive systems. Turnkey units feed, dry, coat, roll and convey both raw and finished materials, acquire data and perform tasks for a number of specialized industries.
Quad Plus will inspect, test and refurbish existing medium voltage circuit breaker systems and make any needed repairs. The company provides spare medium voltage circuit breakers to firms for which it is doing repair work, so clients can keep machinery running while waiting for repair. “We have a shop in Hammond, Indiana dedicated to medium voltage circuit breakers,” says Kowalkowski.
Quad Plus also sells a custom medium voltage circuit breaker kit containing lubricants and all manner of tiny parts – from nuts and screws to bolts and cotter pins – for companies that want to perform minor circuit breaker repairs in-house.
Quad Plus’ engineers audit power quality pre- and post- power system installation and design substation and power distribution systems. The company also performs complete electrical hazard assessments for hospitals, commercial buildings, industrial facilities and utilities.
Quad Plus supplies AC or DC shredder drive systems, industry-leading motors and various other shredder parts and pieces for car shredders. The company will also install and repair shredders or layout design for the shredder site. At present, Quad Plus has over ninety seven shredder clients globally.
The shredders that Quad Plus provides come in a range of sizes: “We have everything from small 1,000 horsepower DC clients all the way to very large corporate AC clients. Our largest motor is a 10,000 horsepower shredder. To work on the motor, you have to walk into it. There’s an actual door on the motor,” says Kowalkowski.
The company’s hands-on approach to customer relations in all of its service areas starts from the very earliest phases of the design and covers all aspects. “Each recycling client has been with us since their planning stages, whether they are building a brand new shredder or retrofitting a used shredder. We help with getting power company approval and can do power studies, which are critical first steps to installing a shredder. “
“We have established a relationship with the client over the course of years, sometimes a couple of years, by the time of commissioning. So you get to know them well and usually have gone out to eat or drink with them more than once. That first time they turn on the shredder is a big moment. Sometimes their extended family comes out to take photos, and one time a priest blessed the shredder. It really is a celebration of hard work to build an auto shredder,” he explains.
This close relationship extends to round-the-clock service, in case emergency parts or repairs are required. “Our recycling clients are around the world, and the time difference isn’t an excuse to ignore them. We have an after-hours phone service.”
“Quad Plus is unique in that we are loyal to our clients almost to a fault. Try telling your wife on your anniversary dinner you need to take a twenty-five-minute phone call out in the parking lot, so you can shout instructions over a noisy machine to the operating manager. It isn’t pretty,” says Kowalkowski.
Prompt repair and maintenance are crucial. When shredding facilities experience downtime, the massive financial damage can be in the tens of thousands of dollars per hour. “Also, these machines are rotating very heavy rotors with extremely high kinetic energy forces, so if there is a problem, they can become incredibly dangerous,” he explains.
Emergency repairs and service can be done in-person if needed or online via remote Internet support which saves travel expenses and gets the system going sooner. “So instead of your shredder going down and having to wait a full day or more for our guy to get on-site, we can help you right away. With our international clients, remote support can easily save them tens of thousands of dollars,” says Kowalkowski.
The Quad Plus unique corporate culture is one of respect. Kowalkowski says that the company philosophy it “to treat our employees like adults. So, we’re a lot more understanding of family situations and circumstances – like allowing guys who just came off an oil rig to work from home for a few days. Being out on job sites for a week or longer at a time is not physically easy – let alone the mental and emotional toll. So we’re not clock-watching here.”
Quad Plus was founded in 1990. In four countries, the firm currently employs 185 people including more than fifty-five engineers. “Over the next couple of years, we are planning on expanding the industries we can provide for and will hire more people based on our clients’ needs,” says Kowalkowski.
The company only hires people who excel in their fields, regardless of whether that might be accounting and human resources or electrical engineering. He says that the majority of the firm’s employees have been part of the Quad Plus team for over ten years, and people who are not hard workers do not last.
Some employees’ first experience with the company has come about through its internship program, as several engineers of its engineers were hired directly after graduation. “Over the years, we have hired several employees at Quad Plus [operations in other countries] who later immigrated to the US. They bring a unique perspective to both the professional and personal side of Quad Plus.”
Although poor scrap prices last year meant that Quad Plus revenues were tight, it still managed to meet its 2015 goals of $50 million. With large upcoming projects, 2016 is looking strong. The company is also looking at growth outside of the shredding and recycling niche.
“In the last five years, Quad Plus has added five new businesses/divisions,” says Kowalkowski, who expects to see the same growth and diversification over the next five years. “Being engineers, we are always excited to grow our business in any sector. Give our guys a new challenge, and they will embrace it. We are always looking to expand, in any way.”