If you're a concrete producer who has invested in a reclaimer, you enjoy the benefits of a cleaner job site, recovering aggregates, and knowing you are protecting the local groundwater and streams. Your investment also demonstrates your environmental responsibility to like-minded customers as well as regulators.
It's no small investment. A concrete reclaimer with an agitated tank can run into six figures for the purchase and installation alone, never mind its operation and maintenance. You are, no doubt, saving by recycling aggregates from your returned concrete, but are you getting full value from your reclaimer?
You can optimize your concrete reclaimer by making improvements to your equipment, practices, and process flow. Some optimizations are harder to achieve than others, but all are worth a review. In an industry with tight margins and rising material costs, even small improvements can make a significant impact.
UDO Group recommends only putting large batches into your reclaimer as a last resort. Use the returned concrete in other ways if you can, such as pouring the concrete into forms for blocks or bolos, or using hydration stabilizers and re-batching for the next load. Avoiding reclaiming large loads will help keep down the concentration of suspended particles in your reclaimed water. This reduces how much you need to dilute traditional reclaimed water for use in new mixes. Minimizing water use for reclaiming the aggregates and for washout also reduces the volume of reclaimed water you'll need to store for reuse, or treatment and disposal.
According to UDO Group, best practices are to clean the reclaimer hoppers daily and to power-wash the holding tank pumps weekly. This will reduce downtime for more involved maintenance or repairs. Another tip for reducing unnecessary maintenance is to avoid putting concrete with lots of fiber into the reclaimer. Fiber content can quickly clog the separators for aggregates and solids. This is another case where you may be better off making blocks or using the concrete for other purposes.
If you use traditional reclaimed water, you'll need to develop mixes that work well with reclaimed water. Typically, reclaimed water and flatwork aren't compatible. Whatever your mix, you will need to watch the specific gravity of your reclaimed water and dilute it to the ideal concentration. This can be done through an in-line system that measures the specific gravity of the water as it flows through, automatically adjusting water weights up or down during batching.
If this advice is "too little, too late," consider it for your next purchase if expanding or building a new plant. Reclaimers can only handle so much returned concrete at a time. Ideally, the hopper is big enough that drivers can unload quickly without creating a bottleneck. Likewise, the tank should be large enough so you're minimizing the frequency of disposal.
Like any component of your operation, your reclaimer must be part of an integrated system that considers the process flow of your plant. It must be convenient for drivers to use and follow a logical order without backtracking or bottlenecks. UDO Group also recommends having the returned concrete removal, the water source for truck washout and the location of the process water discharge (in this case, the tank), all close to each other. The farther they are apart, the less efficient your operations will be and your operating costs will increase. While it's a big endeavor to rethink your plant layout and flow, the efficiency gained may be worth it in the long run.
Installing a reclaimer is an investment that provides a number of benefits. Optimizing it can save you time and money.
If you're interested in learning more about how Concrete Reclaimer can work for you, feel free to contact us today to learn more.