When Lackner was looking for a high-growth compliment to its McKeesport, Tygart Steel Division, he took a look at areas of growth within the steel industry.
So about two years ago, Raymond Lackner began shipping plates from McKeesport to its Donora factory, a 85,000 square foot plant that formerly was part of U.S. Steels's Donora works. There, the plates are assembled into powerful crushers that tightly compress waste so more of it can be stored in the sturdy metal boxes that are also made in Donora.
So far, the fledgling venture accounts for less than 11 percent of the $20 million in revenues collected annually by Tygart and other businesses. But a new compactor and escalating landfill fees could help the Donora plant, which employs 30, blossom into a $20 million or $30 million business within five or ten years, said Executive Vice-President Raymond Lackner.
The new compactor uses 30,000 pounds of force to flatten milk jugs, paint cans, packaging and other kinds of waste. Chambers Development Co. Is testing a model that can be attached to the back of a recycling truck. Lackner said the mobile compactor can squeeze about 6,500 one-gallon milk jugs into a metal box the size of a tractor trailer's sleeper cab.
The more recycled plastic that can be squeezed into the box, the fewer trips Chamber's drivers must make to the company's Strip District recycling center to unload. Lackner is enthusiastic about the compactor. 'We just have to get the product marketed and hope our patent holds,' he said.
Raymond Lackner, a former Certified Public Accountant with National Steel Corporation, hopes the new compactor will broaden the company's market, which has been limited to Pennsylvania and neighboring states.
Lackner is trying to expand a business at a time when container and compactor manufacturers are going through ' a moderate to severe recession,' said John Legler, director of equipment and safety programs for the National Solid Waste Management Association 'It is a tough market. The people that survive are ones that come up with innovative answers and have money to do research and development.'
Rosy forecasts of strong growth for waste-related businesses attracted many players,. Others jumped because they thought it would be easy to make steel boxes and rams to crush what's inside them.'We've got more competition than we used to have,' said Howard Magness, a sales coordinator for Marathon Equipment of Vernon, Ala. 'It looks easy. It looks simple...but it's not quite that simplle.
Lackner is confident the compactor business will grow because of the ever-increasing fees business pay to dispose of their garbage. Some landfill charge by weight; others charge by volume.
Businesses that pay by volume realize the greatest savings buy using a compactor. Businesses that pay by the pound also will save. They'll be able to fit more trash in their dumpsters, which means their trash company won't have to pick up the trash as often.
Lackner said, the mobile recycler being tested by Chambers can cram more trash into a smaller space than other compactors, cost less and is easier to maintain.
Marathon's Magness, whose company makes competing products, buys steel from Tygart Steel, was impressed-but skeptical-of Lackner's claims. 'I do not think anyone can do that. That would be a big deal if it could be done.'
'You've got to convince (customer) your product is superior to what's on the market... We've gotten good market penetration in a 250 mile radius of Pittsburgh. We're starting to get sales in New jersey and New York. It's a hard go.'