On the end-of-life vehicle side of the business, SLM is both a recycler and a Pick-A-Part self-service operator, but the latter is really a smaller part of their volume and is a relatively new part of the business.
“We’ve been ingrained in the auto recycling business since inception,” says Duncan. “When Stew and his dad started with a single-car crusher, they would travel to almost every auto recycler around. When I came on board, it was like home was wherever the crusher was working, and it would just go to auto recycler after auto recycler, one to two per week. So we’ve been in that space for a long time and have lots of knowledge and relationships there.”
It was only about three years ago that SLM got into the self-serve auto parts business. “We had a bit of real estate at one of our facilities and just saw it as another opportunity for revenue,” explains Lehmann. “Because the demographic for this business is mostly public and a lot of do-it-yourselfers, we thought we owed it to the community in a sense. We had an opportunity to harvest a few more dollars from each vehicle that we were already purchasing, and also we wanted to increase our footprint in terms of volume for scrap autos. Now we can purchase another 30 or 40 cars that we may not have been acquiring as a scrapyard.”
According to Lehmann, when new regulations first came into place in Ontario for depolluting end-of-life-vehicles, they purchased more mobile units than they needed at the time. They saw an opportunity to help educate and depollute yards that weren’t already doing it in the way that the standard was written. Today, most of their depollution fleet is Iris-Mec, and they have mobile SEDA machines as well.
“Our SEDA set-ups use a roll-off container that flips open from the side, and everything for depolluting cars is there, and it is self-contained,” explains Lehmann. “We have also used this unit for derailments. We did a derailment a couple of years ago where 238 brand new vehicles were deemed end-of-life because the boxcars they were in went on their side. We took that mobile unit to the site, depolluted right there and removed all the hazardous materials for proper transport.
“I believe we’re the only mobile processor in Ontario and maybe the surrounding provinces that has that ability and that machine. It’s become less busy now because almost everyone in the industry has got up to best practices and proper standards, but certainly it was a very useful tool in the beginning.”
Scrappers at heart
Duncan says even with all the heavy-duty work they do, they don’t consider themselves to be an industrial services company. “We do handle industrial accounts and we do have those relationships, but more than anything, the scrap that we source is from end-of-life autos, demolition, and is usually something that still requires processing, whether it be baling, shearing or torching, or sorting and segregating and finding the upgrades. Almost every ton that we buy requires processing, so I’d say the core of our business is processing scrap, whether it be cars or anything else.”
“We’re very hands-on, boots to the ground,” adds Lehmann. “We are people that understand the challenges of day-to-day life as well as the global economy, and we’re down-to-earth. I don’t know how else to describe it, but it’s a very grassroots organization with a fairly modern handle on new technologies, innovations and investments. We have an old-school approach to a lot of things, a conservative approach, but we’re also very eager to reinvest when required.
“The biggest strategy I can pass on would be to out-work anybody around you and you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labour. Don’t act blindly, act thoughtfully and work twice as hard as your competition, and it’ll all come back to you.”
Duncan concludes, “We have a relatively fairly sizable footprint in the industry, but it’s not our goal to be the biggest. We look at it like we have a hundred families to feed and everything we do is for our people. The reason we put our boots to the ground is so that we can pick up the slack and tow the rope when it’s needed, and our employees really see that and appreciate it. I have a saying that my grandfather taught me when I was young which is, ‘You never ask anyone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.’
“He was a very successful entrepreneur, and I live by his mantra every day, and I know Stew does as well. He’s using a shear right now cutting up scrap while we do this interview, because we’re lean and we have a good opportunity, and we want the company to continue to grow and succeed. If we just sit back at a desk and count the dollars, then we’re not going to continue to grow and support our people – our families that we all work so hard for.”
This article was originally published in the October 2021 edition of Recycling Product News,Volume 29, Number 7.