River Valley Paper experienced a season of change about two years ago. The company was founded in 1987 by John Sharp and is headquartered in Akron, Ohio. It operates paper recycling facilities in Akron; Kalamazoo, Michigan; and Yulee, Florida.

In February 2017, Sharp sold River Valley to Rick Torbeck who recently formed Integrity Fiber Supply, which is part of Indianapolis-based holding company Schwarz Partners. After the acquisition of River Valley, Torbeck performed financial analysis on older equipment, focusing on production, transportation, bale integrity, safety and overall plant efficiency. He determined that new equipment was required.

Jeff Rooney, services and facility manager at River Valley Paper Co., says tissue pack is a particularly important grade for the Yulee facility. The Yulee facility had been operating two balers in 2017, but he says the company recognized that its two-ram baler wasn’t efficiently baling the tissue pack grade.

“We were only achieving low 30,000-pound containers for export, but we had the permission to load 50,000-pound containers,” Rooney says. “The baler we were using, which was a two-ram baler to bale our tissue, was producing 1,000- to 1,100-pound bales.”

Jay Thornton, production manager at River Valley Paper Co., adds that the Akron facility also ran into similar issues with one of its balers around that same time. It was operating a two-ram baler for old corrugated containers (OCC) and sorted office paper (SOP), but the bales weren’t reaching desired weights. He says the baler was older and required a lot of maintenance.

“It just wasn’t efficient,” Thornton says. “We weren’t getting the weights for export or domestic. We only got 1,200- to 1,500-pound bales.”

Torbeck researched a few baler manufacturers. Imabe invited him to tour its fabrication facility and headquarters in Spain, and Torbeck was impressed by the solid structure, powerful hydraulic system, and performance of the Imabe balers. So, the company added Imabe balers at both its Akron and Yulee facilities.

Both facilities installed Imabe H-240/3000 single-ram balers along with Imabe Tr1500 hoggers as well as three conveyors. The Yulee facility’s new baler incorporated a dual-feed conveyor as well. Additionally, the company installed Imabe shredders at both its Akron and Yulee sites to allow the company to make more product and process materials it could not bale prior to the shredder installation. Adding a shredder also gave the company the ability to offer destruction services to customers who would be concerned about information getting out into the marketplace.

Thornton says the installation in Akron was fairly smooth. Imabe installers were able to place the single-ram baler into the facility using cranes because of the way the facility is configured.

In Yulee, Rooney says the installation took a little over a month. He says that facility has some issues with groundwater since it’s six feet above the water table, so the pits for the baler had to be waterproofed. However, he adds that Imabe did “a really great job” and had personnel who stayed for the entire duration of the installation.

Only a few months after installation, Rooney says the company recognized major improvements in baling efficiency. In Yulee, the bales are nearly double the size of what had been produced before. It’s also faster than the two balers it had been previously using. The Imabe single-ram baler is capable of producing about 42 tons per hour. Rooney adds that the facility is currently operating the machine at about 30 tons per hour.

“The baler doubles production,” he says. “It really enables us to keep our heads above the water with incoming material, and we’re able to process it faster. We’re also able to produce 2,500- to 2,700-pound bales. We’re regularly loading 50,000-plus pounds on our export containers, which has been huge for us.”

Thornton says the baler in Akron has produced similar results. “It’s just a really efficient machine compared to small double-ram balers we had before. It’s a good baler that produces a good product.”