A Scrap Life: Episode 98 | SciAps | Don Sackett

On this episode of A Scrap Life, Brett is joined by Don Sackett of SciAps to discuss the importance of scaling customer service as your business grows, innovative measurement techniques, and the push for emerging global markets in the industry. Produced by Recycled Media.


welcome to a scrap life a podcast solely focused on the hustlers Grinders operators and business owners who live and breathe the scrap metal industry every day here is your host Brett eard all right here we go man another uh scrap Life episode here at uh I 2024 I just asked you how the show’s going Don is I’m I’m with Don froms um and uh you said it feels like the scrap guys are a little little more optim little more optimistic right compared to last year compared to what we saw last 6 months of last year and the first quarter of this year just seems like they’re ready to start investing in some equipment again that’s kind of it’s I’m always curious like somebody else’s point of view because like when I look at it just from an operator and I’m like oh you know material flow or like looking at it like from that angle I look at it L but like from an equipment manufacturer whether you’re making mobile shears or you’re in your case producing uh analyzer guns right I mean yeah I mean for us it’s an interesting it’s an interesting

take I just I that’s why I’m curious I mean our take so I know a lot about analyzing metal but I don’t on the trading side that you guys do every day I I don’t know much at all but you know the money in those analyzers is is from upgrading the the material right mostly um I mean there’s still the story about the guy that finds all the platinum in a pile of 188 right but that’s those are rare now but it’s really the upgrading of the material and I think if if they’re if they’re seeing better margins it’s worth putting in the money on equipment and the time to sort it more and I I I think that’s what we’re seeing we’re just seeing more just more especially more smaller facilities you know what my take is cuz I’m I think the margins are so tight okay the material flow is okay at best yeah that people are trying to find a way to make more money I see so it’s not the that they’re optimistic about the scrap pricing or they’re optimistic about they’re they’re looking for a tool that can provide

value over and above the cost right to drive Revenue in Revenue tightening business which is what we’re experiencing right now because the volume has came off so they need something that can potentially you know I mean if if you want to buy a a mobile Shear or let’s say a stationary Shear yeah a mobile like obviously is different but a stationary Shear million bucks right I mean let’s just right if you and and your upgrade is going to be a loose unprepared iron into prepared iron but but it’s a million doll investment yeah if you a nonfer and you’re doing a decent amount of nonfer the investment a person has to make in a scap analyzer gun is roughly what’s that look like oh God it you know 25 $30,000 you that’s a big difference right and if it drives revenue for your company then in a tight market then I feel like that’s one of the reasons why that’s something that somebody can afford to do in a tough Market to to build their business so I think that is a sweet spot for you and I think so yeah I yeah

I think that’s a better way of thinking it like I said you guys you know the margin the trading stuff you know but uh I bet you’re right just a little more productivity finding a little more value in what you are selling yeah I I I can see I’m not saying I’m right I’m just saying like that’s just my take on the an outside guy looking in and I I what you guys sell and your guys’ commitment to the industry and what it’s really just I mean in the last I would say it feels like the last 10 years I’ve really saw you guys here and I’ve really saw your presence and and push feels you know aggressive and and you’re you’re basic you made a really good name for yourself I hope so I mean we we really try to offer good service fast service we you know like any company we make our mistakes we try to make up for them when we make them it’s supposed to denying them or hiding from them yes um and you know like last year I mean you know we had a it was hard

hard finding people so our you know we had some holes in our service department that thankfully we’ve we’ve plugged but um yeah we do that you know my this show is really important to us we spend a lot of money here it’s worth it yeah um but we like supporting the industry so that’s why we do the meetings and the sponsorships you feel like you get a lot of value out of this show oh yeah 100 yeah this is Super Bowl of the yeah like I look at the Mone money we spent on the show and the various sponsorship and we like we sponsored the women in recycling yesterday and I I there’s nothing I would change I mean yeah nothing I would said ah that wasn’t really worth it um so I would do in fact yeah there’s nothing I would change that’s that’s good man I mean I I well I mean this show is obviously super super well attended I mean it’s been well it’s been it’s been discussed that they’re probably what I mean 7,000,000 70 countries or some some wild number which is which is which is

awesome I mean it goes to show you like the breadth of of of our industry and what’s what we’re doing and you know what we did we we brought our so we have a sales service and support center in China shangai so we China is our second biggest Market next to the United States and um we brought our Chinese sales manager to the show he speaks Mandarin obviously and I was surprised how many Chinese visitors we have and they’re buying instruments you know but I’ve never seen this many Chinese scrap Representatives at this show as this year so I I think that’s probably a good sign I think it’s a good sign it kind of means that they’re back to your point now maybe that that that they’re kind of coming back to the to the marketplace right and that actually is good for the domestic Market I mean for a lot of reasons I’ve always said you really need two two buyers at at a minimum at an auction to make your scrap valuable true so if you have a good strong export Market I think that it’s been proved out that the

the local market is you know domestic scrap market fairis and non-fs has stayed pretty robust through covid compared to other countries so if we can get say the Chinese market to turn back on they’re very aggressive buyers when they’re in the when they’re in the market and then you couple that with India and some of these other upand comers I mean yeah and the traditional you know importers I mean that bodess well for the future of of of scrap whether it’s aluminum nickel yeah you know any of these other is highspeed you know high temp Alloys that’s it’s a good thing and I think I see the Chinese market getting a little more sophisticated you know it used to just be handpicking hand sorting now they’re you know they used to buy the lowest end xrfs now they’re buying the ne the versions that’ll do a little more fine sorting so yeah well their cost of Labor has went up right it’s like that’s true you’ve you’ve taken it’s not the cheap labor market anymore so they they kind of transitioned and they their cost of Labor’s gone up so then that moves

that creates an opportunity for a country like India some of these other countries where the cost of Labor is still down they may handpick a little bit more and then you kind of move I mean you move a really big consumer into that analyzer gun market and all of a sudden like that that’s that’s that’s a big growth opportunity for you guys do you feel that way oh for sure I mean it is it’s traditionally our second biggest Market but um it’s been slow for a while I mean they’re going through China’s going through now what we went through in 09 overvalued property a lot of bad loans that are kind of you know maybe not talked about and I think as they work through that problem now they’ll they kind of had you know they had the co lockdown longer than anybody then they had this so hopefully few years to get through I mean look at how from 09 to probably 13 14 for us to really like see a you know a a dynamic enough change so that’s 5 years so we probably even they probably have at least that you

know a couple more years left of and there’s less transparency over there too work through those Kinks yeah that’s right anyway so give me a little background on yourself Don tell me kind of tell me how how scaps came along and and where you came from well I you know I this is my third um analyzer business okay um in fact I my first exposure to scrap markets was summer jobs in my grandfather’s iron Workshop where he tell you know he goes oh you like chemistry go out and sort my metal yeah you know he was yeah he was basically steel the occasional stainless maybe an inco 800 now and then but it was pretty that was the days in the early you know late ’70s it was still grinding wheels and acids and magnets right yeah so I thought oh this is really a neat business but you know I went to school as a as a as a Physics degree I got and I came out of school and actually went to work for night time okay um first job after school I moved out here work for nighton I was like

the third or fourth employee I don’t really remember um and they were doing they weren’t doing Alloys they had a little handheld xrf which a really nice little little product and um one of my first jobs was trying to introduce that little guy to the scrap metal sorting so you know started going out talking to you guys um and that’s how I got into it and I loved it and I still love the scrap Market better than you know better than mining or environmental or oil and gas and then I started a company about 10 years later called INX that we sold to Olympus now evident who are around here somewhere and then and um after I did my two years at Olympus evident um the thing everybody always asked us for was carbon we want to test carbon with a handheld yeah not so much in scrap but in Oil and Gas Energy and steel and you can’t do that with xrf so we started scaps to make the world’s first handheld that would do um carbon analysis which is why we use the laser approach instead of X-ray okay so that’s

that’s it so we started it for that and then and what year was that when you started s uh 2013 so yeah we had our 10 year anniversary I was close on the 10 years I I I was just trying to think back and I’m like so when did yeah kind of when did I start recognizing when did I start seeing scabs kind of come along it took you know it it took 5 six years to start gaining the trust of you guys I understand because there are you know there are some you know here here today going tomorrow um entities let’s let’s leave it at that I suppose but it took some time but but you know we’ve just been steadily trying to build up our presents and scrap and yeah um you know the race car has been a big hit we’ve had a lot of fun doing that um and so talk what’s your what’s your connection on the race car is there it’s my marketing director’s fault she’s the one that came to me with this idea uhhuh and you know now the connection is she she came it’s my

actually my VP of sales um I tried to get her to join me but she’s camera shy okay she came to be about 4 years ago and she said you know if you look at our customer base scrap mining Metals military law enforcement it’s like almost a perfect overlap with the NASCAR demographic said let’s try sponsoring a car for a few races so we did and it was a real success I mean everybody says NASCAR is this amazing branding and advertising and that has been our experience it is really so we did a few races and then the next year we did a few more and and now we’re last two years we’ve been up to a full season so nice so now we have two cars we’re actually running we we we running the second car because um we we run this promotion that if you buy a certain amount of analyzers I know maybe it’s 130 140,000 which you know four or five units or there if you buy those we put you on the car you we get you a bunch of pit passes you can invite you make it

a company outing make it a a customer outing get 25 30 passes and it’s a great time in the pits for a race or um in the garage so we we have that whole thing and you know you you got your name on the car it’s it’s like your sponsor experience for a day yeah yeah and that got so popular we had to run a second car this year just to take care of everybody there’s 32 races in a season and we had about 42 43 companies that wanted erased it right so anyway so it’s really been s it’s been it it’s not it’s not inexpensive right but it’s I was I was curious I was curious what what that connection was I didn’t know if you were really into in racing and yeah but but before prior to that if it was something that was you know just you you had a like what your horse was in that race so it’s always interesting marketing people it was brilliant I me I couldn’t spell NASCAR four years ago I mean they bring stuff to the table you’re like oh oh I didn’t really

think yeah it cost how much exactly going to get a return on investment on that deal but that’s marketing right I think that’s where people go wrong on marketing is they’re like they want to calculate a strong Roi and I’m like a lot of it’s guessing a lot of it’s not necessarily like just feel and and if you got to feel and and you’re involved on the in the purchase side and the SES side you got to feel for what that looks like and how how your units are turning and like what then you you kind of can say yeah this is working for me or it’s not but that’s awesome I I was I’ve always been curious of like so what is the yeah the hook purely it’s the purely the demographics the overlap and the thing we’ve been doing the last few years is we we’ve put a car up for a silent auction okay so we say to uh you know whoever’s the high bidder um they get the whole car the whole car everything they’re the primary on a race yeah and then that money whatever that cost is it’s

usually about 8 to 10 grand for the for them whatever that cost is goes to the um their found the rof or whatever they the foundation yeah but like you and I you know we own the business right so if we want to try something we just try it if it works great if it doesn’t work we’re like that was dumb why did I do that but you know a lot of these big companies you know some business unit manager he’s afraid of getting fired so he doesn’t want to take to your point you know marketing is a feel and you can’t calculate it out and it’s a lot of just throwing darts yep and seeing what sticks and just saying do this going to is this going to resonate is this going to be something that could bring us customers and one and and it’s and it’s a lot of different avenues that you’re trying to reach because you might be able to reach some here you might to reach some there reach but marketing is as much of an art as it is a science it’s probably it’s a it’s a it’s

it’s a combination of Art and Science right and and I think that you guys have done really well on that and and obviously I knew you had a race car I don’t know about NASCAR I I really don’t but but I knew you had a car you know I I happen to be in the last night I on my on the way out of here I happened to be sitting next to that CJ driver and we were talking with the the the tonko guys and so I I I finally met him talked to him and and and he’s one of the good young drivers up he just needs some experience yeah and so I just I it was just an interesting interesting side of what you guys are doing so what separates you guys from your your competitors and your opinion on the X-ray side um I I think it’s three things first of all you know if you want to just sort High temps and stainless any of the xrfs you can get here are going to be fine they’re all going to be fast they’re all going to be accurate but

what separates us on a technology side is the aluminum aluminum is very hard to analyze with x-ray but we’ve figured out how to do it a lot faster than anybody else and some of those measurements so so from from a performance standpoint it’s that our analyze is really small and lightweight but I tell you the biggest thing I think is service I mean I can’t tell you how many people have come to our booth complaining about the service they’re getting from our competitors and we win them over yeah and I’m and this is goes on for years and I’m thinking how can these bigger companies not recognize that and fix it with all their resources but I don’t know why sometimes you just get too big I think like I was just talking to some about this yesterday on on the scrap side they’re like so imagine this big conglomerate and they have 50 commercial accounts and they all have boxes and rolloffs and you get so big that you just you’ve got one person managing all that business and it’s and it’s not that they don’t care or they don’t want to

care it’s just that they’re at a point in an inflection point where they just can’t service it the way it needs serviced and the beautiful thing about being an up up and coming and and and putting yourself out there and then saying okay like we’re going to hang our hat on service is we’re going to you can you can manage that customer base my question is when you get a certain size yeah what do you do you know and how do you how do you continue to provide that right that’s what yeah that’s what kind of keeps me up at night you know how do you keep doing that you know in the US it’s not so hard because people can just FedEx units till you over and right yeah it’s just a question of adding more technicians as service goes up but the thing we’re working on now is overseas service having Ser like we have a service center in China so that’s good but it’s hard rolling out service centers all over the world right I mean you got to employ people how do you employ somebody in India right it’s not

so easy and or wherever you know so so that is definitely scaling service in any business if you can scale service with the size of the business you can genuinely win and everybody wants to talk about what’s the difference between you and this guy and this guy oh we’re we’re service oriented well I want to hear is your customer agree with you yeah exactly I mean everybody says it not not everybody does it can you do it and I feel like the people that are able to scale the service side the best as their business scales can create the most success I agree I mean think about it you buy something that’s complicated you know if it breaks you want it fit you know you can’t you can’t just like call somebody and leave a voicemail and hope they call you back in a week that just doesn’t work yeah no I think service is critical what’s the future look like Don let’s let’s yeah what does it look like you know I think um we want to just make the analyzers measure more elements make them measure lower levels cuz we’re seeing more

and more demand for lower lower like you know very low residuals we’re seeing a lot more lithium battery recycling interest MH um and we our laser unit will measure lithium so we’re hoping that goes someplace um and and we’re starting to see a lot of interest in the rare earth metals you know the magnets that are in the the all these electric vehicles I think the first EVS are starting to come into the recycling stream yeah and what about you guys I mean are you guys looking at lithium recycling battery recycling or is that just I just the the lithium the battery recycling for me is just so young it’s so in its INF Ag and I think if you look at your big battery processing facilities they’re all government grants government money tied in with some private Capital some some people just betting on the opportunity right and I think until that becomes private yeah but you know 100% and it becomes that means people see enough value in it that they don’t need a government grant to to run their business I just it’s have I have a hard time getting too

motivated about it until I can see that the opportunity exists for the common guy so some of the big ones are let’s face it are one I know at least one that’s into a chapter 7 or chapter 11 reorganization yeah it’s like you said though to your point it’s easy to start a business if somebody else pays for it right yeah I mean you can do a lot of marketing you can do a lot of when it’s not your money right like what do they say Communism works until that guy runs out of money y that’s right and and that’s what it feels like on some of that stuff so I I’m that’s why I super curious well like I said I I’ve been seeing your stuff for a long time and I and I I commend what you guys are doing thanks I I know it’s one it’s inevitable before we end up with one of your guns so I know Nick is he’s been pushing and trying to push me towards it and I’m like do we need it but I think but to my to my point earlier yeah if you’re

trying to create Revenue in your business and you’re looking for a way to do it maybe buying a million dollar sheer ain’t the option for you right now then start looking at that that that smaller entry level equipment you know cost wise that could that could create you some could create you some bottom line without the big million dollar Capital commitment and if and if and if you’re in and you’re trade non feris yeah take a hard look at yeah cabs and the analyzer G nonf yeah Ferris we can’t do much for you but unless you’re doing you know very low residuals but yeah non feris is it and you know we’d love to have you as customer but you know I’m glad you’re going to make sure you really need it first cuz yeah I mean I hate these stories that people come back to us and they said oh man I really can’t use this like I thought and can you help me resell it and we try to but it’s like I’d much rather have people wait just wait until you’re ready and then you know it’s a go right yep

exactly well thank you again how if somebody wants to get a hold of you how do they get a hold of you um email is the best d sacket a c ks.com okay send me a quick email um text me at 339 927 6153 all right man I love day or night if it’s scrap I’m happy to talk you’re interested let’s go right thank you I appreciate you thank you for taking time man I really appreciate this