Customer relationships are perhaps the best examples of the RDO Equipment Co. partnership philosophy. After all, ‘Build Customers for Life’ is one of the company’s Core Values – and it’s something that doesn’t happen by accident.
The way each partnership is approached can look very different, depending on the company, its challenges, and its needs. In the case of one of RDO’s key areas of focus in the Vermeer business, the industry itself brings with it a unique need for specialized partnership.
A Unique and Growing Industry
The waste and recycling industry is large. It’s complex. It’s made up of several niche focuses. From composting to land clearing to biomass production, the applications this industry touches are vast. So too are the companies that work in it.
These companies need specialized equipment. They need fast service. They need support from people who understand their unique jobs, processes, and challenges. And, for many, they need a combination of all of this to capitalize on opportunities that come with an always-growing, often unpredictable industry.
Essentially, they need a partner just as dedicated to and focused on their industry as they are. For these customers across the RDO footprint, RDO is that partner.
Full Equipment Solutions
It all starts with the equipment waste and recycling customers need to get their jobs done. RDO’s longtime manufacturing partner, Vermeer, provides a complete line of machines for the waste and recycling industry, from compost turners to grinders to trommel screens.
According to Vermeer, two of the fastest-growing industries in the world are recycling and biofuel production. With its compost and organic recycling equipment, Vermeer continues to lead these industries with products specifically designed for the materials being processed and intricacies of applications.
In addition to being early to the market with machines, Vermeer is also committed to evolving equipment to better handle demanding applications and materials, and meet the changing landscape of the industry.
Because of the many specialized, sub-industries involved in waste and recycling, it’s more than the equipment that needs to be specialized and dedicated to this industry.
And that’s, perhaps the most unique aspect in RDO’s partnership with this group of customers: RDO has dedicated waste and recycling industry and product specialists in all four of its Vermeer regions. These team members are beyond dedicated to the industry; they truly eat, sleep, and breathe it, taking the term “specialists” to a new level.
Focused, Niche Attention
RDO’s history of partnership with customers in the waste and recycling industry goes back to when the RDO and Vermeer relationship began in 1997. In fact, Account Manager, Tom Ruegemer, joined RDO in these early days of supporting the industry and has experienced a lot of what the industry touches throughout the years.
While Tom’s main area of focus is the North Twin Cities metro and surrounding area, one of his longtime customers does a lot of disaster relief work through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which has put him in several different states and jobsites – and in situations one may not realize are part of the waste and recycling industry’s area of responsibilities.
He recalls one of the first projects on which he worked in this arena, a tornado recovery effort in Birmingham, Alabama, then one of the more recent, Hurricane Michael in 2018.
“The hurricane went inland 150 miles, which destroyed so many trees and vegetation,” he said. “We were supporting our customer and nearly a dozen Vermeer grinders that were all working simultaneously on this cleanup effort.”
Natural disaster work isn’t unique to Tom and the Vermeer-focused RDO team in the Midwest. McKennan Buckner is one of the newer members of RDO’s Northern California Vermeer team and, along with veteran Account Manager, Dave Steege, works with customers from Nevada north of Modesto to across northern and central California, Salinas and Fresno, all the way down south of Bakersfield and along the coast to Santa Maria.
Like Tom, McKennan also spends a good amount of his time supporting disaster recovery customers, but in a different way.
“The California wildfires have led to many of our tree care and forestry customers expanding their services to clean-up and prevention work as well,” he said. While it’s certainly not the ideal way to see a company grow and diversify its business, the ability to use Vermeer equipment that the RDO team already sells and supports has created an opportunity for many to step in and help with the efforts.
Another large portion of McKennan’s customers are working in tree care and forestry, particularly in wine country, with orchard/vineyard removal and clearing. These companies serve a niche area in the land clearing segment.
“Whether fruit-producing or nut-producing, orchard trees are often viable for many years, some lasting two, three, or even four decades,” McKennan explained. “However, once they stop producing, they need to be removed properly to make way for a new batch to be planted.”
From a broad perspective, tree care and forestry are also areas of focus for RDO teams in Oregon and part of Washington, where the industry applications involve traditional land clearing versus orchard/vineyard removal, according to Regional Sales Manager, Chris Stanley.
This industry ties in with the primary focus in the Oregon region: green waste and wood waste. Chris explains, “The companies in this niche area take wood waste from tree care and forestry companies, as well as dirt, grass, and landscape waste, then process into wood mulch or compost.”
A similar process and equipment are used for a different purpose back down the coast, in RDO’s Southern California Vermeer region, where landfills and curbside waste composting are two of the biggest areas of focus, according to Account Manager, Andrew Kadem.
As landfills look to move more green waste out of the landfill, the composting demand is increasing, along with the equipment needed for the entire process which includes grinders, compost turners, and screeners.
Andrew explains the process, which requires several Vermeer machines, “First, a horizontal grinder is used to process material and create windrows. Next, the compost turner introduces oxygen into the compost pile, helping the decomposition process. Lastly, the screener is used to screen out contaminates and get the final, finished product.”
Seeing how different the customers look from region to region, it becomes clear why RDO feels it necessary to have dedicated waste and recycling industry and product specialists in all four of its Vermeer regions.
Putting it simply, “Each region is geographically different, jobsites and processes are different, and customers’ needs are different,” Andrew says.
In addition to the specialized understanding of customers’ needs, challenges, and opportunities specific in their area, RDO’s efforts to have waste and recycling team members in each region extends to another key piece of the partnership puzzle.
It’s more than just equipment that waste and recycling industry customers need. Like anyone who owns and operates heavy equipment, uptime is everything. When a machine goes down, small issue or big problem, downtime creates a business burden. RDO offers The RDO Promise on Vermeer equipment, an added level of service for customers. One of the options includes free loaner equipment if a machine is down for service which, according to Dave, is especially crucial to this group.
“Some of these customers run at night, some run seven days a week, so when these machines are down, it's a huge deal,” he said. “The customers who take advantage of the loaner program are never upset with it.”
Dave also adds the training aspect of The RDO Promise provides tremendous added value to customers, citing maintenance and learning how to change settings as the two key areas of focus. Like many companies running heavy equipment, skilled labor is one of their biggest challenges and many view the RDO team as an extension of their own because of the training. Dave adds the team’s approach to training is, “Fun and educational. We try not to kill them with death by PowerPoint,” he added with a laugh.
In addition to The RDO Promise, the service and support offered by specialists in every region is what truly sets RDO apart from other dealer partners.
“By having dedicated waste and recycling professionals in each region, we have a footprint to be there for our customers,” McKennan said.
Furthermore, RDO’s Vermeer teams extend beyond the Account Managers, with Vermeer-specific Parts Specialists, Service Technicians, and Managers running operations at stores. “The complete aftermarket support we provide, it really doesn’t exist out there, for this type of niche equipment,” McKennan added.
Why it Matters
At the end of the day, one of the reasons RDO’s waste and recycling team is thriving is their individual dedication to their jobs and a belief that the work they’re supporting matters.
“Waste is something we produce every day and that’s never going away,” McKennan said. “I don’t think most people think about it every day, I know I didn’t until I started working for RDO. But it’s very important and something we’re going to have to continuously work on and find better solutions.”
Richard Lilia, Account Manager covering the south side of the Twin Cities metro area, all the way to the southern and western ends of Minnesota, along with North Dakota and Wisconsin, appreciates the long-term benefit his customers are bringing to the table. A large portion of his customers work in the mulch market. One particularly unique segment of this industry is a customer working with the city of St. Paul to recycle trees affected by the emerald ash borer pest and turn them into energy.
“It’s taking something that’s created a problem and finding a way to turn it into something positive,” he said.
This problem-solving philosophy is one Chris appreciates as well. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” he said. “One company needs to dump its waste, while another can use that waste to create a needed material. It’s creating an opportunity while solving a problem.”
Andrew shares a similar sentiment, summing it up as, “Every day I get to wake up, operate equipment, and help customers solve problems. That’s really the big draw for me, I genuinely enjoy helping people and solving problems.”
Partners and problem-solvers. Two traits that RDO Equipment Co. founder, Ron Offutt, appreciates seeing in the way RDO team members approach their jobs and something everyone is encouraged to strive for every day.
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