You can find Terry McHale every morning around 6 a.m. at this office at West Coast Metals located in Langley British Columbia, Canada. He and co-owner Marcel Gottwald like to come in early. He says it gives him time to answer email, take care of paper work and get a start on the day. You’ve got to have a passion for your work to dedicate 12 hours per day, and McHale certainly does not lack passion. He and Gottwald have built up a unique and successful recycling centre. Not your average scrape yard, the West Coast Metals team are rethinking the perimeters of the industry and leading the way for “new generation recyclers”.
McHale and Gottwald have been in the business together for about a decade now, but their friendship goes back to their kindergarten days. McHale says the two men went through school together and played on the same teams. “We are very much ying and yang,” McHale says, which he credits to their success as business partners. “It is strength because it always gives a new perspective.”
A long-term business
West Coast Metals has been serving the lower mainland of B.C. and the North Shore (up to Hope, B.C.) for over 35 years. West Coast Metals has the capacity to recycle everything from heavy steel to electrical wires to car batteries. “We are the processor,” explains. “We take in the raw material and we cut that up according to standards set by the ISRI (International Society of Recyclers Industries) and then sell that to a mill or foundry.”
The ISRI is an organization which represents the needs and voices of the nearly 1,600 private metal recycling companies worldwide. ISRI provides a vast array of services for members, including a customized safety blueprint which is fashioned at the member’s facility by one of the ISRI Safety professionals. “We are in a dangerous business,” says McHale. Their operation has high powered sheers to cut metal, for instance, so the West Coast Metals team are trained constantly. McHale and Gottwald are aware of the importance of constantly managing safety in their workplace. “We are constantly on top of maintaining health and safety. My partner and I are both very hands-on owners and operators. We work on the floor with our guys on a daily basis. We don’t delegate.”
A rough estimate of the volume of metal the company recycles each year is 50 million pounds. It may seem like a high number, but McHale says that it is relatively small for the scarp business. West Coast Metals’ yard is an acre and a half. “We have been referred to as a boutique scrap yard,” says McHale. “Meaning, we don’t fit into your typical stereotype of a scrap yard.” West Coast Metals is extremely neat and extremely well organized. “We invest heavily into our business,” McHale says. “We are new generation scrap dealers. We are moving on forward and in new directions.”
What kind of differences do McHale and Gottwald want to make? “What we never assume is that the way things have been done in the past is the way things are supposed to be done today. We have gone off in our own direction in a lot of instances,” McHale indicates.
One of the major initiatives West Coast Metals made is for loading containers. Traditionally, what happens if you load a container with product, it needs to be moved multiple times to get the weight to distribute within the containers in order to fill it up before it can be shipped back to the port. What the West Coast Metals team has done is invested in a yard-scale. “We actually built scales into the ground,” says McHale. “What that allows us to do is one-step loading. We know exactly how much weight is in there so we can finalise all our paperwork and seal up our containers. When the truck comes all the driver has to do is pull it away. This process allows us to turn over containers much faster than if we were working in the traditional sense.”
What does West Coast Metals see for itself in the future? The area it serves is growing massively, and the more it does, the more people generate and bring in scrap. The company team is very happy with how things are going, and the pace they are on. Growing exponentially the past five years, the team is happy with the volume they produce now and are working to maintain it. Expansion might mean giving up their envious office location. “Industrial land is like a white elephant here on the lower mainland; it is very difficult to find. I have a great central location which is very close to the freeways and all major routes. Increasing my capacity in the future is definitely a possibility, but the way I we see that happening is by increasing efficiencies,” says McHale.
Exemplary customer service
The team has built a solid and successful business being new-generation recyclers the old-fashioned way: by delivering exemplary customer service, about which McHale is fervent. “It comes down to service. I put my service up against anybody. I don’t care what industry you’re in. Anybody,” he says. “Customers don’t call you and say we need you here next week. They call you and say our bins are overflowing and we need you here right now. And we’ve built our business and scheduled ourselves around being able to deal with customers on that basis—meaning we have extremely rapid service. If you call me before lunchtime, I’m usually there the exact same day; if it’s a late afternoon call, I make sure I am there the next morning.”
McHale and Gottwald’s presence in the community continually garners them new and prospective clients, who have a ready-built trust in the team having participated with them in local events and on a one-on-one basis.
Working with stakeholders
This relationship goes to the government level, as well. “We have always had a good relationship with our local government and have prided ourselves on our ability to work together to find amicable solutions to issues,” says McHale. One such issue was the implementation of a scrap metal bylaw to regulate the industry within the City of Langley. The city was looking to reduce metal theft in the region and West Coast was looking to work with the city without having our hands tied. West Coast Metal Recycling and the City of Langley worked long and hard to draft and implement a bylaw that worked for both parties.
The innovative solution that was agreed upon was centred on an existing camera system West Coast already had in place. West Coast upgraded select cameras and adjusted their positioning which the city agreed that was sufficient to meet their requirements. The camera specifications were set out by the RCMP and West Coast upgraded their camera system to include 5 MP cameras that are recorded to a 45-day digital loop. All customers that come in are on video as well as their vehicle license plate and the material they bring in. The cameras are of such a high resolution that still photos are easily pulled from the video if needed. The company also invested in a custom software and touch screen computer system that allows us to scan customer’s drivers licenses and create a customer profile. This allows them to have all customer info and a picture during a transaction. The software system also does full inventory control, shipping documents, sales orders and the list goes on. The system is fully customizable and has made many changes to reflect the unique way in which we do business.
It is clear that the key to the success of West Coast Metals is a combination of service, innovation, efficiency and technology. But the company’s contribution to the community does not stop at the shop doors. McHale, Gottwald and their wives are also very involved in their community. McHale elaborates, “We both coach local soccer teams, volunteer at school events and have made financial donations to several local soccer teams, football teams, schools, Big Brothers, and Battle of the Badges. Not only do we enjoy volunteering but we find that many of our customers are involved in the same organizations and they tend to be more comfortable doing business with someone they know on a personal level.”
West Coast Metals are redefining the traditional “scrap yard” business and are enjoying every moment of it. You can be sure to receive personalised and expedient service from the team at every step—even at 6 a.m.