Diamond Z

Organic and Environmentally Friendly Lowe Products Company, Inc.


Source: Diamond Z

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From top-quality mulch to the richest soils, every product sold by Shepardstown, WV-based Lowe Products Company, Inc. is . Founded in 1972 by John and Betty Lowe, both former school teachers, Lowe Products can claim its place as one of the original pioneers of producing shredded hardwood mulch.

While the company began as a modest operation, Lowe Products is now one of the largest and most modernized organic packaging facilities on the east coast. But, all of the Lowe family’s success and mastery didn’t come without an ample amount of diligence, hard work and most importantly, a strong sense of loyalty from both family members and employees alike.

“My dad founded the company, my mom did all of the bookkeeping and my older brother John and I were already shoveling mulch into bags when I was around eight years old,” says Scott Lowe, current vice president of Lowe Products Company, Inc.
“My dad had been a teacher for a number of years, then worked for a lumber by-product company, but eventually decided that there was such a great use for the by-product that he started his own business.”

Borrowing against everything the he had, even the Lowe family home, John Lowe invested in his by-product business concept and the family has since been reaping the fruits of their labor. And, there was a lot of labor involved, says Scott.

“As we shoveled bag after bag of mulch, my brother John and I kept saying to each other that there must be a better way to do this,” he says.
“Eventually, we found a better way, but not before we’d filled our share of bags by hand.”

In the mid1970’s, Lowe Products Company still had a modest bagging and grinding facility wherein they produced both mulch and soil products, but the demand for their stock was getting stronger and located only 50 miles west of Washington DC., the company was poised to take control of the major market as the main supplier of top-grade landscaping materials.

Over time, they were able to make small upgrades, purchasing loaders, conveyors and other basic equipment and ultimately, to grow the company to upwards of 120 employees. Their former method of bagging mulch by hand slowly matured into a partially-mechanical process that utilized a few machines helped increase productivity.

But with only an minimal amount of automation, the Lowe’s believed that there still had to be a better way to run the company, an even more technologically-advanced method of heightening efficiencies. The choices they made next enabled them to downsize from nearly 120 employees to their current number of 48 while producing more product in less time.

“We decided to exercise the option of creating more automation and experimenting with pieces of equipment that would allow us to decrease the manpower that we once needed,” says Scott.

“We created several automated lines with the equipment we bought. We’ve been so successful that we try to keep much of these components confidential so we can retain our competitive edge.”

The company purchased a series of grinders, screeners, conveyors, more loaders and a number of other units that together, have made Lowe Products a leader in the industry.

Each of their automated processing lines begins with a thorough pre-screening stage. After screening, materials in one of their lines are fed into an 860 hp Diamond Z 1352BL grinder with grapple.

A radial stacking conveyor is then used to stockpile products in different areas throughout the property. Their remaining two lines incorporate a variety of machines including a Vermeer grinder and two Jones grinders as well as a slew of additional stacking conveyors. By automating much of their bagging process, the company has been able to diminish their production from five bag lines that once required a enterage of laborers to three bag lines that now require hands-on help from only 7 workers. Collaboratively, the three lines routinely produce nearly 65,000 bags of product each day, a figure that’s more than double their previous production rate, says Scott.

“We also have our own fleet of around 18 tractors with over 350 trailers that we have at sites all over the tri-state area.

The trucking division of Lowe Products has expanded along with their bagging operation, with a reported 12% to 15% increase in sales each year, he says. And, along with the company’s trucks, they also have 10 fork lifts, three rubber-tire John Deers loaders and three rubber-tire CAT loaders.
Situated on nearly 100 acres, Lowe products currently services garden centers, landscapers and maintenance operations throughout the Baltimore and DC. areas. Grass clippings and leaves are regularly gathered up from surrounding communities and taken to Lowe’s composting facilities to be mixed into potting soil and eventually sold back to the company’s customers.

In all, the company bags around 28 different products including everything from play sand and mini pine nuggets to topsoil, potting moss and potting soil.

With so many products to choose from, the company created a unique mix-match load service to accomodate the varying needs of their customers.
“Our customers only have so much space for each type of product, so by offering mix-match loads, we can deliver several different products at one time, saving them money, but also preventing them from having to take more of one product than they want.”

“We also have a pallet recycling shop that takes in pallets from our customers, rebuilds them and we then reuse the pallets to ship our products again,”says Scott.

“We rebuild around 80,000 pallets a year for this use.”

After several decades in the business, John Lowe III now resides as president of Lowe Products while Scott is the company’s vice president. Their younger brother Phil oversees Potomac Farms Nursery, a division of Lowe Products that was spun off from the main company in 1984 and a fourth brother, Matthew, is in charge of the company’s Maryland-based wholesale distribution outlet that also sells soil and mulch.

“We do have family members in this business, but we also have a core group of people including truck drivers, fork-lift operators, supervisors, mechanics, production people and loader operators, some of whom have been with us for 19 years,” he says.

“They’ve been so loyal to our company that they’ve become somewhat of an extended family.”

For more than a decade, Caldwell, ID-based Diamond Z Manufacturing has been one of the global leading manufacturers of heavy-duty industrial grinders in the industry. The company currently manufactures eleven industrial tub grinder models that range in size from their 1136B, which has an 11 ft. tub, a 36 in. hammermill and is driven by a 425 hp engine to their 1463BT that boasts a 14 ft. tub and twin engines that depending on the option selected, can put out upwards of 2,000 hp.

“Diamond Z offers a number of different models to suit any application including the world’s first high-volume MSW grinder plus two trommel screen models that are custom-designed to be used in any wood waste, green waste and C&D processing applications,” says Michael Weible, marketing advisor for Diamond Z.

“We also feature two new innovative horizontal grinders that are used in many different large-scale applications.”While many of Diamond Z’s smaller grinder models are often used to process stumps, logs, green waste and other types of wood debris, their largest units are capable of producing more than 100 tons per hour of processed materials such as stumps, logs, railroad ties and heavy-duty construction waste, says Weible. Lowe Products Company Inc., a Shepardstown, WV-based producer of mulch, top soil and a wide array of landscaping products, recently purchased a Diamond Z 1352BL tub grinder for use in one of their mulching and bagging lines. According to Scott Lowe, vice president of the company, they had tested a slew of grinders over the years in an on-going search for the one machine that could efficiently produce the greatest amount of product with the least amount of manpower and little down-time.

“We’ve been looking for a heavy-duty, streamline, simple-to-operate grinder that has a high production capacity for many years now,” says Lowe.
“Several months ago, we bought a Diamond Z grinder and have been very impressed at it’s production capabilities and its ease of use.”

With environmental regard at the core of the company’s belief system, Lowe Products found that their Diamond Z tub grinder indeed meets their specific processing needs, enabling them to significantly increase production of products made from waste materials.

“Some grinders produce around 200 to 250 yards per hour, but we’re getting 500 to 600 yards per hour out of our Diamond Z grinder,” says Scott.
“It also requires so much less maintenance because it’s so heavy-duty and our cost per cubic yard has greatly reduced because of its capacity.”

The sales and support provided by Diamond Z are additional benefits that have made Lowe Products’ purchase and use of the manufacturer’s 1352BL grinder a wise decision for the company, he says. And, with one of the highest resale values of any grinder on the market today, Diamond Z customers like Lowe Products are making a strategic investment in the future of their operations.

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