When mulch company owner Eric Kuhlman and Environmental Division sales representative Jesse Garber approached Morbark, LLC last winter about making some changes to the 3800 Wood Hog, they found out that great minds really do think alike. Morbark was ready to introduce an upgraded version—the 3400XT—that was the more powerful, yet more mobile, just as Kuhlman had envisioned. He purchased the machine without even demoing it.
Kuhlman owns Tawa Mulch and Landscape Supply in Findlay. Since 2011, he'd been using a Morbark 3800, and before that he had hired a company that used a Vermeer 6000 to do his grinding. His business provides grinding services for municipalities, and the 3800 was "too big for mobilization," he said. He wanted a grinder on tracks, and he wanted more horsepower and a bigger mill.
The 3400 matched all those specifications. It is on tracks. It has a 765-hp engine, versus a 700-hp engine in his 3800. It has a bigger mill and bigger feed rollers for increased production. It also has more room between the mill and the engine, making it easier to change screens. (The 3400 can also be a stationary or trailer model, with engine sizes from 540 to 800 hp.)
Despite delivering on all those power and performance fronts, the 3400 is only 8-feet-4-inches wide, making it legal for transport at any time, unlike the 3800 that can only be transported during daylight hours.
"It's a big risk to buy a piece of equipment without seeing it run or having any history behind it at all," Kuhlman said. "I'm glad I took the risk. The machine has exceeded expectations all around."
Production has been higher than he expected. Depending upon the product and screen size, production can double what the comparable size Vermeer 6000 can do. He had expected to regrind 250 to 300 yards an hour, but "we've had as high as 550 yards an hour regrind with 2" screens with the 3400XT, which is unheard of for a 765 horse. The production numbers are mind-boggling." In fact, production is so high that on most jobs he brings two pieces of equipment to feed the grinder, a Komatsu PC200 excavator and a loader. With previous grinders, he only used one feeder.
The faster production also helps fuel efficiency. While the 3400 consumes about the same amount of fuel per hour as other grinders, the higher production results in lower fuel costs per yard.
Having the machine on tracks has increased mobility and agility both off-site and at his own yard. He also likes the new larger, sloped infeed that improves visibility for operators, and the Morbark Integrated Control System, which tracks data such as grind time versus idle time.
Kuhlman estimates Tawa Mulch will grind about 125,000 yards of material this year, resulting in 80,000 yards of regrind—his main business. Tawa provides municipalities with grinding services and sells mulch in qualities from 1/2 yard to a 72-yard semi load. Customers range from large landscaping supply yards to individual homeowners. With the new Morbark and the McCloskey stackers he bought previously, "we can take on new, bigger customers," Kuhlman noted.
Kuhlman purchased the machine without even trying it because he has had good experience with Morbark and Columbus Equipment Company. "I've run Vermeer, Bandit, and the Morbark 3800. Morbark has always surpassed the production of other manufacturers," he said. "I also took a lot of comfort in knowing I was dealing with Jesse Garber, who understands the mulch business, We'd definitely recommend Columbus Equipment Company to anybody."