Komar Industries Inc.
Larry Koenig founded Komar Industries Inc. (Komar) in 1977 as a waste equipment distribution business in Iowa. As he broadened his reach in the market, Larry diversified his operations. The company grew steadily, and eventually, the founder relocated the business to central Ohio, where Komar continues to serve a unique market. Today, Komar is a leading producer and supplier of waste management equipment, serving clients across the United States and overseas.
Larry’s son, Mark Koenig, now president of Komar, started working with his father in 1986 and took over his current role in 2007. Larry is still involved with the business as CEO, albeit with a little more distance from day-to-day operations. Therefore, Mark leads a team of 50 professionals and the staff includes engineers, designers, metal workers and field service crews.
“We build shredding equipment, recycling equipment, volume reduction equipment and waste to energy feed systems,” Mark explains. “Screw compactors comprise one of our product lines, which is unique, but we do a lot of different things.” Komar products are well-known in a number of industries. The company’s clients include waste processors, high volume distributors and waste to energy companies, among others.
An Innovative Product Line
In the United States, Komar’s largest market is for the company’s waste reduction lines, such as compactors and shredders. “With our auger compactor line, we have expanded so we are broadening the smaller and larger units in that series,” Mark elaborates. “We service customers for wood waste, including companies such as Caterpillar, Mitsubishi and Honda. One of our biggest markets is with high-volume distribution centers, which generate corrugated cardboard waste. We have put some in Amazon, Ikea, Ashley Furniture and other distributors.”
Mark goes on to explain the majority of product is imported from overseas for stores such as Toys-R-Us. “All those boxes they unpack and then recycle, before repacking products in different boxes for stores,” he details. “Boxes create an enormous waste volume. Especially come holiday season, if they can’t evacuate the cardboard quickly enough you have a problem. Solving those problems with the compactors has created a huge benefit to our customers and to us.”
Serving the Energy Market
Komar also makes continuous feed and prep systems for gasification systems, which produce synthetic gas for energy production from waste products. “We can feed anybody’s plasma unit, that’s our niche,” Mark elaborates. “We take raw materials, figure out what kind of pre-handling or pre-processing is required and determine how to get that fed into gasifier in a controlled manner. We make continuous feed systems for these devices. By providing a continuous feed and controlling oxygen levels into the gasification unit, our products make the process more efficient. Our niche is the front end of that process.”
According to Mark, the gasifiers are 2,100 degrees and up, so there are a few engineering hurdles. “We just got feedback on a radioactive system we recently completed, which was very successful,” he continues. “We’re kind of writing the book on some of this as the first people doing it. We also just built the largest feed system in the world for a plasma waste gasification system that was shipped to England. It is being installed by a U.S. company over there.”
The full system produces synthetic gas from solid household waste and runs it through a turbine to produce electricity. “We are doing another project building feed and prep systems for a company that will take this technology to the next level,” he explains. “They plan to run the synthetic gas through the Fisher Tropsch process and convert it into jet fuel.”
Managing a Broad Market
Komar has attracted a growing client base around the world. As the company grows with the demand for its products, Mark and the team are constantly reinvesting in the business to maintain production and innovation.
“Our greatest expenses are health care, labor and raw materials,” Mark notes. “We spend millions of dollars on raw materials every year. We buy enormous bearings, as large as 6 feet in diameter. Those assemblies alone are very expensive. Steel is a big item, too, and we have trucks arriving almost daily. We purchase big hydraulic components such as motors, pumps and drives.”
Mark and his team operate in a challenging market. While Komar prioritizes quality and function, many suppliers try to undercut the company’s prices by cutting corners. “Our goal is to provide quality, durable equipment that does what it is designed to,” Mark explains. “We undertake a lot of projects that are outside the box and can involve hazardous materials. Of course, we want to make money, but from an engineering standpoint, we have to have a successful outcome. We face challenges because we are pushing the envelope on these technologies.”
Despite the economic challenges many manufacturers have faced in the industry, Mark and his team are doing well. “We are growing,” he says. “After a sharp decline in 2008 and 2009, we have refocused our group and our company into some specific markets while developing new technology.” As Komar Industries Inc. pushes further into new markets, the team will continue to experience success, introducing unique machinery to growing industries.