R & R Auto and Metal Salvage has a shiny, secure future

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Metal salvage might not seem exciting to you, but just spend an hour with Chris Bickmann of R & R Auto and Metal Salvage east of Litchfield and you’ll leave as excited about the business as he is. “We’re young, energetic, aggressive, and we want to grow,” Chris said sitting in his office with windows that overlook the brisk activity on the salvage yard.

Chris and co-owner Marvin Karels purchased the business in 2006. The “mom and pop” business had existed from the 1950’s and sat on five acres. Since then, R & R (for Recycling and Recovery) has purchased an additional 10 acres with plans to grow by adding more services, infrastructure and personnel.

“We plan to become a full-service recycling location handling everything from pop cans and cars to industrial, commercial and agricultural metal salvage and adding a processing facility as well,” Chris explained. “That facility will take recyclable materials, sort, clean, separate and get them ready for the refining process.” R & R already has another location in Green Isle, but can foresee the number of locations to grow as well.

The added growth and the huge inventory that cycles through R & R requires an efficient, customer-oriented system.

“All of our parts are bar-coded and organized so we know real-time what we have on hand and where it is,” Chris said.

With all the investment cataloged on-site and at the Green Isle location, the right kind of security system is crucial.

“We always intended to purchase a security system down the road,” Chris said. “What expedited it for us was when we got broken into.”

During April 2010, thieves broke into R & R, making off with cash and stamps and leaving behind damage to door frames and the cash register.

“It cost us about $6,000, plus our time and materials to repair the damage which is still ongoing,” Chris said. “We had bars and locks for security up to that point, but knew we needed something better.”

Chris contacted the co-op and was referred to Heartland Security, which is owned by the co-op and 13 other rural electric cooperatives. Heartland General Manager Guy Adams talked with Chris, did a site evaluation, and discussed all the security options and prices with Chris. Chris then worked closely with Security Technician Josh Carlson to fine-tune and install the system to meet their specific needs.

“The whole process was such a good experience, from meeting with the co-op, to going over easy-to-understand data with Guy and collaborating with Josh,” Chris said.

Josh enjoys working with people and representing Heartland Security. “What I really like about Heartland Security is their professionalism, and that there are specific prices for each component that are the same for everyone; there isn’t one price for residential and another price for commercial applications,” said Josh. “You know exactly what you’re getting and there are no surprises. Heartland’s partnership with GE® means they stand behind our system components if there is ever a problem.”

Because of the plans for growing the business, the sprawling nature of the site itself and the second location in Green Isle, there were a number of factors to consider when designing the security system to meet both current and future needs.

“We have a network that links all of our computers, phones, and security between the Litchfield and Green Isle sites,” said Chris. “Several security cameras at both locations allow us to see what’s going on in both places all the time.”

Motion sensors are installed in the office and other site buildings to prevent break-ins. Even if someone tries to dismantle the security system by cutting wires, the alarm will go off.

“At the time of installation, we also anticipated future growth and have put extra wiring into place so that the entire system doesn’t have to be redone later to add more buildings to the system,” Josh said. “That makes expansion a lot easier and saves the customer money.”

While Chris admits that installing a security system is an expense that a lot of businesses don’t want to undertake, he believes it’s worth it.

“It would have been much better for us to have had the system installed before rather than wait for the violating and expensive experience of a break-in. The Heartland Security system has already prevented one attempted break-in that we know of.”

Josh Carlson of Heartland (left) goes over layouts with R & R Auto and Metal Salvage owners Chris Bickmann and Marvin Karels.
Josh Carlson of Heartland (left) goes over layouts with R & R Auto and Metal Salvage owners Chris Bickmann and Marvin Karels.