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Turning the Tides

More converters imported to Canada than exported

by Cliff Hope, PMR Catalytic Converter Recycling Inc.

Published in: Canadian Auto Recyclers Magazine 2017- page 102

Who would have predicted there would be more catalytic converter scrap entering Canada than leaving?  For PMR, a Montreal-based converter processing facility, it has always been the plan.  

“When we started the business 20 years ago it was our dream to be processing the kind of volume we do today,” says Pierre Marchand, co-owner and one of the business’ founders.

It is estimated in Canada that there are roughly 25,000 scrap converters available for recycling each week.  PMR presently imports on average weekly an additional 13,500 or + 53 percent more from the USA alone. This is a significant figure in an market where converters are hard to find.  

“Although the USA represents a good portion of our total volume we are strong in the Canadian market.  We also receive material regularly from Australia, South East Asia, Middle Eastern Countries, Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean,” says Marchand.

How does a Canadian company take such a significant market share in the converter business?  The answer is simple: “Canadian ingenuity, hard work, transparency and great customer service are the recipe for our success.”  

It’s clear that PMR has really shaken things up. Most catalytic converter refiners require a minimum of 1,000 converters or 2.000 lbs. of ceramic substrate for toll refining. PMR has reduced that number 100 converters or 200 lbs of ceramic. The industry standard is to offer final settlement results in four to six weeks.  PMR delivers final settlement in 10 business days.  “Our competition said it couldn’t be done.  We took that as a challenge and made it happen,” says Christian Thibault, Co-Owner and VP Operations.

PMR is presently awaiting the pending approval of two patents for converter sheer innovations and the machinery built to crush and sample smaller lots.  

“We had to develop a way to efficiently and accurately decan and sample smaller lots. The technology didn’t exist so we made it ourselves. We have learned what works through a process of trial and error.  We have it right now and are continuing to make new innovations,” Thibault says.

This means PMR has given yards the opportunity to deal directly with a refinery rather than rely on core buyers to estimate what their converters are worth.  “We believe our ability to work with yards directly is not only giving PMR a bigger market share in Canada, this is the reason we are becoming a major global competitor in the auto catalyst recovery market,” says Thibault.  

Two of these new innovations include the ability to process and assay foil converters and 02 Sensors.  PMR is now the only North American facility that can offer assayed results on ceramic, foil and 02 Sensors all under one roof. PMR is also offering final settlements on these materials in half the time it usually takes on minimum loads of 500 lbs.  Any other foil and 02 Sensor processor is taking three to six months on 2,000 lbs minimums.

“We found ourselves in the same place looking for faster settlements on smaller lots with both foil converters and 02 Sensors.  So after looking at all our options we did what we have always done.  Solve the problem ourselves,” says Thibault. Christian adds, “Not only did we find a way to process smaller lots faster, we are capturing all of the wash coat.”    

Decanning and processing smaller lots of converters and 02 Sensors faster is just one aspect of the innovative technology being developed by PMR. For many years now information about the value of converters has been a closely guarded secret. There are arguments on all sides as to why this has been.  You can make up your own mind as to the real reason. PMR has for the last 15 years been building its own database of converters based on separate assay and offering this information freely to their suppliers, both core buyers and yards alike. 

“We believe that by offering real information about converters to our clients we are building a relationship based on trust and full transparency,” says Marchand. “We have now gone one step further. Our latest mobile application allows our suppliers to take a picture of 1 or even 100 converters with the program, send it to us and get a real time grading of the material!”  

Now any yard can purchase converters or take them into inventory with a high degree of confidence and market security. The system is capable of giving a yard a clear picture of it’s converter inventory against the market in real time or with a hedged metal price.

The last part of the transparency puzzle comes together with the concept of Video Grading made available to each supplier.  

“We felt that it made sense for our customers to see each converter be brought into stock with a video recording.  This confirms the security of a load and provides the opportunity for distance learning,” comments Thibault.  “There are so many ways of grading material and we want to make sure that our clients are the best educated in the business,” Christian concludes.

It’s clear why many American businesses are sending their converters north. PMR is offering an unparalleled service, faster and with better returns than the toughest US competitors. Now it is time for Canadian yards to ask themselves the question:  Why not sell direct to a fully Canadian company that is not only able to compete in the American market but is taking a dominant share? 

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