Allen Hickman, CEO and JR Willis, COO
Automobile catalytic converters are generally expensive and have a high scrap value. But, one cannot help but ponder over “why?” The answer lies in the three valuable metals they contain—platinum, palladium, and rhodium. Though designed for reducing tailpipe emissions of aldehydes, these converters are identified for creating negative impacts on the environment. Additionally, extracting metal ores from the earth is a cost-intensive and challenging endeavor—making catalytic converter recycling a much-needed effort for environmental and financial sustainability. Let’s take platinum, for instance. Hauling out platinum ores from deep tunnels requires an incredibly vast amount of energy and money. Not just that, the entire process of refining platinum from raw metal ores causes a great deal of pollution. This is precisely where catalytic converter recycling experts like PGM of Texas can help minimize the need to mine precious metals, minimizing negative impacts on the environment.
“We are one of the largest and oldest providers of catalytic converter recycling technologies and services in the U.S,” says Allen Hickman, the CEO of PGM of Texas. Since his inception in 1999, the company has been solely focusing on recycling precious metals, including platinum, palladium, and rhodium, from automotive ceramic and metallic catalytic converters, DPFs, industrial stationary elements, petroleum catalysts, and oxygen sensors. With state-of-the-art resources and its customer-first approach, PGM of Texas specializes in providing exceptional value for clients’ catalytic converter scrap. What gives the company an edge over the competition is its dedication to ensuring high-level flexibility while engaging with suppliers to offer the best total return on their precious metal materials. This steered its growth from a humble startup into an industry-leading precious metal recycler that employs over 150 individuals at 13 locations.
Fostering a Customer-Centric Service Model
PGM of Texas stands out for its unique approach to client servicing. A typical engagement begins with PGM of Texas purchasing catalytic converters from its suppliers—salvage or automotive recycling yards who collect scrap and end-of-life vehicles—or collectors. Identifying the diversity in needs of its customers, the company offers several unique service options, which can be easily tailored to the type and quantity of materials. PGM of Texas’ primary and the most convenient purchase method is buying by the piece approach. Under this one-day model, the company purchases catalytic converters from its clients and evaluates precious metals bearing material for the best daily market price to pay them on the same day.
For suppliers with a larger quantity of materials and who need quick, reliable results and final payout, PGM of Texas adopts the XRF Analysis method. Although this model offers advance payments at the time of delivery, the final payments that are calculated based on the daily market price will take at most seven days to reach clients. In addition, PGM of Texas collects catalytic converters using a sophisticated process called toll refining, which is ideal for customers with comparatively larger quantities. As an assay-based, inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES) analysis process, the material collected under toll refining has to undergo several procedures, including decanning, sampling, and assaying for evaluating the final payment for customers—which takes around 21 days.
Our facilities hold necessary equipment and potential to disassemble the purchased units and assess the metal content of platinum, palladium, and rhodium within the converter to help determine the accurate value based on the market price
With such a comprehensive, flexible engagement model, the company serves as a go-to partner for most catalytic converter suppliers in the U.S.
Fostering End-to-End Transparency
What helps the company stay ahead of the competition is its capability to ensure transparency throughout the engagement by leveraging its collaborative model and unrivalled in-house capabilities. With industry-grade processing facilities designed to provide self-sufficiency and independence in its operations, the company offers the best services to its suppliers without compromising the transparency in the engagement. “Our facilities hold necessary equipment and potential to disassemble the purchased units and assess the metal content of platinum, palladium, and rhodium within the converter to help determine the accurate value based on the market price,” says Wayne Ratner, the Director of Operations at PGM of Texas. “Being able to perform decanning, sampling, and assaying operations in-house, we ensure error-free operations and facilitate a faster payout to clients as opposed to our competitors.”
Furthermore, PGM of Texas’ dedication to ensure transparency is manifested in the procedures that it adopts while engaging with clients. Oftentimes, the company allows customers or their representatives to oversee material processing operations at its facility, helping build trust among its clients. PGM of Texas evaluates the price of collected metals by leveraging its comprehensive ever-growing data repository to which clients have access via its app. It offers access to industry leading converter data to clients. They can also have an evaluation on the value of their assets by using the current market prices or hedges with the help of PGM of Texas’ application. “We continue to collectively brainstorm for building the best plan to accomplish our goals and provide ultimate transparency for our suppliers, which is critical for our survival in this highly competitive industry,” adds JR Willis, the COO of PGM of Texas.
With a state-of-the-art fusion lab and equipment in-house, PGM of Texas can homogenize, blend, mix, and sample the units before leaving the facility. This enables the company to track the absolute value of materials shipped to smelters or refiners, allowing it to ensure accountability to its clients’ assets. As such, PGM of Texas can build trust among its suppliers by eliminating the possibilities for errors, which can cost thousands of dollars due to massive inflation in metal prices. “We have recently built a 90,000 square foot processing facility that includes 26 decanners, three sampling lines, and a lab that utilizes an innovative sodium peroxide fusion technique for sample preparation for our ICP-OES operations,” Billy Galligan, the Commercial Manager at PGM of Texas.
A Culture that Drives Collaborative Growth
In addition to its in-house capabilities, a dedicated management team with over 100 years of combined industry experience also plays a vital role in driving PGM of Texas’ success. The company always strives to foster a collaborative culture, keep its employees engaged, and put its workforce’s needs and interests at the top of its priority list. This helps attract more talents and inspires existing employees to contribute their best toward its growth, which results in significant business growth in the long-term.
PGM of Texas has an extremely high employee retention rate that well exemplifies the value of its culture. Being able to introduce several incentive plans, the company paves the way for aggressive development in its business operations.
By leveraging its proactive culture, PGM of Texas provides employees with strong ground and entrepreneurial support to bring in innovations to help vendors grow in today’s competitive world. The company follows a unique collaborative approach, which urges employees to help, promote, and encourage each other, rather than focusing on minor mistakes or setbacks that they might come up with. This helps transform failures into the introduction of new ideas, which positively impacts its growth trajectory. PGM of Texas promotes inter-facility collaboration, aiding the flow of ideas and human resources between multiple locations. For example, if one of its facilities is found under-resourced to perform its operations, the company instantly supplies labor from another facility to keep up the functional pace.
Fighting the Pandemic Together
PGM of Texas holds that internal agility to respond quickly to clients’ varying needs, helping them serve as a reliable facilitator of the supply chain during the pandemic. The company adopted strategic shipping solutions to ensure the seamless transportation of its materials to smelters and refiners while enabling clients to continue moving their assets. As the metal prices increase due to the economic slowdown, most salvage yards and automotive recycling facilities could not collect end-of-life vehicles, which put the entire recycling industry at a major loss. PGM of Texas provided additional funding to its clients to help them keep moving in the right direction by using its creative financing options that fulfilled the ever-growing cash flow needs of precious metal recycling.
“Our efforts to install more equipment in-house enabled us to process materials faster and facilitate faster payouts for clients, which ultimately helped maintain a cash flow within the industry during the pandemic,” says Willis. Additionally, the company kept its door open for customers impacted by a reduced workforce to perform their material processing operations while assisting its competitors in sustaining by providing processing services. Having footprints all across the U.S., the company was able to make a significant impact on the national catalytic converter recycling industry by supporting several sustainable operations.
PGM of Texas strives to serve as the most sought-after partner for most catalytic converter suppliers in the country. They are constantly enhancing in-house capabilities and streamlining engagement approaches to help attract more clients to their processing facilities. PGM of Texas has a proven track record of growth either organically or through acquisition and continues to follow that path. In December of 2019, a publicly-traded Polish-based company, Elemental Holdings, acquired 66 percent of PGM of Texas as their platform to grow U.S.-based operations. With the capacity to de-can one million catalytic converters per month, the company estimates that, through its partnership with Elemental Holdings, it will be able to process more than two million pounds of automotive catalyst monthly. This acquisition also allowed Elemental Holdings to evolve into a global leader in PGM recycling.
Moving forward, the company is planning to expand geographically by opening more facilities. PGM of Texas has two new west coast locations that are going operational in 2021 and an east coast acquisition scheduled to close in the first quarter. They are also augmenting their international business by strengthening our partnerships with other companies across the globe. “No customer is too big or too small for us—and you can come to us, we are here to help. Keeping this in mind, we continue to treat all customers equal while working toward fulfilling our goal for a Green Earth,” concludes Hickman.