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MOBOTIX video security system secures major industrial recycling plant in Illinois
In the initial two phases, 25 MOBOTIX cameras were deployed while the final phase will incorporate another 25 cameras
One MOBOTIX camera with 3.1 megapixels records 30 times more detail than traditional CCTV cameras


United Scrap Metal Inc. a buyer, processor and recycler was founded in 1978 through the same process in which their business is based: converting scrap metal into a more valuable commodity. Marsha Serlin, a single mother of two with $200 and a rental truck, founded the business in a survival mode, attempting to provide for her family. From those humble beginnings, the company has grown into one of the largest industrial recyclers in the country, processing over 250,000,000 lbs. of material each year. The company now operates a 35-acre yard in Cicero, Illinois., employs 180 team members while serving more than 2,500 commercial clients across the nation.

United Scrap strives to not only have a positive impact on the environment but to positively affect their community and emphasises that commitment as one of their core values. The company has a particularly longstanding relationship with Ronald McDonald House Charities, for which it helps generate funds to provide a “home away from home” for the families of hospitalised children while also raising awareness for the benefits and importance of recycling. With help from United Scrap, Ronald McDonald House will open its largest facility in the nation in June 2012. 

“Our mission is giving back to the community and we never hesitate to do so,” said Brad Serlin, President, United Scrap, and son of the company’s founder, Marsha. “We’ve been very fortunate to get where we are today. It doesn’t always work out that way for other people so we want to make sure we give back when possible.”


United Scrap needed to replace its old analoue surveillance system. It had quite simply reached the end of its life and it was time to upgrade to not only keep up with, but to jump ahead of pending government regulations that essentially require scrap metal recyclers to keep a record of materials it purchases from buyers as well as the identity of the people selling material. This includes not only verifying identities but also capturing license plate numbers on the vehicles that drive through the retail sales area of the facility. United Scrap pays immediately on the spot for scrap metal and, as a result, needs to turn away those attempting to sell stolen or hazardous material or track down people who may have been involved in criminal activity. Securing the company’s own 35-acre facility is also a monumental task considering the size and make-up of the area. 

The decentralised MOBOTIX concept incorporates a high-speed computer into every camera to reduce network bandwidth

The MOBOTIX solution has reduced opportunity costs for United Scrap, thereby increasing their ROI

“We are always trying to be progressive and implement technology before it is needed,” Serlin said. “We never want to be short-sighted.”

Additionally, the metal market is incredibly volatile, with prices fluctuating for different metals almost constantly. Prioritising the processing of certain materials is sometimes key for ensuring profitability but it can be difficult to ensure the processing is going smoothly on such a large lot. Coupled with the often-sudden rush of people selling scrap metals, United Scrap also needed a method for quickly identifying high-priority areas and materials so they could deploy ample workers.


Paul Grefenstette, President of MOBOTIX partner and systems integrator Griffon Systems, recommended a comprehensive MOBOTIX system consisting of M12 and M24 cameras as well as MxControlCenter, the MOBOTIX advanced video management solution. Griffon Systems is a specialised and innovative systems integrator serving the Chicago area that emphasises its ability to consult with end users and deliver a unique solution to their needs and budget.

“Paul has been a great resource for us. He has a deep understanding of security industry trends and that helps us incorporate a proactive approach,” Serlin said. “He is always looking out past the immediate technology need so we can have room to grow into new technology or  expand easily as our security needs grow.”

Griffon Systems has completed two phases of the three-phase install with 25 MOBOTIX cameras deployed in the yard and parking lot as well as the drop-off centre and payout window. The final phase will incorporate another 25 cameras. The MOBOTIX high-resolution cameras provide United Scrap with the best image clarity available and its decentralised approach to surveillance keeps the system cost-effective. One MOBOTIX camera with 3.1 megapixels records 30 times more detail than traditional CCTV cameras. As a result, larger image areas of up to 360-degree views are possible, which allows United to cover more of its property with fewer cameras and reduces upfront and long-term costs. Unlike other systems, the decentralised MOBOTIX concept incorporates a high-speed computer into every camera to reduce network bandwidth because video is processed on the cameras themselves and images do not have to be transferred continuously.

The MOBOTIX high-resolution cameras provide United Scrap with the best image clarity available and its decentralised approach to surveillance keeps the system cost-effective

“About 90 percent of the new installs I do are MOBOTIX solutions,” Grefenstette said. “The picture quality is unmatched.” Grefenstette also recommended MxControlCenter, professional video management software included with the purchase of MOBOTIX cameras at no additional cost. It includes all the functions required from a robust security software solution including unlimited users, simple configuration and installation, layout editor for floor plans, and a user-friendly interface and camera view. When combined with the MOBOTIX decentralised concept, it delivers a comprehensive security system at an extremely cost effective price.


United Scrap has stayed ahead of regulations requiring metal recycling centres to record the license plate numbers of the vehicles used by sellers to drop off materials. The company now has a high-resolution camera aimed at the rear of vehicles as they stop by the payout window, allowing United to gather the data quickly.

In addition, when sellers drop off their material and it is being weighed, a MOBOTIX camera takes a snapshot of the items sold for the company’s records.

“The ability to have such high resolution is such an advantage,” Serlin said. “Having that kind of clarity is great, especially when you are dealing with hunks of metal that otherwise might not be so identifiable.”

The MOBOTIX solution has dramatically reduced opportunity costs and, therefore, increased ROI by helping United’s managers make better use of their time. They can easily access the video feed of the area they manage to make sure operations are running smoothly, check on inventory and ensure time-sensitive materials – which can change on a daily basis because of the volatility of the industry – are being processed fast enough from their desk chair. Managers can also see if a drop-off line is beginning to form and quickly deploy more workers from other areas to help compensate for the rush.

“We can just hop on the computer to see if material is going through our processing areas as opposed to the old way of putting on a hardhat and taking a walk out there,” Serlin said. “Plus, it can be accessed when we are out of town, which provides peace-of-mind that things are running as planned.”

Additionally, many Fortune 500 companies depend on United to help mitigate risk. When large companies have hardware that could potentially contain valuable proprietary information, they contract with United Scrap to ensure destruction. United’s advanced surveillance solutions add a valuable insurance policy to this process, reassuring both parties that the materials and information within have been completely destroyed.

The system is a huge improvement over United Scrap’s previous analogue system and allows them to better protect their assets. Monitoring a 35-acre yard is a herculean task, but made possible by MOBOTIX’s 360-degree views and wireless capabilities.

“It helps us sleep better at night. We can’t afford to take the risk of not having surveillance. That would be a big problem for us,” Serlin said. “No part of our MOBOTIX system has fallen short of expectations.”

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