CUSTOM-CONFIGURED EQUIPMENT EXCELS IN MONTH-LONG NORTHERN MINNESOTA CRUSHING OPERATION.
By Larry Trojak
Companies with diverse products and services, demand an equally diverse range of processing equipment to meet those needs. By extension, when you are a company like Knife River Corp., diverse doesn’t even begin to describe the breadth of what you offer nor your equipment inventory.
The company prides itself on having, among other strengths, crushing and screening solutions to best meet its customers’ –and its own – needs. For their Northern Minnesota division, which tends to track toward the asphalt paving side of the business, two key components from Masaba Inc. fit that bill to a tee recently, helping ensure that a month-long stay at a Middle River, Minn., pit was both efficient and productive.
Working the North 40
Just one of many moves Knife River’s Bemidji, Minn.-based crew makes on an annual basis, their Middle River stop was designed to generate material in support of that division’s asphalt operation. According to Jeff Brooks, Knife River’s aggregate operations manager, the pit, roughly 40 acres in size, was owned by local road contractor Spruce Valley Corp. “Of that 40 acre spread, 25 acres were used for our aggregate and asphalt processing and stockpiling, the balance of it made up the mined area,” said Brooks. “We were contracted by MNDOT to do a repaving of a 22-mile stretch of Highway 32 between Middle River and Thief River Falls, Minn., as well as some other smaller projects in the area. So, having the plant in that location fit our needs well.”
At that site, Knife River generated about 210,000 tons of asphalt. However, months before crushing a single rock or making their first ton of asphalt, Brooks says their division was in the market for additional crushing and screening capacity. After looking at the website for equipment dealer/distributor Ruffridge-Johnson and seeing a 7 x 20 triple-deck screen, he decided to pay a visit to the Minneapolis-based company.
“There were a couple of factors which prompted our interest in that screen,” he said. “First, we were replacing some older equipment – an ongoing process within the company. More importantly, however, increased demand was driving us to raise our capacities by both upsizing both the cone and the 6 x 20 screen we were using. The 7 x 20 they had on hand was a perfect fit; I looked at it and knew it could help us as a pre-screener. So we committed to that unit, technically on a rental basis, but with every intention of purchasing it outright.”
While Knife River’s needs were relatively straightforward, its specs for that new screen were anything but. The company knew how it envisioned the design of their crushing spread and wanted the new unit to fit that configuration perfectly. As a result, several significant modifications needed to be made – changes which Doug McDonald, Ruffridge-Johnson’s northern Minnesota sales representative, felt could be best met by Masaba, Inc.
“We work with a number of companies who specialize in custom-configuring equipment to meet our customer’s needs and have found that no one does it better than Masaba,” said McDonald. “In this case, Knife River needed some very specific changes made, including reconfiguring a conveyor that feeds the cone and building the unit to meet its hauling needs. Masaba took that screening unit, mounted it on a chassis, configured it exactly as it was needed and – because of the nature of its manufacturing process, design and materials used – the end product was ultimately better than Knife River could have gotten directly from the manufacturer.”
200 + 200 = Improvement
Brooks came to McDonald with similar requests for an MVP 450 cone crusher they had just purchased directly from Terex. In this case, the contractor had specific requirements for the chassis and was looking to, among other things, replace a single 400-hp motor with a pair of twin 200-hp units in order to evenly displace tension on the drive shaft. Again, Masaba was called upon to make it happen.
“There are certain challenges that come with going to a twin-motor configuration,” said Brooks. “Amperages, for example, have to be completely identical or else the load between the two power plants will be uneven. We turned our plans for the cone setup over to Ruffridge and they coordinated work with Masaba.”
It’s important to note that most of this interaction was taking place in late fall/early winter with a particularly busy spring season looming ahead for Knife River
“We definitely needed to have the screen and cone ready to fit into that crushing spread in a timely manner and Masaba did not disappoint,” said Brooks.
Support is Key
As anyone in the aggregate processing business will attest, the true value of an equipment supplier is not just in what that company delivers but in how it supports it after the fact. Knife River got to see that firsthand when the 7 x 20 screener was delivered to the Middle River location.
“We had some minor issues that, left unattended, could have been a major headache,” said Brooks. “I was impressed by the fact that Masaba had a man onsite immediately and he stayed until we were all satisfied that things were in order. While I really like the overall heartiness of everything that comes out of Masaba’s factory, I can’t say enough about their support.”
McDonald, who regularly sells to aggregate producers throughout the northern part of the state, said that, when Masaba’s reputation for hearty design and construction alone doesn’t seal the deal for them, the company’s warranty will.
“Offering a ‘Five-Year Structural/Two-Year Component’ warranty is unheard of in this market but Masaba offers that and does so with confidence,” he said. “They’ve grown a lot since their days of being a smaller, respected conveyor manufacturer – but they’ve only gotten better,” he said.
Knife River’s Brooks agrees. “We currently have a number of different-brand chassis in our fleet from earlier purchases and, if nothing else, they make me realize how much I prefer a Masaba. We are looking at continued growth for this division and are already considering further work with them.”
On the Road Again
The spread at Middle River, which was in place for about a month, operated around-the-clock and generated a steady 600 tph and, with waste and byproducts, created approximately 75,000 tons of ½ to 5/8-in. material for use in the asphalt operation.
“Immediately upon completion of that work, we packed up the crushing spread and moved northward to Warroad, Minn.,” said Brooks. “That’s the nature of what we do and we need hearty, reliable equipment to make that happen. We definitely feel we have that in place now with the new screen, the MVP 450 and the relationship we’ve developed with Masaba.”
Larry Trojak of Minnesota-based Trojak Communications, is a freelance marketing content specialist. He writes extensively for the aggregate processing, recycling, construction, demolition and geopositioning markets.