- Created: Wednesday, 07 September 2011 18:34
- Published: Wednesday, 07 September 2011 18:34
By Mark S. Kuhar
Providing customers with superb service has proven to be the key to success for Poland Sand & Gravel, Poland, N.Y. The company is one of the few locally owned mines in the area, and Managing Member Scott Rommel makes sure that he’s doing everything possible to help his customers and set his company apart from the corporation-owned quarries in the area.
Poland Sand & Gravel grew out of a family-owned construction and fence-installation company that did environmental excavation, site work and new fence projects in the local area. The rural community is situated in northeast New York, just southwest of the Adirondack Park. Rommel’s family started the mine in the early 1990s, as a division of its construction firm. In 1997, the mine was expanded and a wash plant was installed. It eventually became its own company in 2003 and officially became Poland Sand & Gravel LLC.
Poland Sand & Gravel grew from its early products, which included dry screened sand and road base material, to become a full-line aggregates producer. The company provides local contractors and municipalities with a variety of sand and gravel products. They include specialty concrete, mason and filter sands, crushed stone, washed natural stone, roofing stone, landscaping stone and cobbles. Road maintenance and construction customers come to the mine to purchase base mix for sub-grades, which is approved by the New York State Department of Transportation.
At the Face
At the face, moving material from the deposit to production requires a variety of heavy machinery. “In our stonier deposits we will load three 35-ton rigid frame trucks with a Kobelco SK485 excavator,” Rommel said. “We use three 35-ton rigid frame haul trucks and one 30-ton articulated haul truck to supplement the transportation of surge as required.
Dependable equipment is a must for Rommel to operate a profitable company. Three Doosan wheel loaders, two of which were purchased from distributor Monroe Tractor, have helped Rommel to succeed and process customer requests for sand and gravel products quickly. These customers are located in the Central New York region, even as far as Albany, and depend on the company’s products. “The sand and gravel business is based, very heavily, on the cost of transportation,” Rommel said.
In 2010, Rommel purchased his newest Doosan wheel loader, a DL450. It is the largest of the three Doosan wheel loaders that he has owned. Rommel is impressed with its performance, operator comfort and durability.
“When we evaluated wheel loaders before we purchased the new Doosan model, we looked at the machine capabilities and operator comfort,” Rommel said. “The Doosan wheel loader had superior comfort. The operators felt like they were sitting higher in the Doosan wheel loader and it had better visibility to the area in front, beside and behind them.
“Visibility is an important characteristic with wheel loaders, whether you’re lifting and sorting material before it’s processed, or loading trucks,” he said. “You need an operating station that provides you with good visibility in all directions, and I feel that the Doosan wheel loaders have that advantage compared to some other brands.”
In addition to visibility, Rommel said it is important that cab design and ergonomics be evaluated before a purchase. His operators need to be comfortable in the cab because they work long days, especially during the busy construction season.
“The ride is an important feature for my loader operators,” he said. “The ride controls and seats can make a big difference from machine to machine. We were pleased with the noise levels, even for a loader as large as our DL450, both inside and outside the cab.”
A dependable piece of equipment is a must for Rommel. He cannot afford downtime, especially during the construction season when his employees start loading trucks at 6 a.m. and continue until 6 p.m. The wheel loaders are expected to perform day in and day out, like the first day they were purchased. To prove this point, Rommel put more than 12,000 hours on a Doosan DL400 wheel loader before he bought the DL450.
Rommel has been impressed with the DL450’s abilities. “It’s a fast and nimble machine, just a little bigger than our DL400,” he said. “We were a little worried about whether it was going to be a little too big and slow, but we quickly learned that it would keep up with the DL400, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s just as fast in every aspect.
“Before I purchased the DL450, I lined it up with my DL400 and a DL500, and I compared them side by side, paying attention to the components,” he said.
“What I learned is that the DL450 is its own machine, and not just a DL400 with a bigger engine or a de-tuned DL500. It has a different axle system and a different transmission.”
Being a glacial till deposit, faces at the quarry are variable. “Face load-out and blend are critical to the quality and consistency of our end products,” Rommel said. “Daily quality control tests of products are run to assure the products meet all applicable requirements.”
Poland Sand & Gravel sets itself apart from the competition with an on-site testing lab. The lab is located at the quarry to ensure the highest quality and consistency of the products. “We do a little more testing than some of our competitors,” Rommel said.
Outside confirmation testing and consulting are done by a New York State aggregate geologist. If a diverging trend is noted, the daily testing allows for adjustments to be made at the face as well as plant.
Parts and Service
Whether it is for routine maintenance or a machine repair, Rommel expects to have Doosan wheel loader parts readily available. Although the company is about an hour from Monroe Tractor, he can expect to receive many parts the same day they’re ordered.
“The employees at our distributor, Monroe Tractor, have been very accommodating with Doosan parts and service,” Rommel said. “Our Monroe Tractor sales rep lives within 20 minutes, and he regularly brings us the Doosan parts we need. You have to work with people who support your company with a local distribution network, and we have that with Monroe Tractor. If we need them to adjust something with the machine, they’ll come the same day or the next day, and that’s important to us.”
With the high cost of diesel fuel, many companies cannot waste fuel because it directly impacts their profitability. Rommel learned this firsthand as off-road diesel fuel approached $4 a gallon in 2010.
“When you’re hostage to an exterior environment [fuel], the only thing you can do is look to improve your operating efficiencies,” Rommel said. “Efficiencies can be based on making sure that when something is running, it’s working, and it’s being operated in the proper modes. It’s important to compare the fuel usage from one brand to the next, but it sometimes may be difficult because fuel usage varies by machine task. A face loader is going to be completely different than one that’s loading in the plant or one that’s loading trucks.”
Although it is a sand and gravel plant, crushing is part of production. “Our stationary plant, pit-portable and electric driven, consists of 12 x 36 Cedarapids Jaw that does our primary reduction, followed by a 42-in. Frogswitch Cage Mill and a Spokane VSI, both with closed-circuit loops,” Rommel said. “We are sizing our materials on multiple shaker screen decks and are using three screws, plus a closed-circuit cyclone classifier.”
At the plant, they wash four grades of sand, four sizes of natural stone and four crushed stone products. “Our standard price list includes 29 products and we also do project-specific items such as roofing stone and filter sands,” Rommel said.