Luck Stone Banks on Unmanned Loader
- Published: Wednesday, 16 October 2013 16:09
Luck Stone, the oldest division of Luck Companies, is launching several new initiatives and innovations to build on a customer-inspired foundation that is 90 years in the making, including an innovative unmanned pit loader.
Now in its third generation of leadership by the Luck family, the Richmond, Va.-based company is the largest family-owned and operated producer of crushed stone, sand and gravel in the U.S. Founded in 1923, Luck Stone takes pride in its nine-decade legacy of delivering quality products with exceptional customer service.
But today’s competitive business landscape demands that companies continually evolve and innovate, a challenge that Luck Stone both welcomes and embraces.
“The company takes pride in its reputation as a collaborative partner that unearths innovative solutions to help our customers be more successful,” said Bob Grauer, president of Luck Stone.
According to Grauer, innovation can be defined as developing something completely new or just changing the experience that someone has with the business. To illustrate the former, Luck Stone collaborated with several partners, including experts from MIT, to develop a remote-control loader to extract stone from the company’s Bull Run Plant in Chantilly, Va.
Luck Stone is the first company in the crushed stone and aggregate industry to have an unmanned pit loader, which allows the company increased access to product reserves from deep within the quarry. “This tool gives us options that we’ve never had before and allows us to optimize resources at our plants while creating a more sustainable environment,” said Grauer.
The company has spent the last eight months creating the new innovation for its loader. The machine was envisioned as a way for the company to access areas in its quarry where they did not feel comfortable sending an employee.
“What we ended up with is a fully remote-control loader that can load a truck and move material,” Grauer said. “We are now looking at going fully autonomous, which will be a game-changer for us.”
The loader that has been retro-fitted with the remote-control equipment is a Cat 988G.
In another innovative move, Luck Stone harnessed the power of GIS technology to improve efficiency for daily load management with its subcontractor haulers. The company leveraged the expertise of its internal technology pros to design an app that can track vehicle locations, give directions for deliveries and place stone orders, among other features.
Luck Stone distributed iPads with the Hauler App to approximately 250 haulers in Virginia and North Carolina, a leap of faith that the company was willing to take.
“The haulers absolutely love it!” said Grauer. “It helps them make money by managing their business more effectively and that’s good for everyone.”
Luck Stone’s desire to be the model of a customer-inspired business is more than a vision statement. For example, the company has brought customers in to ask what needs to be improved in order for Luck Stone to be more effective or efficient.
The company also generates an annual survey to rate its performance on how well Luck Stone listens and responds to feedback. “Our rating improved from 74 percent to 84 percent in one year as a result of really listening to what our customers say that we could be doing better,” said Grauer.
As a visual symbol of the new initiatives at Luck Stone, the company has unveiled a new logo and brand identity that is rolling out this summer on vehicles and signage at the 23 plant locations in Virginia and North Carolina.
“Our new logo aligns better with the iconic cloverleaf in the Luck Companies brand and also includes the dynamic corporate tagline, Igniting Human Potential, which infuses the brand with lots of energy and a message that everyone can aspire to personal excellence and help others do the same,” said Sally Eddowes, director of marketing for Luck Stone.
Grauer illustrated this concept by sharing a story about a Luck Stone plant manager who gathered a team of hourly associates to help interview and select a new mechanic for the plant. Several weeks later, he visited the plant and heard some insightful remarks when he inquired about that hiring process.
“The associates felt invested in making sure that the mechanic was successful since they had played a key role in hiring him,” noted Grauer. “The mechanic wanted to do his best so that he wouldn’t let the team down. We’re very proud that 88 percent of our associates are engaged in our business, according to a Hay Group study that measures the drivers for success in a company.”
The bottom-line for Luck Stone is that there’s much more to running a successful business for another 90 years than solely the bottom-line of the balance sheet. “We believe in doing good to do well, so to speak,” concluded Grauer. “If we can help our customers become more successful at what they do, then it’s a win-win for everyone.”