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Grabbing A Rebound

The recession forced those in the aggregate industry to make some difficult decisions. As demand fell, many companies responded with massive layoffs;

Adam Madison

The recession forced those in the aggregate industry to make some difficult decisions. As demand fell, many companies responded with massive layoffs; others closed gates and shut down equipment. However, this was no time for vacation. It's a company's response to troubled times that determines its success during the turnaround. Shelly Materials knows this, and is ready and waiting.

The Ohio company has 31 aggregate operations, 47 asphalt plants, 14 ready-mixed facilities, as well as several paving and construction operations. Shelly Materials Inc., a subsidiary of Oldcastle Materials, also has felt the pain of this recession. The Columbus market suffered severely from the collapse of residential construction. One of Shelly's two Columbus quarries is shut down temporarily. Meanwhile, it is relying on its workhorse, the Columbus Limestone quarry, to carry the company until the market returns.

ìWe aren't going anywhere. We are here, ready for the market when it does come back,î says Sales Manager Chuck Hodgkiss. ìI think we will come out of it more efficient than ever,î

Columbus Limestone now is producing about 2 million tons of aggregate per year. This is in comparison to the phenomenal performance of 2005, when it produced 5 million tons. The company adapted to its current circumstances and has learned to do more with less. It is implementing what's called Oldcastle Performance System, which analyzes the efficiency of everything.

Operations Manager Mike Matoszkia says OPS begins with a high-altitude look at its quarries and breaks down the performance of each of its activities. This has been applied to production, sales and its associated construction divisions. It includes everything from individual tasks, like splicing belts or loading trucks, down to the attitude of its employees. They analyzed the crusher throughput to pinpoint the precise settings that perform best for its level of production. This meant tightening the crushers to hold product longer to crush more thoroughly, and conveyor belts have been adjusted to move product faster.

The size of the Columbus Limestone plant allows for some flexibility when the market is down. It is a sleeping giant that can produce large quantities of stone very quickly, says Plant Manager Kevin Robinson. The quarry has 990 permitted acres with enough reserves to maintain about 50 years of production. There also are ready-mixed concrete and asphalt plants on site that are operated by outside companies.

A NORMAL BLAST yields about 60,000 tons from a 60-hole shot, Robinson says. During peak periods the company had been known to blast every day, but it most recently has been blasting twice each week. Wampum Hardware performs the shots. The largest material from a shot is separated from the pile to sell as 8- to 36-inch rip rap. Hodgkiss says rip rap undergoes less processing, but there is more handwork involved in its production. There is a high demand for the product to maintain erosion control along riverbanks and highways.

Water is a major issue for the area. In fact, the Scioto River winds right through the Columbus Limestone property. Each day, the company moves about 20 million gallons with multiple 200-horsepower and one 400-horsepower turbine pumps. The process water is diverted into a settling pond. The rest is used to provide dust control at the quarry.

The property is rich with pockets of sand and gravel that are removed from 40 feet of overburden. The site actually began as a surface sand and gravel mine before limestone was unearthed in the 1970s. Sand and gravel is sent straight through the limestone plant for processing.

ìIt's a real benefit to be able to do that and to have a product to supplement production when demand for another product drops off,î Hodgkiss says.

Material for the plant is loaded by a 10-yard Komatsu 1250 excavator into as many as five 70-ton haul trucks, both Komatsu HD605 and a Caterpillar 775E. In the past, they've relied on a 16-yard Cat 992 wheel loader to load the haul trucks, but the excavator's smaller bucket better meets the current demand. Also, there are no tires to maintain, and less distance is traveled with the excavator.

The haul trucks complete one cycle in about eight minutes. Times are monitored, and the primary operator notifies the drivers of their times each hour. This allows personnel to keep up the pace and identify mechanical problems, poor road conditions or operator error. Despite monitoring production times, safety remains the primary concern. It takes a bit longer to move sand and gravel, because vehicles need to travel up and onto the highwall. The company considered locating a portable plant closer to the piles, but it did not make economic sense.

The haul trucks dump into a hopper that feeds a Cedarapids 63- ◊ 60-inch horizontal-shaft impactor. As part of the OPS initiative, it has been tightened to produce 4-inch-minus, the smallest possible product, at about 1,400 tons per hour. However, it can be adjusted to produce 6-inch-minus at 2,000 tons per hour when demand increases. Hodgkiss says the smaller sizes better accommodate a heightened demand for asphalt aggregates when there is less demand for the larger size needed for ready-mixed concrete.

The hard limestone is a constant assault on the steel, so welding hammers is a daily chore, Robinson says. Columbus Limestone relies on a Maverick automated welding system. Robinson says the welder programs the machine and monitors the progress from outside the confined space, safe from fumes. The dump hopper also has been hardfaced to increase the life of the steel.

Fines are kept out of the primary with a Deister grizzly feeder and dropped onto a 60-inch belt that heads to a secondary plant via a 300-foot belt. Feed is split at the top of the plant between two Deister 8- ◊ 20-foot triple-deck scalping screens. Screens employ a variety of Polydeck media ranging 5Ω-inch punch plate to a 1-inch rubber-coated wire. Robinson says they have experimented with various alloys, and, in some circumstances, it's worth paying the extra money.

Oversize material enters a Kinergy feeder. It is supported by Kevlar plates and springs. Counter weights beneath the motor provide the throw. The feeder supplies a Symons 7-foot cone crusher that produces 2-inch-minus. An ISC 103 vertical-shaft impactor follows. Both crushers prepare material for the tertiary plant for additional washing and crushing.

Everything is automated by a PLC and managed with WonderWare controls. It displays amperage, oil temperatures, belt speeds, as well as any variations. Alarms are recorded when equipment deviates normal operations. A 360-degree rotating camera from Security Corp., provides the man in the tower a complete view of the operation.

A 5- ◊ 12-foot Deister screen diverts the 304, half of which are screened further into 8s and 57s. Fines can be blended with 304. Additional sand is collected with an Eagle Iron Works 44-inch sand screw and can be mixed with the 304. A very fine base material also is produced for airport runways. As a result, Columbus Limestone does not have the usual issues with fines.

The tertiary plant consists of six more Deister triple-deck screens ranging from 6- ◊ 16- to 8- ◊ 20-feet. There are three Symons 5.2-foot crushers and one 4Ω-foot Symons cone crusher. The plant has 2.43 miles of belting. Sands from the finishing screens are removed with a DW400 bucket wheel that makes one revolution per minute.

Finished products are stockpiled with four radial stackers, three of which have been designed to reduce spillage and conserve energy, Robinson says. These have 12-degree inclines that reach a height of 62 feet. This is achieved by elevating the system. The pivot point at the tail pulley sits on a 27-foot-tall concrete tower. The middle of the conveyor is on a rail supported by concrete pillar standing 19 feet tall. The rail systems enable rotation up to 240 degrees. The height of the end pulley allows Columbus Limestone to put more product on the ground.

ìThis (plant) was built purely for tonnage. It is very simple and straightforward,î Robinson says. ìIt's just big, massive and fast.î

TO KEEP THE tons moving out the gates quickly, the site employs three Brechbuhler scales. Usually one is reserved for inbound lightweights. Truck drivers follow a specified traffic pattern through the quarry and are aided by traffic lights when approaching the scales. As the trucks pull up to the scale house, the weights already are locked in and printed on the invoice. The first scale has a hand-to-hand window. The other two have a pneumatic tube system.

In the not-too-distant future, the flow of trucks past the scale house should increase. The construction industry appears to be emerging from the recession slowly, but surely. Even now there remains a steady demand for product. Proximity to the state capital and Ohio State University provides a more robust demand for aggregate than other portions of the state. Hodgkiss believes they have finally reached equilibrium. They are starting to see some activity from big developers, as well as a spark in the commercial market. Public works and highway on local and federal levels also have been stronger.

The cash infusion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was slow in coming for 2009, Hodgkiss says. But, there will be more ARRA money spent during the remainder of this year. Other major projects are on the horizon, which has Hodgkiss feeling very optimistic. And when the next highway bill is finally passed, expect Columbus Limestone to be running fast.

Adam Madison is a freelance writer with nearly 10 years in the aggregate industry.

Shelly Materials Keeps Hospitality

With a 990-acre footprint near an urban setting and a rich history, Columbus Limestone is well rooted in the community. The parent company Shelly Materials keeps an open channel of communication with the community by donating time, money and resources.

Plant Manager Kevin Robinson stays connected by attending regular meetings at the Scioto Southland Civic Association. With a good sense of humor and 20 years of service, Robinson puts a friendly face on mining. Here, community members can ask him questions regarding the operation. He says it is helpful to explain things like how blasts are louder on overcast days. By addressing their concerns directly, he can educate the public before unanswered questions manifest into irrational fears that could hamper operations.

Shelly Materials' community relations efforts earned the company an award from the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association. The company donates product to pour driveways for Habitat for Humanity projects or public baseball diamonds, money, as well as man hours. Here are some of its projects:

  • Earth Day cleanup. Every year, Shelly treats its crew to breakfast before they suiting up with orange and green safety vests to spend the afternoon removing trash from the streets of South Columbus.
  • Anti-terrorist training. The company offers local, state and federal law enforcement agencies access to the quarry to conduct training exercises such as dealing with car bombs. The Columbus Bomb Squad, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, ATF and various state agencies have used the site. Robinson says it costs the company nothing, and the groups clean up after themselves. Robinson and Operations Manager Mike Matoszkia have been recognized with the Citizens Award for Distinguished Service.
  • Environmental stewardship. Shelly has partnered with the Wildlife Habitat Council to provide a habitat site in Dresden, and Montpelier, Ohio that serves as a privately owned and operated educational center. Both are reclaimed aggregate operations that collectively offer 166 acres of wetlands, several miles of nature trails and a camping area. Shelly Materials is working to certify a third site at its Ostrander operation.
  • Educational outreach. Shelly Materials maintains several educational programs, keeping its operations open to community members, and especially schools and universities. The company is available for quarry visits and classroom presentations. Ohio State University's architecture and urban design program recently visited the quarry in hopes of creating a proposal for landscape development that benefits both the community and the quarry. This summer, the quarry is participating with Ohio Aggregates and Industrial Minerals Association and Wright State University for Project Stone, an earth and space science program for Ohio's classroom educators of grades 4-12.


Mobile Equipment

10-yard Komatsu 1250 excavator

(3) Komatsu HD605 haul trucks

Caterpillar 775E haul truck

(3) Brechbuhler truck scales

(2) Komatsu WA500 wheel loaders

(2) Cat 980H wheel loaders

Primary Plant:

Cedarapids 63- ◊ 60-inch HSI

Secondary Plant:

Symons 7-foot cone crusher


Kinergy feeder

(6) Deister triple-deck scalping screens

EIW 44-inch sand screw

Tertiary Plant:

(6) Deister triple-deck screens

Diester single-deck screen

(3) Symons 5.2-foot cone crushers

Symons 4Ω-foot cone crusher


WonderWare controls

Security rotating camera system