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Bluebird Stone expands equipment range to enter aggregate market

By |  April 5, 2022
Photo: Sandvik

Bluebird Stone now utilizes four tracked plants from Sandvik to produce aggregates. Photo: Sandvik

Bluebird Stone has a solid portfolio of natural stone products, but the company’s crushed rock business is now surging, too.

Tommy Caldwell, owner of Bluebird Stone, partnered with a local equipment dealer in 2020 to expand the eastern Oklahoma-based company’s range of equipment and delve further into the aggregate space.

“I was only crushing our rock for roadways in our own quarry, though I sometimes would sell the material when someone came into the yard and wanted it,” Caldwell says. “Now, we’re doing a thousand tons of crushed rock a day, five days a week.”

This was a profound change for the 18-year-old company, whose reputation was built on natural countertop and tabletop stone slabs, as well as construction-grade veneer and patio flagstones. Bluebird is one of the Midwest’s largest producers of natural and dimensional stone, with eight operating quarries. This year, it is projected to do some $8 million in that area of production.

To shift gears and begin producing significant quantities of crushed rock products, Caldwell partnered with Crushing Tigers, a local Sandvik equipment dealer. Together, they selected four tracked machines to produce aggregates.

The Bluebird setup begins with a Sandvik QJ341 jaw crusher, a 46-ft.-long machine powered by a 375-hp engine that is capable of handling 440 tph. The unit crushes stone to 4 in. or less in diameter, and it can reverse-feed the material in case of jams. Also, it is hydraulically driven to facilitate start-ups under load.

“We tried everything in that spot, and this model worked the best,” Caldwell says. “We have a thousand hours on it, and it holds up well.”

The crusher feeds a QE342 scalper, a 31-ton unit designed for high production of notably dense material. Bluebird’s material is hard and abrasive, but the scalper features an especially wear-resistant steel feeder and hopper to resist the abrasion of processing such rock. A 132-hp engine powers the machine and ferrets out existing 1 1/2-in. gravel.

A QH332 Hydrocone crusher was situated next in the lineup to accept the jaw-crushed material. The QH332 is versatile, featuring six crushing chambers and a 350-hp engine, further reducing the jaw crusher feed.

The machine was a perfect fit for the other equipment in the setup, Crushing Tigers says.

Photo: Sandvik

The QJ341 jaw crusher is a 46-ft.-long machine that is capable of handling 440 tph. Photo: Sandvik

“We don’t just sell what a customer wants,” says Darragh Bonfil, territory manager at Crushing Tigers. “We try to sell what he needs, based on his rock.”

The final component in Bluebird’s aggregate production process is a QA451 triple-deck Doublescreen. The screen delivers fine product less than 3/4 in. in diameter, as well as full 3/4-in. rock for concrete and lateral-line rock that ranges from 1 to 1 1/2 in. Caldwell traded an older-model screen for the QA451, which utilizes two screen boxes to maximize throughput, control and screening efficiency.

“He needed the Doublescreen to make their fine aggregate for concrete material,” Bonfil says. “We pride ourselves on knowing our customer’s rock and are totally familiar with Tommy’s flagstone.”

The alignment of Sandvik crushers and screens proved itself over the first year of operation. Now, Bluebird has a flourishing line of aggregates.

“It was exciting what we did our first year in business,” Caldwell says.

Looking ahead, Caldwell hopes to see business increase 25 percent year over year.

Maximizing flexibility and compatibility

Tim Winslow, sales manager at Sandvik, says Bluebird Stone’s needs were met so quickly, in part, because of the versatility of the equipment.

“The beauty of these products is that they are flexible, compatible with one another and easy and quick to set up,” Winslow says. “With the inherent flexibility with choice of chambers and eccentric throws to match the customer’s aggregate requirements, each of our cone crushers, for example, crushes aggregate to almost any size. The customer wanted to go into a new line of business and was able to do so by investing in this train of four machines.”

When Caldwell needs solutions, he says he keeps turning to mobile Sandvik equipment for reasons beyond the equipment’s capability. One reason is his affinity for Caterpillar products. In fact, Caldwell has 53 pieces of Cat equipment doing his quarry work – and the Sandvik equipment is Cat-powered.

Photo: Sandvik

Crushing Tigers territory manager Darragh Bonfil, left, visits with Shauna and Tommy Caldwell of Bluebird Stone. Photo: Sandvik

Going the extra mile

A chief selling point for Caldwell is the support he receives from Crushing Tigers. Caldwell traces his trust in the distributor to an incident a decade ago with a newly purchased Sandvik crusher.

“They took it back to find out why it wasn’t performing,” Caldwell says. “They didn’t just fix the problem, they worked to find out why it happened.”

That extra support was a persuading factor for Caldwell, who was sold on Sandvik and its support team.

“Once a month, someone shows up here wanting me to buy some other kind of machinery, and I just run the guy out the door,” Caldwell says.

Had Bluebird Stone’s new market initiative backfired and alienated the company’s core clientele for natural stone products, it might have been deemed foolhardy. But the move into aggregate production and sales succeeded, the company says. Continued growth seems certain, with highway and bridge infrastructure on the national agenda.

Bluebird leadership and its trust in its new, versatile equipment ultimately took the company where a new market awaited.

Giles Lambertson is a freelance writer and marketing specialist serving the aggregate industry.


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