Contract crushing leads operation into 10th year

By |  February 17, 2016

PQ1602_cardinal-1Phil Eisel has always had a soft spot for portable plants.

Portable crushing operations management was central to his role at a previous employer for 15 years, but the company exited the portable crushing business following a 2003 acquisition.

An opportunity to re-enter portable crushing presented itself to Eisel after 2005, when Cardinal Aggregate Inc., a subsidiary of MBC Holdings, was established in Perrysburg, Ohio. Cardinal Aggregate was primarily established to provide aggregate supply security to its construction affiliates. But Eisel also saw an opportunity to fill a portable plant operations hole in northwest Ohio and the surrounding area with Cardinal Aggregate’s resources.

“I recognized there was a hole for a portable plant operation to be running the way I thought one should be,” Eisel says. “We talked our owner into getting into some recycling. We did and were successful on a couple of jobs.”

Cardinal Aggregate’s portable plant operations launched in 2009. The timing of the launch wasn’t ideal with the Great Recession underway, but the company secured a couple of good jobs, Eisel says. Those jobs helped Cardinal Aggregate develop roots in the market at a time when some others were exiting.

Now, Cardinal Aggregate regularly has three portable crushing plants active throughout Ohio and Michigan, having added a third plant in 2015. Concrete recycling represents the majority of Cardinal Aggregate’s business related to its portable plants, but asphalt recycling is a significant part as well.

Cardinal Aggregate finds opportunities to contract crush for other aggregate producers, as well.

“The portable part of it is exciting to me because you can bid on the job, get the job, go see the client, be in and out of there in three or four weeks, and I’ll see the win – or the loss,” Eisel says.

Shuffling assets


Cardinal Aggregate’s quarry plant consists of several components,
including a Deister Machine Co. 6×20 triple-deck scalping screen; a 1515
Hazemag impact crusher; a Pioneer vertical shaft impactor; a bivi-TEC
6×20 two-deck screen; and an 8×24 Terex Simplicity screen.

According to Eisel, Cardinal Aggregate has carved a niche for itself as a portable producer in the 25,000- to 75,000-ton job range with a few 200,000-plus-ton jobs mixed in. The 25,000- to 75,000-ton range is a little too big for small concrete recyclers, Eisel says.

“We carry enough power to handle that range,” he says. “One thing people forget about is all the support equipment you need to buy. They’ll buy the plant, but they don’t buy the right equipment to get the material to the plant or the right equipment to stockpile the finished product, they forget you need to put the finished product somewhere.”

Cardinal Aggregate prides itself on offering a turnkey operation, Eisel adds.

“When we move in we don’t bother or borrow things from the client,” he says. “They get what they pay for. If we crush 30,000 tons, there’s 30,000 tons – not 25,000. We cross reference with a belt scale and a survey of the pile.”

“The main thing is not to short a client material,” Eisel adds.

Cardinal Aggregate’s diversity helps the company serve clients. The quarry operation, for example, can be a source of manpower for custom crushing jobs when needed.

“The quarry and portables really work hand in hand,” Eisel says. “You almost can’t survive without both. I can move people around. You may have a portable crew with a down week. Well, I’ll bring them into the quarry and absorb them into the operation because there are always extra production or repair needs here.”
Similarly, quarry workers can be transitioned into the field as needed.

“This winter, for example, if we’re not going to be as productive, I’m going to go run my portable plants around the clock,” Eisel says. “I’ll push some experience from the quarry to the portables. It’s really nice having that.”

Bradley Miller, president of MBC Holdings, says employee flexibility has been a key to his company’s success.

“Our employees have been willing to travel with our portables and our construction activities,” Miller says. “Asphalt producers have to sit where their asphalt plants are. But guys being willing to travel a little bit creates new opportunities.”

The majority of Cardinal Aggregate’s employees are versatile, adds plant foreman Matt Wehner. Some employees are specific to their task, but most are able to work in various environments. A number of employees are also willing to work away from home as needed.

“Anything about 1 1/2 hours away or more and our guys will stay over for a remote job,” Wehner says.

Equipment is another asset Cardinal Aggregate can move from its quarry to the field – and vice versa.

“If you’re down a 980 loader on a portable plant, I can borrow one if I know I’m a little slow in the quarry,” Eisel says.

Having the ability to shift equipment from one place to another is advantageous compared with some alternatives, he adds.

“You can’t afford to rent equipment in this area,” Eisel says. “It does not work with the conditions out there – it’s very competitive. Most of our jobs are 20,000- to 50,000-ton jobs. If we would rent a crusher for $25,000 a month, that translates to [about] a dollar or more per ton. That’s not going to work.”
So ownership of equipment is essential.

“You have to own equipment,” Eisel says. “I will rent a piece and we’ll end up owning it in the end. We won’t let that piece go away.”

Digging deeper


A loader operator feeds a Powerscreen XR400S jaw crusher on a
contract-crushing job within a quarry.

Equipment was also a key consideration when Cardinal Aggregate established its quarry operation in 2005. MBC Holdings supplied Cardinal Aggregate with about 90 percent of its original equipment, Eisel says. He estimates the company only had to commit between $500,000 and $750,000 toward the rest.

“That’s what we used here to start the quarry for six months,” Eisel says. “It was just myself and four other guys who built the [quarry] plant. We put the plant together with the assistance of Midwest Mine Services, a local contractor.”

A Telsmith 30×55 crusher is the quarry plant’s first processing touchpoint for the limestone Cardinal Aggregate mines. Once material is crushed there, it’s conveyed over about 1,200 ft. to a Deister Machine Co. 6×20 triple-deck scalping screen that produces 1s, 2s and 304s. A 1515 Hazemag impact crusher is part of the plant, as well. Oversized material is processed in a Pioneer vertical shaft impactor, and a bivi-TEC 6×20 two-deck screen and an 8×24 Terex Simplicty screen complete the plant.

Two Caterpillar 988 wheel loaders and a 70,000-lb. class hydraulic rock breaker are key pieces of equipment, as well.

According to Miller, the quarry is one component that has helped MBC Holdings withstand the ups and downs of the markets it serves.

“When one market is down, another won’t be down quite so much,” Miller says. “Luckily, they have not all been down at once.”

The expansion into portable crushing helps to offset down markets. Although the company doesn’t recycle asphalt in Michigan, it is competitive as a concrete recycler there.

“We do some sand and gravel up there,” Eisel says, “but it’s 90 percent concrete. We don’t currently crush any asphalt in Michigan. There are several guys who run around the state.”

Over the years, Eisel has learned when to primarily focus on concrete and when to process asphalt.

“We don’t bid concrete crushing in the winter anymore because you can’t control the dust,” he says. “You can’t run water to your plant when it’s 20 degrees out. Some people try, but we don’t.”

Eisel prefers to recycle asphalt in the winter in the Midwest market.

“When it’s 15 degrees, you can run asphalt and it doesn’t get cakey and gooey,” he says. “When it’s 90 [degrees], it does. Our plants run better in the winter crushing asphalt, and asphalt [producers] prefer you crush in the winter because they’re trying to get their mix designs down. They want you out of the way in the summer.

“Most of our clients don’t have room to have a portable crushing plant and their customer on site in the middle of June. So it works out for us to do asphalt in the winter.”

Cardinal Aggregate deploys two-person crews for asphalt recycling jobs, Eisel adds, because the company’s plants can be operated remotely. Three-person crews are typically deployed for concrete recycling jobs. These crews include a plant operator, a loader operator and a foreman who serves as a ground guy.

“We don’t run an excavator feed operation like a lot of others,” Eisel says. “We set up the plant, and it never moves. We bring the material to the plant and run it like a quarry operation. It just works a lot better for us.”

PQ1602_cardinal-4Portable plants in action

Pit & Quarry had the opportunity to visit a Cardinal Aggregate contract crushing jobsite this fall in Portage, Ohio, where the company was preparing an additional quarry on a jobsite.

According to Cardinal Aggregate’s Matt Wehner, his company is expanding the greenfield site to a point in which the client can fix its own crushing, screening and conveying equipment in the quarry.

Cardinal Aggregate’s job is to crush about 250,000 tons, all of which is 304 aggregate base. The company is processing the stone with a plant that consists of a Powerscreen XR400S jaw crusher, a Lippmann 4800 impactor and a Terex Simplicity M Series screen.

The history of Cardinal Aggregate

Northwest Ohio-based Cardinal Aggregate emerged in 2005 as a subsidiary of MBC Holdings. Cardinal Aggregate is affiliated with Miller Bros. Construction, whose history stretches back to the 1940s.

MBC Holdings’ President Bradley Miller says his grandfather started the company with a brother by cleaning ditches with a dragline and a dozer.

“Eventually, they got bigger jobs – dirt jobs, highway jobs,” Miller says. “In the ’60s and ’70s, we were building interstates down in Kentucky. We started coal mining then, too.”

Miller Bros. has since sold its coal mining operation but has expanded into a number of construction sectors, including energy, environmental, commercial, manufacturing, automotive, rail, institutional and aggregate processing.

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry magazine. Yanik can be reached at 216-706-3724 or

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