Getting into the crushing and screening game

By |  January 27, 2021
Philip Berresford


Highway Equipment Co., an 88-year-old family-owned dealer based north of Pittsburgh, became a supplier of crushing and screening equipment, services and training over the last three years. Although still relatively new to this market segment, Highway Equipment is making investments to support businesses in this growing industry. With locations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and New Jersey, Highway Equipment’s service area supports customers in more than 10 states.

Highway Equipment currently represents Anaconda Equipment, KPI-JCI & Astec Mobile Screens, and Screen Machine for crushing and screening equipment. To further explore Highway Equipment, P&Q caught up with Philip Berresford, the company’s crushing and screening director, who joined Highway Equipment when it began supporting the crushing and screening segment.

How did you ultimately go to work for Highway Equipment?

I was a small business owner of a slag dump and was recycling and reclaiming slag in Canton, Ohio. During this time, I purchased some equipment from Highway Equipment and became a customer.

My contacts with Highway were extremely positive and supportive. I noticed Highway treated customers completely different than I had experienced with other suppliers. One day, my sales rep approached me to say Highway wanted to expand more in the crushing and screening segment. They needed someone to give them some guidance, and they asked if I would consider joining the team. I made the decision that this opportunity was very beneficial to me and my family, and came on with Highway.

We assume Highway Equipment must have identified some hole in the market to pursue this opportunity in crushing and screening. What was the specific opportunity Highway Equipment saw in its regions?

Anaconda's J12 is fitted with a 44-in. x 26-in. direct hydraulic drive Universal jaw. Photo: Anaconda Equipment

Anaconda’s J12 is fitted with a 44-in. x 26-in. direct hydraulic drive Universal jaw. Photo: Anaconda Equipment

We examined the territories we serve and there was strong competition, but not a substantial leader across the board. In addition, customers were making buying decisions based on dealers’ support and not necessarily due to the manufacturer type.

There are companies that offer a small portfolio, but are not dedicating product support specialists, a reasonably sized fleet and training to support this segment. Highway Equipment has, and continues, to make that commitment.

How competitive is the crushing and screening business in the states Highway Equipment serves? 

There is no shortage of track-mounted crushing and screening equipment and [it] is somewhat flooded. It has limited dealers who are committed to the partnership, training and knowledge required for the customer to be successful.

Where is Highway Equipment at with its expansion into crushing and screening, and what drove the company into this area to begin with? Also, how is Highway Equipment currently integrating crushing and screening into the business?

Highway started with crushing and screening in our Mid-Atlantic region.  Immediately, we realized that this opportunity had strong growth potential and an even stronger product support need.  The integration was not that difficult. We have some of the most talented technicians in the market and were willing to provide the training required to support the segment. Our leadership is fully committed to the opportunity, but, most important, to our customers.

Is getting the right people in place the top hurdle Highway Equipment faces in becoming a leader in crushing and screening?

It is critical to build a team that is knowledgeable, consultative and customer oriented. In addition, my boss, Thom Reynolds, president and CEO, commented recently that despite this difficult time, we have taken tremendous pride in protecting our team members, and we continue to hire talented professionals, throughout all segments to support our valued customers.

What have you and your Highway Equipment colleagues learned about the crushing and screening side thus far that’s maybe taken you by surprise?

Photo courtesy of Haver & Boecker

Highway Equipment Co. has a long history with origins dating back to the Great Depression. The company, however, more recently ventured into crushing and screening equipment, with Screen Machine becoming one of its OEM partners. Photo: Screen Machine

From personal experience, my crushing and screening experience was relatively at a local level. I bought equipment and worked on it throughout Ohio.

Now, looking at the broader spectrum with the areas we are covering, the biggest surprise is how tight-knit the community is from OEMs, dealers and customers. Customers talk directly to the manufacturers as well as their dealers. When there are challenges, they share information. We have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of support we have received, not only from OEMs but neighboring dealers will trade inventory if necessary.

From your vantage point, how are your crushing and screening customers faring these days? What’s their workload like, and do you have a sense yet of what 2021 is going to look like for them?

In 2020, despite COVID, our aggregate producers have been relatively steady. They have been consistent throughout the year and we have experienced small growth in the segment.

Most businesses are cautiously optimistic about 2021. We expect that there will be an infrastructure bill that will help the business. Aggregate producers are one of the true barometers of the economy. It will be a strong sign if we see an uptick in aggregate.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of commercial work out there for our earthmoving contractors. However, for those customers that continue to work, we have had some success working with them to set up their own crushing and screening operation to crush and reuse aggregate on site. That allows them to save exponentially.

In terms of equipment and service these days, what are your customers looking for when they turn to an equipment supplier? Do you notice any trends across customers or the greater industry? 

According to Astec Mobile Screens, the Ranger line will be represented by a network of dealers that have the capacity to support the equipment and sustain a strong rental program for its customers. Photo courtesy of KPI-JCI & Astec Mobile Screens

KPI-JCI & Astec Mobile Screens is also among the OEMs Highway Equipment represents. Photo: KPI-JCI & Astec Mobile Screens

Many customers have had bad experiences of a company or sales representative dropping off a machine without assisting with setup and to assure that the piece of equipment is working properly.

Highway’s approach is consultative, and we partner with our customers. That starts out with giving them the right machine, set up properly and a thorough understanding of who will assist them should a challenge arise.

In terms of trends, and this does not apply to just crushing and screening, [but] there are price shoppers going after whoever can get them the cheapest machine the fastest. They seem to all eventually learn that it pays dividends to partner with a dealer who is going to take care of you and is committed to helping your business and not one trying to sell you a machine. The quality of equipment, the support team and ongoing planning are extremely important factors to consider [for] a customer’s success.

You mentioned before this interview that Highway Equipment has invested heavily in inventory in multiple states. What’s behind that approach? 

At Highway, we manage the inventory based on market need. Our customers must have access to the right equipment at the right time. Our plan is to exceed their expectations, and by doing this, we have invested in an inventory that provides ideal accessibility and support. In addition, it allows us to optimize the assets across the network.

This equipment is highly specialized, and we believe that there are few dealers like Highway willing to commit to this market and customers businesses.

What’s next for you and Highway Equipment? 

We are excited for 2021. There is a ton of work to begin, and we are confident that this market and the crushing and screening industry have a very positive long-term outlook. [Highway Equipment’s Thom Reynolds] concludes that Highway Equipment is very optimistic for the aggregate industry and we will continue to invest and deliver on our brand promise to help our customers grow.

Featured image: P&Q Staff

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