Getting it together

By and |  January 7, 2014

A New England producer consolidates its operations and builds a bridge to better efficiency.

Over the last seven years, Twin States Sand and Gravel pieced together a plan that allowed it to close down and sell a depleted gravel pit and consolidate mining, crushing and asphalt production to one site, significantly improving the bottom line.

Twin States Sand and Gravel and Blaktop Inc. owners Warren “Bud” Ames and Stuart Close initiated their consolidation plans in 1998, when they moved their first equipment from the old 92-acre gravel pit at West Lebanon, N.H., to their new one at North Hartland, Vt.

“All our crushing and washing was done in West Lebanon until 1998,” says Seth Ames, Warren’s son and third-generation Ames family senior management member. “That year, we moved our Svedala S-3000 gyratory crusher from West Lebanon to North Hartland and purchased the Svedala jaw and feeder for the Hartland site. After 1998, primary crushing was done in Hartland and finishing crushing and washing was completed at West Lebanon.”

The move improved their operation and also brought a new problem to the forefront.

Potential restrictions
“When we first started hauling aggregate from North Hartland to West Lebanon, we were restricted to 92 trips per day along a route that took us through a residential area,” Bud says. “That restriction hampered us in a number of ways, including prohibiting growth of our business. When plans were approved a few years ago to develop a regional landfill alongside our quarry site, we knew that would mean more trucks in the area, which could lead to tighter restrictions for us.”

Bud and Stuart knew their business would suffer greatly if the number of allowed truck trips was reduced any further. They expected that efficiency for the landfill organization would be hampered by similar restrictions.

In an effort to resolve traffic issues in the best possible way, Bud and Stuart worked with the landfill organization to develop a plan for building a road and bridge over an existing highway. Creating a new route would take trucks off residential streets and make it possible for both Twin States and the new landfill company to conduct business without disrupting local traffic. The road and bridge would also allow them to more easily access the nearby interstate highway.

“Building the bridge eliminated our trip restrictions,” Bud says. “We are now permitted for 700 or more truck hauls per day and have increased our haul numbers by 38 percent.”

The landfill company paid for the cost of materials and labor to build the bridge. Twin States supplied materials and labor for the 1.5-mile road.

“Posted limit on our haul road is 35 miles per hour,” Seth says. “Once trucks reach Route 5, they can travel at up to 50 miles per hour to reach the interstate system. We no longer receive complaints about dust issues or traffic concerns. The bridge really improved ease of our operations as well as relations with the local community.”

More customers
Since constructing the bridge, Twin States has been able to significantly increase its customer base while keeping materials costs at competitive levels.

“In the past, our haul restrictions kept us from developing a customer base in Vermont because we couldn’t increase our number of trips,” Seth says. “We couldn’t sell to customers directly either because of the trip restriction. Since those restrictions were lifted, we’ve significantly increased direct sales both in Vermont and direct to customers.”

After a few years of trucking aggregate to its West Lebanon site, Twin States could see that the cost of making the haul had become economically ineffective.

“Our main source of ledge and gravel is at the North Hartland site. We could see it would be challenging to remain competitive if we didn’t move everything there,” Seth says.

A major piece of the company’s plan involved the sale of the West Lebanon site before they moved all their operations to North Hartland. That part of the plan spanned several years, involving applications for numerous permits and securing a developer who would transform the site to a mixed-use industrial park.

Recently, approvals related to that conversion and development of what will be known as Iron Horse Park were finalized. Accomplishing that step made it possible for the company to implement one of the final phases of its consolidation plan.

By 2012, Twin States completely decommissioned the West Lebanon crushing and wash plant and dismantled it over winter. The plant’s steel structure was recycled. Components still in good condition were retrofitted and used at the Hartland site. In the process of moving, the company made some modifications to the plant.

“We built some components of the new plant ourselves,” Seth says. “That includes the chassis that make our crushers semi-portable. We don’t move the crushers often, but if they have to be moved, that can be more easily accomplished now.”

Equipment on site
At the North Hartland site, Allis Chalmers/Sandvik crushers include a primary 36 x 48 jaw crusher, secondary gyratory crusher, Metso tertiary finishing cone crusher and a 6 x 20 Eagle finishing screen.

The chassis they created consist of steel I-beams, dual axles, a platform with a control box and a self-built discharge conveyor.

“We’re fortunate to have our own in-house skilled fabricators and welders,” Seth says. “Because of that, it was less costly to build the chassis ourselves and the crew really enjoyed designing them.”

Bud added that portability reduces downtime in the event of equipment failure.

“If a crushing component goes down now, we can slide in a rental pretty easily,” Bud says. “We could also reconfigure the plant more quickly, depending on what product we’re making. That allows us to be more flexible.”

In 2012, Twin States also purchased a Kolberg-Pioneer wash plant.

“The plan was to set the wash plant up at North Hartland,” Seth says. “Due to some unexpected permitting delays, the new wash plant didn’t become operational until July 2013.”

Other equipment changes at the North Hartland site in 2013 have included moving the company’s Norberg HP300 cone crusher from West Lebanon. Twin States also modified and moved an Allis 6 x 16-ft. ripple flow screen to North Hartland and purchased an Eagle 6 x 20-ft. horizontal triple-deck screen to be used at the Hartland site.

“A Kolberg-Pioneer 30 x 42-in. jaw and a Nordberg 1144 OmniCone from the West Lebanon plant will be set up at North Hartland this winter,” Seth says.

At North Hartland, Twin States operates a crushing and finish screening plant on the quarry floor and a crushing and wash plant in the site’s gravel pit. The plant on the quarry floor is fed with a Komatsu PC400 excavator and Komatsu 30-ton haul truck.

“Ledge that requires washing is hauled from the plant on the quarry floor to the wash plant in the gravel pit with a Terex 30-ton haul truck,” Seth adds. “Gravel is fed into the crushing and wash plant in the gravel pit with a Komatsu 470 loader.”

At the source
When Bud and Stuart began outlining plans for consolidation, they couldn’t have projected how important it would become to the company’s well being to increase their efficiency.

“It’s more cost effective to have crushers located at the source rather than moving raw material,” Bud says. “With production and inventory now in one location, deliveries tend to be more on demand and handling costs are decreased.”

The last segment of their consolidation plans involves moving their 4-ton batch asphalt plant from the West Lebanon site to North Hartland. They purchased the 1972 model plant in 1999 and have retrofitted many of its elements to bring it up to date in terms of standards and efficiency. Blaktop Inc. has been supplying asphalt for two West Lebanon crews, as well as a satellite crew in Littleton, N.H.

“We put a new dryer on the plant and recently added an automated screen deck,” Seth says. “We don’t have any silos right now. After everything is relocated we’ll look at adding silos. In spring 2013 we added an asphalt recycling system to our plant. We are also burning waste oil at the plant now instead of No. 2 oil. We’re exploring the possibility of converting to compressed natural gas instead of the oil.”

“Our jobs are comprised of work for municipalities, commercial companies and some residential projects,” Bud adds. “We supply asphalt for many road projects and Street Print is one of our specialties. It’s an asphalt product that’s very popular in residential areas.”

Street Print is a decorative surfacing process in which regular asphalt pavement is imprinted with a pattern to resemble bricks, slate or cobblestones. After imprinting, the area is given a four-coat application of epoxy-fortified color coating to give it a durable, distinctive appearance.

As part of their consolidation, BlakTop Inc. and Twin States will be housed in a new 80 x 140-ft. shop building at the North Hartland site. They are currently operating out of four different shops in West Lebanon, with their oldest building dating back to the 1950s.

“We’re waiting on permitting for the new shop,” Seth says. “Putting this all in place has been a long process. Even though it has taken time, consolidating was a good idea.”

Take note
A major piece of the company’s plan involved the sale of the West Lebanon site before they moved all their operations to North Hartland.

Company history
Twin States dates back to 1947 when Bill Taylor and Tom Close established the company in West Lebanon, N.H., to help supply concrete aggregates used in construction of nearby Wilder Dam. Their gravel pit was initially opened in 1927.

By 1950, Taylor and Close set up Blaktop Inc., the asphalt segment of their company. In the 1960s, when it was clear that their West Lebanon pit was nearing the close of its useful life, Taylor and Close purchased the North Hartland gravel pit and quarry, a large tract of land lying along the Connecticut River. Quarry operations began at the site in 1993. Since they closed the West Lebanon gravel pit, they have hauled aggregate from North Hartland to West Lebanon to process it and supply aggregate for their asphalt operation.

Current plans are to sell the West Lebanon site to a developer who will turn it into Iron Horse Park, where offices, restaurants, industrial buildings and retail space will be housed. Initial plans include a 150,000 sq.-ft. big box store.

Loretta Sorensen is a freelance writer in Yankton, S.D. She produces material on a variety of topics, serves as a ghostwriter, and has authored her own books.

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