Inside Magruder Limestone’s Lake Ozark operation

By |  October 25, 2019
Magruder Limestone’s Lake Ozark location in Missouri is situated just off U.S. 54. Photo by Kevin Yanik

Magruder Limestone’s Lake Ozark location in Missouri is situated just off U.S. 54. Photo by Kevin Yanik

The rain is coming down hard on this Monday morning. So hard, in fact, that Clark Bollinger briefly pulls off to the side of the road before continuing onward to Magruder Limestone’s Lake Ozark location for the first of several site visits he’ll make this week.

While the morning’s rain is torrential, this single storm doesn’t compare to the constant downpours and residual flooding Magruder Limestone experienced early in the year. Mother Nature was rather hard on the company this spring, just as it was on a number of producers across Missouri.

Bollinger’s destination on this day wasn’t overly affected by rains or floods, but a few Magruder Limestone sites to the north experienced significant flooding – including one that lost nine weeks after the nearby Mississippi River decided to pour in.

Fortunately, the year’s most severe rains subsided months ago, and business is up in spite of the weather at Magruder Limestone’s Lake Ozark location. It’s also up following a dry spell in the Lake of the Ozarks economy.

According to Bollinger, construction activity around Lake of the Ozarks was rather dormant in the two years leading up to 2019. Investor confidence has been restored, though, and Magruder Limestone is reaping the benefits.

“Things were dismal down here,” says Bollinger, the production manager at Magruder Limestone who oversees nine active sites. “Most of the money comes from outside Lake of the Ozarks – Kansas City, St. Louis and all around. With the uptick in the economy, we’re starting to see money invested here at the lake in hotels and new construction. The economy is doing quite well down here.”

Supporting the Ozarks

Magruder Limestone has operated down at its Lake Ozark location for about four years. The company has another active site in the region in Sunrise Beach, and a third location, Wood River, is also situated nearby.

Most of Magruder Limestone’s facilities are located in northern Missouri. The Lake Ozark plant was ultimately constructed by piecing together components from various northern sites.

A 988F wheel loader feeds the 42-in. jaw crusher at Magruder Limestone. Production manager Clark Bollinger prefers to keep the loader within 500 ft. of the face at all times. Photo by Kevin Yanik

A 988F wheel loader feeds the 42-in. jaw crusher at Magruder Limestone. Production manager Clark Bollinger prefers to keep the loader within 500 ft. of the face at all times. Photo by Kevin Yanik

Magruder Limestone’s Lake Ozark plant currently consists of a 42-in. Kolberg-Pioneer jaw, a 52-in. JCI cone crusher, a two-deck Kolberg-Pioneer scalping screen and a 5-ft. x 16-ft. JCI three-deck finish screen.

Bollinger finds the Lake Ozark plant to be highly flexible, giving Magruder Limestone the ability to make five products at any given time.

“This is similar to a permanent plant, however it is portable,” Bollinger says. “It gives us the flexibility to pull riprap, depending on what mode they’re in. This is probably one of the more versatile portable plants we have, as it can make numerous clean fractions of base material at the same time because of our screening capacities.”

In terms of capacity, Bollinger estimates the plant can produce a little more than 2,500 tons in an eight-hour shift. Only three people, including a loader operator, are required to run the Lake Ozark site. The loader operator is especially critical to the efficiency of the operation, Bollinger says, as the plant is set up in a load-and-carry fashion.

“I really don’t like to get more than 500 ft. from the face to the primary,” Bollinger says. “So we just move our primary along with it in this particular operation.”

Procuring parts

On this day, a Caterpillar 988F wheel loader is in operation at the Lake Ozark site. Magruder Limestone primarily runs Cat loaders for a couple of reasons.

A 5-ft. x 16-ft. JCI three-deck finish screen is one plant component that provides Magruder Limestone the flexibility to produce five products at any given time. Photo by Kevin Yanik

A 5-ft. x 16-ft. JCI three-deck finish screen is one plant component that provides Magruder Limestone the flexibility to produce five products at any given time. Photo by Kevin Yanik

For one, because Magruder Limestone’s sites span multiple Cat dealer territories, the company has the ability to gain leverage with three dealers: Altorfer, Fabick and Foley.

Bollinger likes having three dealer options when it comes to parts, as well.

“You’ve got three networks you can pull from,” Bollinger says. “If one doesn’t have the particular part, perhaps the other one may. That helps us a lot.”

Accessing parts for the Lake Ozark plant proved to be somewhat problematic years ago, so Bollinger employs a different strategy when a critical component goes down on a crusher or screen.

“I use a machine shop to actually make our parts, whether it’s bearing housings, shafts or something else,” he says. “Rather than go back to the OEM and wait for something to come from overseas, I’ll have it made in St. Louis. We do a lot of that.”

Crusher and screen parts aren’t necessarily waiting on the shelf like they were with manufacturers and dealers years ago, Bollinger adds. Magruder Limestone, like other producers, cannot afford to let a few days pass it by while an essential machine sits idle.

For Bollinger, the machine shop has been a viable alternative.

“For a lot of the big items we have issues with that we would typically call the OEM for, we just have it manufactured ourselves,” he says.

Securing manpower

Magruder Limestone has a very competent maintenance team based in Troy, Missouri, and Bollinger’s assistant will regularly visit the company’s sites and rebuild everything he can. Certain rebuild jobs are outsourced, though – if, for instance, Magruder Limestone requires an engine, transmission or rear end to be rebuilt.

Still, while Bollinger considers Magruder Limestone fortunate to have two capable mechanics on staff, building and maintaining a general workforce remains a real challenge.

“Our most difficult challenge today industry wide is finding people to work,”
Bollinger says. “It’s difficult to find anyone to pass a background check or a drug test. People don’t want to work. My biggest problem right now is finding a labor force.”

As Bollinger describes, there are more jobs available than there are willing participants. Magruder Limestone continues to run ads in the newspaper and market the company at job fairs, but the struggle around hiring remains.

“I need people here right now and we can’t find anybody,” Bollinger says.

Bollinger realizes he is not alone in facing this challenge locally or across Missouri. One particular job candidate sums up what Bollinger and other producers currently face.

“I recently interviewed a younger guy,” Bollinger says. “He had a question for me: ‘Would I have to actually shovel?’”

Bollinger was floored.

“I just looked at him,” Bollinger says, “and said, ‘Are you serious?’”

This particular individual probably envisioned a job in which his days were fully spent in an air-conditioned cab, Bollinger says. But that’s not the reality at Magruder Limestone – nor at any other producer for that matter.

“What you’ll see now – whether it’s men or women – is a lot of people bounce back and forth from job to job,” Bollinger says. “If they can make 50 cents more an hour over here, let’s do it. They do that versus build a career.

“You can start here as a general laborer and become a plant manager if you show interest and pride and work hard,” he adds. “Nobody ever fires anybody here for working hard. You try your best to keep your best people even through tough times. If they work hard, you will create work for them just to keep them.”


Bollinger’s background

Clark Bollinger, the production manager at Magruder Limestone, is now in his sixth year with the company. Bollinger, however, has worked in the aggregate industry for more than 30 years.

“Prior to Magruder, I worked for Martin Marietta for years in Indiana and Kansas City,” he says.

Seeking to return home to St. Louis, Bollinger found an opportunity with Magruder Limestone based in nearby Troy, Missouri, in 2014. Now, Magruder oversees nine active sites whose combined annual production totals close to 3 million tons.

“I deal with the salesmen,” Bollinger says. “Collectively, we look at our outlet, projected needs from month to month and throughout the years. I then manage the operations and production as needed and manage inventory control. A big part of my job is meeting with customers to make sure we’re satisfying their needs and producing a good product.”


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