P&Q Profile: KPI-JCI and Astec Mobile Screens’ Bill Royce

By |  August 2, 2017

Derrick Brooks. Randall Cunningham. Rod Woodson.

These legendary college football players who went on to illustrious careers in the NFL were among those inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame as part of the 2016 class. Yet another individual enshrined in that 14-player class was Bill Royce, a regional sales manager at KPI-JCI & Astec Mobile Screens who has dedicated the last 15 years of his career to the aggregate industry.

Royce, who completed his college football career at Ashland (Ohio) University in 1993 as the nation’s all-time leader in sacks (71) across all NCAA levels, got his start in the aggregate industry in sales. Royce first joined the industry through Eagle Crusher, which gave him a small territory to start before he progressed to multiple states and dealers.

Royce has spent the last six years with KPI-JCI and Astec Mobile Screens, handling a six-state territory in the Mid-Atlantic that’s supported by three dealers and the Seabees (the U.S. Naval Construction Battalions). Pit & Quarry recently connected with Royce to learn more about his Hall of Fame experience, as well as his involvement and interests related to the industry.

You’ve had an amazing stretch lately regarding your college football career, from being inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame to special honors from your alma mater? What has this experience been like for you? What do your friends and customers in the industry say when they realize you’re a College Football Hall of Famer?

Royce: It has been one of the neatest things to experience people’s reactions. Most diehard football fans want a photo or autograph. Several people have said, “I had heard or knew you played college football, but…”

I have been traveling and working with our dealer reps, and they like to introduce me as a College Football Hall of Famer, which usually gets the meetings off on the right note. The experience keeps getting better, too. I was very shocked when I first found out about it, and this is not something I take lightly. I am a representative of the game, and I take that seriously.

Looking back on your days at Ashland, what did you take away from the gridiron that you regularly apply to your job in the aggregate industry?

Royce: You learn through athletics and playing team sports to work with various individuals, whether it’s coaches, trainers or teammates. Just like you can be a freshman playing with seniors, younger people come in and work with older employees. You’ve got to learn to work together to make sure you’re moving in the right direction.

Being an athlete and now being in sales, you are always pushing yourself. You want to do well and compete. You want to win. I don’t want to put all that practice time in and mess around on game day. As a salesman, we do pre-work before we go to the customer – myself, the dealer and factory support people. You have to communicate. You have to be crystal clear to the dealer or end user about the proposed solution or piece of equipment, and I have to listen to make sure we are getting their information and relaying that back to our team.

It’s really about teamwork and working with various personalities. A lot of contractors are bidding work and rolling the dice. If something doesn’t work or equipment breaks down, they’re the ones who could be hurt the most. So a lot of it goes back to preparation, approaches to the task and if you can work within a team environment.

What have you enjoyed most about your career in the aggregate and recycling industries?

Royce: It’s a really neat industry and you meet some really good people. When you get down to it, so many industries are based off the aggregate industry. Without roads and infrastructure, you cannot move your product from A to B.

When people ask what I do, I tell them I’m in the aggregate industry and they’re bewildered. But I’ll say to them: “You see your smartphone? Well, without a certain grade or spec of sand you don’t get that glass.”

We’re in the materials business, but we also recycle and manage the lifecycle of the aggregate by the time we put it in a road or a building. Our industry does such a great job of managing it from the minute it’s taken out of the ground, processed through the plant and leaves that quarry or pit for a cement or asphalt plant.

Do you have any concerns regarding the future of the industry?

Royce: Finding the next generation of workers is crucial. I see it all the time in my travels to customer jobsites, and I noticed it at this past ConExpo-Con/Agg. There still are not enough younger workers getting into our industry.

Our industry is “tribal knowledge,” meaning you are not coming out of high school or college and going to step into this business either on the manufacturer, dealer or customer side and be able to produce out of the gate. It does and will take time to learn about how our industry works, and that information comes from the older workers who have the skillsets and experience to pass down to the new worker.

When I started my career, I had no formal training. I was thrown into the market and told to “go sell something.” Fortunately for me, I had people who helped me earlier in my career, along with several customers, to learn this business. Most importantly, I learned how to take care of the customer the right way and become a professional.

Based on the regular conversations you have with customers, what else typically keeps them up at night?

Royce: Well, right now everyone is pretty pumped up. But a big challenge for producers is that it’s taking longer for them to get their money. Everyone’s holding on to dollars. Certain states are holding money for six to 12 months, but that contractor or set producer expects to get paid in a net 30 days and a net 60 days. You hear stories of guys getting strung out, and that goes back to some of the uncertainty in the market.

New Jersey, for example, is financially challenged. They basically ran out of money last June. There’s noise about whether they can do their projects. Producers used to get paid in a timely fashion. Now, they’re chasing money for the rest of the year. They’re under a lot of pressure to chase accounts receivables, whether it’s a private company you’re working for [or another entity]. It’s an unforeseen thing. It’s tough because our contractors pay their people, but then that job starts “stringing them out.”

What other developments do you see affecting the industry in the coming years?

Royce: Dust is going to be a game changer. Considering the rules that are coming around silica dust, it is going to be interesting to see how that is enforced. It’s going to be particularly interesting with asphalt. Whether dust is created in quarries or with portable equipment, OEMs will have to look at how they can manage dust without water.

The fly-by-night [contractors] trying to make a buck that show up with untrained workers and still have a pretty low price are operating on borrowed time. Some of my bigger customers have MSHA (Mine Safety & Health Administration) training and hazardous material training. They’re going to weather this much better than the producer or contractor who doesn’t have that skill.

I’m guaranteeing you this: In the next five years, we’re going to be expected to knock the dust down with less water. This is a natural progression from emissions [regulations].

What sort of construction activity do you expect to see for the rest of 2017 and into 2018?

Royce: I think ’17 is going to be a good, strong year. I think 2018 can be ridiculously good, once everybody settles down and they see jobs dropping in.

Five things about Royce

First job: Sales representative at Western Southern Life Insurance Co.
Top travel spot: Florence, Alabama, with my family.
Hobbies: Working out at home and on the road, golf, Supercross/Vintage Motocross events. On the Ashland University Gridiron Club board of directors.
Sports teams: Ashland University, Michigan Wolverines, Oakland Raiders, Columbus Blue Jackets and Cleveland Indians.
Books: The Bible, and my roommate in college just coauthored a book called “Faith: Applying Faith in Daily Living.”

Photos: KPI-JCI /  Astec Mobile Screens / Bill Royce

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