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Producers turning to tech as solution to labor shortage

By |  December 6, 2022
Headshot: Greg Donecker, Kemper Equipment, EESSCO and Old Dominion Equipment & Supply

Donecker

This year was a favorable one for companies specializing in construction, aggregates and related materials. 

A number of industry companies experienced double-digit growth. Passage of the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act last November created a path for continuous aggregate demand in most regions needing roads, highways, bridges and utility infrastructure systems. 

Several other dynamics were also at play in the industry over the last year. Mergers and acquisitions were up, for example, and producers sought out improvements to their processing plants. Additionally, the rising costs associated with parts, fuel and labor compounded business challenges. 

Today, producers are seeking out a myriad of solutions to mitigate increasing costs. Processing plants and wear parts are being purchased, with the ultimate goal being to reduce labor costs. 

Similarly, engineered wear-lining systems constructed of ceramic rubber, urethane and specialty metals are being installed to extend the cycle time between maintenance requirements.

In addition to the improved cycle times associated with maintenance, the industry is focused on the safety and health of its employees. This is manifesting in larger work platforms, better stairs and access, rubber linings to help reduce noise, and dust enclosures that assist in improving air quality. 

Consider, too, that crushing and screening plants are being automated as a means to manage production, increase outputs and reduce the number of staff. 

Other developments

Some producers are turning to overland conveyors to minimize their hauling operations. Photo: P&Q Staff

Some producers are turning to overland conveyors to minimize their hauling operations. Photo: P&Q Staff

Additionally, more producers are utilizing technology within their maintenance programs. Take temperature-monitoring sensors for bearings and lube systems on machinery as two cases in point.

Equipment is one possible solution to the ongoing labor shortage. For instance, some producers are increasing the number of overland conveyors they utilize, and their haul truck operations are being minimized as a result.

Unfortunately, product delays remain the norm in the supply chain. These continue to cause pain, but some suppliers are proving apt at delivering alternative solutions in the wake of extended lead times. 

A trend we have seen in 2022 – and one I know will continue into the future – is value-added processing systems. Some producers are evaluating previously considered lower-valued reserves and collaborating with knowledgeable suppliers to explore installing new technology into the plant that provides ownership with a higher-price-per-ton of product.

Greg Donecker is president of Kemper Equipment, an equipment dealer and a supplier of parts, service and engineered systems for aggregate and mineral processing plants. The company is based in Honey Brook, Pennsylvania.


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