Scepaniak: Expect a return to normalcy in 2023

By |  December 5, 2022
John Scepaniak


Looking back at 2022, many of the challenges we encountered came from forces outside of our control.

We had tremendous anticipation for an influx of infrastructure funding, scheduling our season’s workload accordingly. Balancing private and public clients, we allocated bandwidth in the hopes of substantial Department of Transportation (DOT) work. When this ultimately did not develop, we had some scheduling gaps at midsummer that caught us off guard.

The spring thaw was drawn out in our region, with lingering cold and above-average precipitation causing many projects to stifle until late May or June. This was an unpleasant surprise given the beneficial droughts in the spring of 2021 that afforded us an early start and the ability to produce an uncharacteristic revenue influx.

In terms of this production season’s high points, we’ve seen consistent demand increases for washed aggregates. Demand was up so much, in fact, that we were required to increase our equipment and overall washing capacity by 30 percent to accommodate client consumption. As a result, we’ve learned a substantial amount about advanced aggregate washing through trial and error over the past 24 months.

Also in 2022, we saw a larger push than ever for sustainably sourced aggregates throughout our various regions – and from both public and private clients. While only historically implemented on DOT projects as a means to mitigate project expenses, we saw our private clients invest above and beyond what new resources would cost to optimize wasted material at their sites. These projects provided opportunities for our organization to test different processing strategies and get realistic cost-per-ton figures for projects of the like moving forward.

Responses to pain points

John Scepaniak says his company saw a bigger push this year for aggregates that were sustainably sourced. Photo: P&Q Staff

John Scepaniak says his company saw a bigger push this year for aggregates that were sustainably sourced. Photo: P&Q Staff

With the roller coaster of uncertainty that was the last few years, we were forced to implement solutions to many common issues such as supply chain and staffing.

From tires and grease to screens and switchgear, the supply chain for consumables and components has been our primary pain point since 2020. Before COVID, we ran a very lean operation with minimal inventory. But the past few years taught us to be more self-reliant, purchasing cone liners and screens in bulk and forecasting needs far beyond what we previously had.

We’ve invested substantially in our internal machining capabilities to manufacture our own shafts, clamp rails and wear iron to reduce the response time for breakdowns. As a result of all this, we’ve nearly reached our internal warehousing capacity and are seeking solutions accordingly.

On a similar note, we traditionally relied heavily on dealers to service both our rolling stock and processing equipment. But staffing challenges outside of our organization meant increased wait times for service. This dynamic drove us to bring on specialists who now focus solely on the maintenance of our fleet.

2023 expectations

My prediction for 2023 is for normalcy to somewhat return.

The past few years brought many unforeseeable obstacles and forced rushed solutions. So I do not foresee 2023 being a year for aggressive expansion but one of steady growth.

With capital costs and equipment procurement as the next wave of challenges, our focus in the new year is going to be on refining our processes, taking the time to self-examine and developing our personnel continuously. I believe 2023 will bear fruit from the innovations we’ve made to overcome recent challenges.

John Scepaniak is director of operations at Wm. D. Scepaniak, a family-owned and operated aggregate services contractor based in Holdingford, Minnesota.

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