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Superior’s Garrison: 2018 was a turning point

By |  December 14, 2018
Aggregate producers are forecasting several more years of significant growth, but attracting talented people to the industry remains a real challenge. Photo by Kevin Yanik

Aggregate producers are forecasting several more years of significant growth, but attracting talented people to the industry remains a real challenge. Photo by Kevin Yanik

At a major roundtable discussion more than six years ago, an aggregate industry veteran predicted 2018 would be an extremely strong year for the nation’s producers of crushed stone, sand and gravel – and for the equipment manufacturers and dealers who serve them.

This industry veteran was right on.

Following a robust and strong market in 2017, an even stronger market emerged this year. Indeed, 2018 has been a turning point.

Demand

Sand and gravel production is on the fast track, stimulating twice the demand for sand washing equipment over the previous year – and producers are forecasting at least five more years of significant growth.

A very competitive market boosted the number of mergers and acquisitions within both the producer and manufacturing sectors, as industry players beef up and jockey for better market positions. Also moving at an accelerated pace is the demand for new solutions, new products and new plants, as producers seek ways to innovate, automate and lower operating costs per ton.

Automation

Crusher automation is on the rise. More crushers are supported by full automation systems that are monitored from a smartphone or iPad. Operators can track any trend, while gauging throughput volumes and proactively pinpointing maintenance needs.

To avoid costly damage and downtime, automated crushers provide protection against tramp events while also alerting operators of any irregularities in vibration or temperature.

Labor shortages & lifecycle management

Attracting new talent to the industry remains a challenge. Producers who scaled back on labor during the recession are seeing further attrition due to today’s aging workforce. It’s getting harder to find personnel with industry experience, making innovative education and training programs imperative.

To ensure maximum uptime, manufacturers are designing equipment with greater access and ease of maintenance. Alternatively, producers are increasingly partnering with equipment dealers and manufacturers for readily available parts and service support, parts inventory management and ongoing machine lifecycle management that often includes new full black box diagnostic capabilities and valuable predictive maintenance programs.

Infrastructure crisis

When possible, cost-effective rail, barge and ship transport is replacing the trucking of aggregate materials. The latter is the result of our current crisis – a failing, outdated infrastructure and the lack of a long-term, fully-funded federal infrastructure bill.

Our roads and bridges are graded at a “D.” It was calculated in 2017 that reaching a “B” grade would require more than a $4 trillion investment. Every year we ignore this crisis dramatically increases that required investment.

Time to act

As manufacturers, we can help by providing products that are safe, reliable and deliver maximum uptime while lowering costs per ton.

As industry professionals, each of us can make a difference by continuously contacting members of Congress regarding the passage of a long-term, fully-funded infrastructure bill. Teaming up with National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association leadership is a good way to do that.

In this robust market, it’s time to act. It’s time to face our infrastructure crisis head on.

As we head into a new year, we must remain proactive and forward-thinking to ensure we sustain our industry growth for many years to come.


Headshot: John Garrison

Garrison

John Garrison is vice president of sales at Superior Industries.


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