Aggregates Manager

February 2014

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Page 27 of 51

OPERATIONSExperience ILLUSTRATED Voices of Don Gengelbach I ▼ ndustry consolidation allows producers to leverage buying power. According to Don Gengelbach, equipment manager for Tell City, Ind.-based Mulzer Crushed Stone, the company looks at equipment needs across all of its sites annually. Mulzer takes a teamwork approach to equipment decisions, with input from the owner, production supervisor, and Gengelbach. "By using a combination of proprietary and purchased software as a planning resource, and grouping pieces of equipment for quotes, the process is easier than it once was," he says. Software helps producers make such decisions as whether to upsize or rebuild equipment. "We might have a site that is using three smaller haul trucks, but determine that, for improved efficiency, the site would be better served with two larger haul trucks," Gengelbach says. He adds that a plant improvement that increases tonnage could dictate the need for upsized or greater numbers of equipment. "Beyond that, for most locations, maximum tonnage is a set number. If you need to produce more or less, you set up single or double shifts of personnel," he says. According to Gengelbach, the company evaluates each piece of equipment when deciding to repower, rebuild, or replace, to look for the most cost-effective option. But how does this process align with the new Tier 4 engine emission regulations? "We have purchased some new and used equipment in recent years that have Tierclass engines, and in the coming years, we will be buying some new equipment that have Tier 4," he says. "You have to look at utilization, the cost-effective options, and how strict or lenient your state regulations are. For Mulzer, we still have a large mixed fleet of equipment that is pre-Tier. If we determine it's more cost-effective to repower or to rebuild the equipment, we'll do that. If those options don't make sense, we'll buy new — which may ultimately be Tier 4." AGGREGATES MANAGER Tim Noon "W ▼ hen you're sizing your mobile fleet, you should always start with your production goal," says Tim Noon, senior marketing training consultant for Caterpillar, Inc. "Is it an hourly production rate? A yearly target? Are you working five or seven days a week? Begin sizing your fleet based on the amount of material you're producing in the timeframe." Noon says variables include the type of loading unit, which dictates flexibility in size and number of trucks required. Proximity of the primary plant to the working face certainly affects fleet choices. But producers also should be thinking about the direction the mine will take, and whether land has been acquired and reserves permitted. "There was a time when you could plan for a 10- or 20-year lifecycle on a machine," Noon says. "But I've seen huge changes in the industry over the last 20 years." Changes such as emission regulations and the tiered engines ushered in to meet increasingly stringent emission levels have made it more difficult for producers to look ahead 10 to 15 years for their fleet requirements. Noon says that engine rebuild capabilities on the manufacturers' parts have allowed many producers to meet regulations while extending machine lifecycles. "You can generally rebuild a machine for 50 percent to 70 percent the cost of new," he says. Tier 4 emission regulations are now in effect, but most states have "grandfathered" permission to use lower-tier engines. In fact, until manufacturer inventories of Tier 3 engines are depleted, producers in most states can continue to use them for rebuilds. "Producers need to know that Tier 4 engines have strict fuel quality and maintenance requirements," says Noon. "There is a level of care that must stay on track so the engine will do what it's designed to do." Dennis Hunter W ▼ hile correct equipment capacities and matches are critical to meeting the feed rate needs for the plant, operator ability is another factor that greatly affects the material flow efficiency, says Dennis Hunter, regional equipment manager for the Pacific region of Knife River Corp. "As a corporation, we started looking at the skill levels of our operators," he says. "We decided there was a need for training, and we went and had our own operators trained as certified trainers." What Knife River discovered was that the company began to save money in maintenance costs, equipment availability, machine life, and rebuild opportunities. "When the operators began to work the machines correctly, the equipment didn't have to work as hard," Hunter says. "The operation wasn't jerky and inconsistent. Uptime increased." The company now completely supports extensive training. The company also went through a proactive and thorough preparation for Tier 4 engine emission regulations. With facilities in California, Hunter says preparing for Tier 4 regulations has been an ongoing battle. "We moved ahead with equipment purchases and rebuilds with higher Tier engines, starting when the regulation was written," he says. "We didn't want to get caught in a situation where we were trying to comply late in the game." While the goal has been to rebuild machines where possible, the company's push in California has been to purchase new equipment to ensure long-term compliance with the new emissions regulations. "You can rebuild an old unit for 50 percent to 60 percent of the cost to replace. But there's still a date where that machine won't be operable," he says. "With the stricter compliance need in California, we've had to look at that date more seriously, and we've found that often replacement is the better choice."

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