Launch Slideshow

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Quick Thinking

Quick Thinking

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    The Meyer Material plant is right on the edge of the Tri-State Tollway (I-294) in northern Illinois.

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    Producers could find additional revenue by tapping into the public works market, which is projected to be steady in 2009.

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    Producers could find additional revenue by tapping into the public works market, which is projected to be steady in 2009.

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    Elmhurst Chicago Stone's Mark Kroeger helped set up a portable plant near a very busy, high-profile interchange on the I-88 portion of the Illinois Tollway.

Another unique aspect of the public works market is the way concrete is bid. For most projects, producers provide the cost of the material FOB at the plant. General contractors typically hire the haulers. On many projects the contractor hires dump trucks and coordinates the number needed for each pour. Even so, producers often supplement the trucking with their mixers, charging an hourly rental rate to the contractor.

Conerty sees the success of producer involvement as subcontractors to the project managers on these large infrastructure projects as a regional phenomenon. As projects from the stimulus package start to come on-line, producers are eager to capture this expanding market. Conerty has had inquiries from around the country over the past few weeks from producers wanting to emulate the Chicago-area success.

Everything must be right

For Dennis Spoerlein, a 40-year veteran and plant engineer/fleet manager at Meyer Material, producer involvement in large public works projects is nothing new. “I remember working on a portable plant when we helped construct several of the runways at O'Hare more than two decades ago,” he says, admitting this go- around is vastly different. “While the expectation for production rates is about the same, contractors are demanding more product consistency. The cost of failure is very substantial.”

Meyer Material is a prominent producer in the area, with more than 30 plants in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. It has entered the contractor market in a big way with two portable, high-production plants.

“We try to work with our contractor-customers to plan for the utilization of these operations,” says Spoerlein. This spring, Meyer is setting up a plant near I-294 and Lake Cook Road. As his experienced crew completes the scale calibration, the final set-up in the process, Spoerlein is already planning potential moves for the fall. “Where we go when we're finished here in a few months depends on where the work is,” he says.

Spoerlein believes proper plant setup is the key for success. “With so much riding on our effort, we take time to make sure everything is as well-prepared as possible,” he says. Just before the move, Spoerlein works with the contractor to discuss traffic patterns and production schedules. He tries to anticipate the needed stockpile capacities. And he coordinates his activities with other local Meyer operations.

On this site, Spoerlein's greatest challenge has been poor soil bearing capacity. The contractor had just used the area as a stockpile staging area for crushed recycled pavement. Spoerlein had about a week to ready the site for the plant.

“The area was a mess, and with all the rain we had this spring, the subgrade was very soft,” says Spoerlein. “We had to install a geotextile and haul in tons of rock to make the site sturdy enough for truck traffic. And we had to beef up our foundation for the plant.”