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.

Once the site was prepped, the crew moved the plant from its previous temporary home about 10 miles away. It was about a three-day effort. Normally the transfer involves about 17 trailers of equipment, each timed for delivery to avoid congestion in normally small areas. “Everything has been made as mobile as possible,” says the production manager.

Spoerlein's preparation includes plant design and operation. He has designed each operation with a contingency plan. This includes a second water pump, cement blower, and a host of spare parts, should the need occur. His crew also conducts a thorough inspection of the plant, checking bearings, wear liners, and all electrical wiring during the setup. “I can't afford to have any downtime during a pour,” he says.

Spoerlein credits his crew for the success in the producer's new business opportunity. Many of his employees have been with him for almost 20 years, and he relies on their workmanship.

A whole new world

Mark Kroeger thought he had a busy life before. But when his company, Elmhurst Chicago Stone Co., won some of the Tollway work a few years ago, life became more complex. The producer entered the public works contractor market as a material subcontractor providing the concrete on the I-355–I-55 interchange.

Fortunately for Kroeger, the first experience wasn't too far from home. The project's timetable allowed the producer to set up its high-volume plant on the same site as a commercial plant.

“We positioned the portable plant near the main area plant, but ran it as a separate operation,” says Kroeger, who found it best to use his commercial plants for small pours. “We tried to fire up the high-production plant for the large pours.”

When the general contractor later won a paving contract on a section of the I-88 Tollway, Kroeger and his team moved to another high-profile spot. It was the first time he had set up a plant in such a public place.

“At first, I was distracted by the number of cars passing by, but we got used to it,” he says. “Our team practices good housekeeping and safe operations, so it was business as usual.”

He agrees with Spoerlein on the importance of a thorough pre-site plan. Kroeger was concerned with water supply. His options included hauling water to the site at night after each major pour. In the end, Kroeger installed a temporary water feed from a nearby municipal line. “Given the cost of failure, we thought it best to limit truck traffic to our plant,” he says.

Kroeger advises any producer thinking about entering the public works market to use similar materials at all nearby plants. The producer had all plants use the same cement and aggregates, load the mix recipe in all batch computers, and make production tests on a just-in-case basis.

Kroeger, a 30-year veteran, says the public works experience was initially hectic, but his crew quickly got into the swing of things. “I give our crews credit,” he says. “We not only were able to expand our business, but we took care of our regular commercial customers as well. It was a win-win project.”