From Astec Industries
In the southern Indiana and Indianapolis area, the name Milestone carries a reputation for both high quality and high quantity of asphalt products. Milestone Contractors LP, with headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, operates several asphalt plants, one of which is a legacy facility in southwestern Indianapolis that was the biggest of its kind, and had been owned by one of the original companies in the area. Milestone employees “draw upon a rich history in asphalt,” according to the company website. “Today’s modern Milestone has been formed from the merging of a number of small, family-owned companies, and some of these branches of Milestone have been in business since the 1930s.”
Time moves forward, and in 2016, the silos at the legacy facility were in need of repair and various components were nearing the end of their lifecycles. Milestone managers made the decision to replace the facility with a 600 TPH Astec plant with nine silos, 12 cold feed bins and six liquid asphalt cement (AC) storage tanks—making it one of the largest plants not just in the Indiana area, but in the country.
Mike James, Astec sales representative, said, “It’s certainly the largest plant I’ve ever been a part of. Just the parts list on this order was 13 pages.”
The designs called for maximum efficiency, as well as increased productivity. Originally, Milestone was considering overnight silos, but given the enormous production rates expected from Milestone’s customers, the company chose the long-term, four-day storage silos in a 3-by-3 setup.
According to James, if customer orders perform according to Milestone’s expectations, he wouldn’t be surprised to see an additional row of silos in the future. That’s because the plant will perform with a high percentage of recycle material. James shared that running mixes with high percentages of recycled asphalt pavement (RAP) has been challenging for producers in the past, but technology is catching up to the environmentally friendly practice. “Astec’s reputation is to fulfill customer expectations and they know it,” James said.
That’s true of customer Mark McGaughey, who served as plant manager for several years before becoming corporate maintenance manager for Milestone.
“We customized the plant to meet our specific needs with nine 320-ton silos and four truck scales equipped with RFID; this is probably the leading edge in terms of technology of any asphalt plant in the nation,” McGaughey said.
The Indianapolis plant traditionally ran a high load, meeting the needs of many Milestone customers in the area. It was common to have 60 to 70 trucks ready to go at the start of an average workday. McGaughey shared, “Before the new plant when we were running only 500 TPH, you could pretty much set your watch by when those early morning trucks would pull out and the 9:30 to 10 a.m. trucks would be waiting empty—even if the plant was full at the start of the day.”
Therefore, when Milestone first considered replacing the Indianapolis plant, McGaughey and his team considered two factors. First, they recognized that the ship-through rate of the plant was very high and likely to increase. Second, they wanted to take advantage of the technology improvements that had been brought to market since the plant was initially built in 1992. “There were several developments in the market that had been introduced since the plant was first opened,” McGaughey noted, “Upgrades that went from parallel flow to counter flow, 400 TPH to 500 TPH—every iteration helped us, but the underlying cabling and backbone for the plant was stuck in 1992. Now, we have a Dillman counterflow drum running 600 TPH and it’s supported by the most advanced technology on the market.”
Replacing the old systems was more than just a question of convenience. Milestone knew that as the plant’s customer demands continued to increase, the probability of a catastrophic failure occurring sometime during the year was growing. Milestone President C.J. Potts thought it wise to invest in the future of the facility and bring the Indianapolis site into the 21st century with a new plant—one with all the bells and whistles.
“I sat down with Mike James on the curb out by the plant,” McGaughey remembered, “and I told him what we wanted, what I had in my mind of what the perfect plant would be.” James then presented Milestone with a quote on their designs that pleased the powers-that-be at Milestone’s corporate headquarters. Not only could they build the plant of their dreams, but do so for less than they expected.In his 30 years with Milestone, McGaughey has gone through several plant builds, but this was the first time he was given carte blanche to build a plant from the ground up. No piece—not the control house, not the drum, not a single light switch—would be left from the original facility.
With everything wiped clean, the land was cleared off and reimagined for the new plant. Milestone even repositioned the entrance, loading, and exit points for the trucks to further streamline the future plant’s efficiency and driver safety.
“We have the ability to load three trucks on three scales simultaneously,” McGaughey added. “With this plant’s capacity, that situation may not happen often, but it’s comforting to know that the plant can handle it when needed. It’s just really helped with our customers’ flow patterns, getting in and getting out, as well as providing ample space for the next truck that’s waiting in line.”And, the new plant delivers. “This plant will do 600 tons with ease,” McGaughey proudly noted. “Easy on the plant, and easy on the operator. Just type six-zero-zero and enter, and watch it go. Only the loader operator can tell the difference when this plant is running 250 TPH to 600 TPH. No change in pitch. No excessive noise. We’ve actually had people look out to the bin just to prove to themselves the plant’s running. It’s that quiet. Astec did a wonderful job.”
The Milestone family provides asphalt mix from a number of plants. For FOB mix prices, call on them at these locations: out of Indianapolis, (317) 616-4908; out of Lafayette, (765) 250-4021; out of Columbus or Richmond, (812) 579-5314; out of Bloomington, (812) 355-2673; or out of the Portland area, (260) 525-0209.