Hot Mix Materials Recycles in Record Numbers
When Chuck Calvert started Hot Mix Materials, Inc., Kansas City, Missouri, in 2007, he had already been operating a successful asphalt laydown business. As he continued to need more and more asphalt for his jobs, he began to run into issues getting everything he needed from existing asphalt plants in the Kansas City metro area.
“[Chuck] wanted more control. If he needed asphalt on Monday, he wanted to know he could get it on Monday,” Allen Conway, general manager of Hot Mix Materials said. At that point, only one plant in the Kansas City area did not have its own laydown crew. Conway estimates that each plant’s laydown crew requires about 70 percent of that plant’s asphalt.
“If you’re in that other 30 percent, you can’t always get what you need when you want it,” Conway said. Hot Mix Materials purchased a 2008 Tarmac International, Inc. counter-flow plant and began producing its own asphalt. But Chuck and Conway soon came to the realization that they, too, would become a plant that required the majority of the asphalt it produced for its own laydown crew.
“We didn’t want to be in competition with our customers,” Conway said. So, to differentiate themselves and better serve their customers, Chuck sold his asphalt laydown company, American Marking and Paving Co., to focus entirely on asphalt production with Hot Mix Materials.
“To this day, I believe there are only two plants in the Kansas City metro area that don’t have their own laydown crews, Hot Mix Materials being one of them,” Conway said.
“We treat all of our customers with respect, whether they buy 10 tons or 10,000 tons,” Conway said. “I know a lot of customers don’t feel like they get that from some of the other plants around town. That’s not the case here.”
Hot Mix Materials, By the Numbers
With its 2008 Tarmac counter-flow plant with a rated tonnage of 300 tons per hour, Hot Mix Materials produced just under 320,000 tons in 2015—a record year for the company.
“We knew Tarmac was a local company in Kansas City, and felt like they would be a good vendor since they’re local and might make delivery of parts a little easier for us,” Conway said. He called Ron Heap and Brian Tann, who offered equipment layouts and quotations to help them put together what they needed. “As it turns out, it was a great marriage [with Tarmac].”
“Hot Mix Materials needed specific requirements and custom equipment design engineering,” Ron Heap, president of Tarmac, said. The plant specs include five virgin cold feed bins with collector, screen deck, and weigh conveyor to dryer; two RAP bins with collector to an impact crusher, screen deck and weigh conveyor to dryer; 8.5-foot by 48-foot counter-flow drum mixer with slinger belt and Hauck burner; a baghouse for 55,000 ACFM with fan, compressor, and auger-based dust return system to the dryer; two 30,000-gallon AC tanks with heater, pre-piped; a control house with two rooms; three 200-ton surge storage bins with main drag slat and two bintop drag slats; and a 120-foot low profile truck scale.
The company produces commercial surface mixes, along with APWA mixes and base and surface, used in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Its most popular mix is commercial surface ½-inch surface mix design.
“But if a customer asks us to fine something up, or add a little rock, we do it whenever we can,” Conway said. “But they do like the half-inch surface that we make, the gradation and the look of it.”
Hot Mix Materials uses between 10 and 35 percent RAP in its mixes, and used a record amount of RAP in 2015.
“It is the most important ingredient at our facility,” Conway said, “as it is with most plants in the KC metro area.” Conway said plants in Kansas City do not run a lot of virgin asphalt. With the company’s Tarmac counter-flow plant he said they are able to incorporate more RAP than they would with a parallel flow plant, due to the increased potential for stack issues in parallel flow plants.
The record use of RAP goes hand-in-hand with Hot Mix Material’s record year, in general. “When our total tonnage is more, we’ll use more RAP,” Conway said. The company has relied on a handful of milling subcontractors in the area to provide them with their RAP since selling its milling operations in 2013. To crush the RAP, Hot Mix Materials has an in-line Rubble Hog crusher, made in Missouri by Getz Recycling, and a Terex Pegson 4242SR crusher for any large asphalt tear-out material.
Heap said crushing their RAP just before using it helps keep moisture low and gradation consistent.
Although virgin costs are among the lowest they’ve been since the company was founded, Conway doesn’t expect demand for RAP to decrease, unless other producers stop or reduce using it.
“And honestly, I don’t believe that will ever happen in this area,” he said. “And as far as other virgin components go—rock, sand, etc.—those prices are on an upward move.”
Hot Mix Materials also uses RAS in several of its designs since making some initial changes to its drum mixer.
“We made slight flighting changes in the drum itself, changes to the entry point of the RAS coming into the drum, and then we also have baghouse dust flowing in with the RAS into the drum, too,” Conway said. “Those few things made all the difference in the world to us.”
Due to lack of demand from its customers, Hot Mix Materials does not currently produce WMA. “[Our customers] are looking for heat, not a warm material,” Conway said. “We’ll continue to provide them with the products they require for their type of work.”
Ultimately, Conway doesn’t see any big changes in material demand or mix changes on the horizon, and doesn’t expect the passage of the Highway Bill to directly affect Hot Mix Materials.
“If some money from it flows in the Kansas City area, it could give some of the local asphalt plants with laydown crews a shot in the arm to do something out on the interstates and freeways,” he said. “Maybe if they need more asphalt for their big projects, the littler guys that buy from them might look somewhere else.”
“As time rolls along, we will see how the market and the economy goes. If we need to upgrade to a larger plant, then that’s what we’ll do,” Conway said. “But only time will tell.”
Conway had been working for another asphalt producer in the Kansas City area for almost 23 years when Chuck asked him to help start an asphalt plant. Although they were getting started at the cusp of a recession, Conway said there “wasn’t any question that we could make it fly.”
“We knew streets are going to get paved regardless of the economy,” Conway said. “Chuck knew that I had the experience on the production side, and with his laydown knowledge, it seemed like a perfect fit. [The company] also had that small family feeling, and Chuck really cares about his employees, and I felt that.”
Chuck’s children, Jennifer Latier and Chase Calvert, also work in the business. Jennifer is the president and manages the accounts and the office, and as Executive Vice President, Chase provides a variety of support to Jennifer, Chuck and Conway.
Ted Knight is the plant manager and key man at the plant. “He works diligently to keep our busy daily scheduling straight,” Conway said. “And this is no easy task. Just imagine [supplying] 15 different laydown crews with schedules changing by the hour.”
Hot Mix Materials also employs four seasonal employees at its plant. Dan Catron is the plant operator, Mike Lawrence is their “versatile utility man that can do it all,” Conway said, Karl Pierson in maintenance and Loader Tony Wheeler. “All of these guys do a wonderful job and are key reasons for our success.” The company’s office manager, Theresa Hall, is also an integral part of the Hot Mix Materials team.
Stay on Schedule
“Great seasons never come easy,” Conway said. “It takes hard work, teamwork and constant communication between ourselves and with our customers.”
To achieve maximum production capabilities every day, Conway said it requires diligent scheduling.
“When we first started, guys thought they could just call up and get 500 tons for tomorrow without first giving us some prior notice,” Conway said. Although there were days Hot Mix Materials could accommodate, the company has encouraged its customers to work in advance. “Year over year, our customers have gotten a lot better with sending us a weekly schedule the Thursday or Friday before so we can get them into our system.”
For projects of 2,000 tons or more, Conway likes to see schedules coming in a couple weeks in advance.
“It’s one of the things we’ve been preaching. We ask them to please send us a schedule, and they have really started doing a much better job,” Conway said.
Conway said another important aspect of staying on schedule while keeping customers happy is to be 100 percent honest with customers.
“We know customers don’t like hearing a ‘Yes’ and then on delivery day, we didn’t do even close to what we said we could,” Conway said. “We’ll always tell you how it’s going to be.”
That said, Conway said Hot Mix Materials will always strive to provide its clients with the mix they need. “Without our customers, we have nothing. They are all important, from the smallest to the largest.”