RAP Management LLC Does it First
BY Sandy Lender
Ryan Smith grew up in the asphalt industry because his father, Fritz Smith, started an asphalt paving and manufacturing company the year Ryan was born. He’s well aware that this industry offers a sustainable method for building infrastructure, and doesn’t have to sacrifice quality or profit when increasing its environmental stewardship.
“One of the challenges we face in our industry is the idea of cost,” Ryan said. “We need to curtail that perception. I consider our business sustainable not because we recycle, but by recycling we can lower our cost to manufacture, which means savings we can pass along to our customers.”
Ryan has applied that concept to a new business venture. In 2016, he launched RAP Management LLC, Columbus, Ohio, and partnered with Ammann Group, headquartered in Langenthal, Switzerland, to build what he says is the first new site developed for an asphalt plant in the Columbus area in 35 years, and the first Ammann plant in the United States. The specific model Ryan chose to build is the ABP HRT, which made its debut at BAUMA 2013.
Jenelle Strawbridge, the Ammann North America sales manager, explained how the relationship came about. “The plant was introduced at BAUMA 2013. Then we met Ryan at CONEXPO 2014. Ryan went to Switzerland, met with Guenter [Tesch, the commercial manager, plants, for Ammann], and decided he wanted to be the person to bring it to the U.S. market. He’s trying to change the industry. He’s not afraid to prove you can run high recycle.”
Using high percentages of recycled material is one goal for Ryan. His research shows 36 million tons of reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) are going to stockpiles every year in the United States. “We need a business plan that uses this material,” Ryan said.
His plan is a good start.
“The technology hasn’t necessarily been there in the past for high recycling,” Ryan explained.
Tesch concurred that it came about as recently as the 1990s overseas. “The technology was introduced beginning of the ’90s. You will rarely find a plant in Germany without this RAP system on it.”
The RAP system they reference introduces virgin aggregate with the bottom drum and recycle with the top drum. The literature from BAUMA 2013 explains: “The conceptional integration of the parallel drum system directly above the mixer optimizes the material flow and reduces wear inside the recycling system.” (See Sidebar for Stats) The information explains that there’s no need to overheat aggregate or RAP and that “gentle heating” of the binding agent contained in the reclaimed asphalt is what allows the system to maintain the quality throughout the process.
“The true innovation is to heat some of the RAP,” Ryan said. “We take the coarser RAP that has less bitumen, we heat it in the dryer on top of the plant, which uses induction to heat the material so it’s not in direct contact with the flame. We’re using less energy, but applying it in a more efficient manner.”
That efficiency crosses over to production rate. “We can run 175 tons per hour with 60 percent recycle materials,” Ryan said. “If we’re in a high-demand scenario, we can reduce the recycle percentage to increase the tons per hour, achieving over 250 tons per hour.”
At this time, the plant has 200 tons of storage underneath the plant, but RAP Management planned ahead for growth. “We installed the anchors to expand the silos,” Ryan said.
Using the higher percentages, according to Ryan, will involve changing the industry’s mindset regarding the process and end product. He listed three main facets to his plan for “changing the mindset,” and they include a look at available technology.
First, he believes in the plant he’s built. He believes in showing its technology to his customers.
Second, he believes in testing. “We can create a better job mix formula PG binder or increase our product’s usable temperature range by introducing some chemistry into our manufacturing process.”
Third, he believes in the workability of high recycle mixes, and he had already received positive feedback on the material at the end of last season. “We’re getting our materials in front of our customers.”
In 2017, the team at RAP Management and Ammann Group pushed themselves to get the plant up and running. They started construction in June. To pave the site, they produced the first asphalt mix made by an Ammann plant in the United States. It consisted of 60 percent recycled aggregate and 2.8 percent binder replacement, for a total of 62.8 percent recycled materials.
“We were challenged against the end of the construction season,” Ryan explained. But they got it done and produced about 5,000 tons of high recycle material for customers. “They said it was the best mix they’d received all year,” Ryan beamed. “It was validating. I’ve been chasing this dream for five years. Most of the credit goes to my father. He was always looking to grow laterally where he worked. In 2007, when that company purchased its last plant, it had recycling capabilities. I took a leap and left his company to leverage recycling. I spent over a year looking for solutions and connected with Ammann four years ago. They have clearly focused their core competency on recycling.”
Ryan likes the idea of going with a high quality high recycle mix, or don’t bother.
As this season started up, RAP Management was swamped with work.
“It’s been quite the busy start to our first season,” Belinda Smith shared. She’s the marketing director for RAP Management, and wife to
Ryan, and sees the early success as a testament to her husband’s hard work, and work ethic, passed down from his father. “Fritz has been a mentor to Ryan, obviously for many reasons, but is enjoying retirement. Ryan is certainly following in his entrepreneurial footsteps by creating another industry leading construction business in the Smith family name. This time Ryan is the CEO. Fritz was extremely forward thinking in his career, a characteristic that Ryan both inherited and is inspired by in looking up to his father.
“RAP Management has been a five-year, grueling project. Building a construction business from the ground up in an industry with long-existing players is no easy feat. The tenacity, work ethic and unwavering focus that Ryan possesses is something we are all amazed by and incredibly proud of.”
“My wife has supported me through this journey,” Ryan said. “She has done all of my branding and marketing. She knows first-hand the journey and the challenges. She deserves thanks.”