When the family-run Rohrer’s Quarry, Inc., first opened in 1887, it was located in the middle of one of the largest limestone deposits in Pennsylvania,
When the family-run Rohrer’s Quarry, Inc., first opened in 1887, it was located in the middle of one of the largest limestone deposits in Pennsylvania, in the town of Lititz. The plant’s primary business for 75 years was producing agricultural limestone for the farms that surrounded the property for miles in every direction.
But in 1962, the company decided to add a ready mixed plant to its operation. Since then, the company has been delivering product in a market around its Lancaster County location to cities like Hershey, Lebanon and the city of Lancaster, but not into Harrisburg, according to one owner.
The Lititz facility went through a major overhaul in 1990 to introduce automation to the production line. The process to erect a new ready mixed plant began about three-and-a-half years ago, says President and CEO Wilbur Rohrer. We had maxed out the old plant as far as production, and we couldn’t grow if the market changed.
Driven by the desire for an expanded product line, the ability to deliver roller-compacted concrete and other specialized mixes, and to maintain better quality control, Rohrer’s began looking at new plants. The death of the co-owner in charge of concrete early in the process delayed the decision on a new plant about a year, explains Rohrer. After visiting other plants operating various mixers, the owners selected Con-E-Co’s new HRM-12 horizontal reversing drum model. A central mixed plant is faster and gives us more of what we want in terms of quality control and capacity. We want our share of the market to stay the same when business improves, says Rohrer. In order to grow, we had to update.
Once the mixer was selected, local Con-E-Co dealer Mid Atlantic Concrete Equipment helped Rohrer’s go through their options and specify the appropriate plant to go with the HRM-12. The new plant is a SLP-GS-RM with three, 225-ton cement silos and 340 tons of aggregate capacity divided into six equal compartments. The plant is fed by a 430-ft. vertical curve conveyor from six, 12- _ 15-ft. receiving hoppers set into a below-grade concrete bunker. At the top of the long conveyor, aggregate makes a 110-degree turn onto a shorter conveyor, which then dumps into a turnhead over the aggregate bin.
Batch control is handled by a Command Alkon Command Batch system. Two 15,000-gal. Infern-O-Therm tanks fed by Clean Burn waste oil heaters supply process water year round. In a dual effort to eliminate potential for noise and dust and protect the operation from the elements, the plant is fully enclosed. Horst Construction built the surrounding structure. Erection on the $5 million project began in January 2008, with startup occurring in July, making Rohrer’s Quarry the first company to have a HRM-12 mixer in regular operation.
With 25 years of aggregate reserves still to be mined and the possibility of getting permits to work some of the surrounding land [Some we own; some we don’t, explains Rohrer], the thinking behind the concrete side of the company has always been to have minimal impact on the nearby residential development and surrounding agriculture. Everything is fairly flat here, so we are very visible, says Rohrer. It’s a challenge to run an active operation, so we built the plant down in the first level of the property’s mined-out Pit #1 [the active quarrying takes place in Pit #2]. So all lights and noise are below ground level.
Our property is actually located in two townships, so that makes permitting all the more challenging. But, we have a good relationship with both, and they consider us a good neighbor. Plus, the owners live in the community. At our permit meetings for the new plant, some of the residents from the community came in unsolicited to talk on our behalf.
Rohrer said his customer base is diversified enough that when one market is down, another usually goes up. Obviously, we’re not seeing a lot of residential work right now, but we do have commercial, industrial, and agricultural to keep us busy, he says. For things to be bad here, it would have to be bad nationwide. But, we probably have more retirement facilities than any other county in Pennsylvania. We also do a lot of school work and mega-churches.
While the primary work of building the new concrete plant was underway, Rohrer’s took the opportunity to upgrade other aspects of its operation. Wilbur Rohrer’s son Travis, who manages the stone and concrete sales and delivery, explains that one priority from his side of the operation was to improve the dispatch office and create a break room and locker area for drivers near the plant, providing amenities lacking on this part of the property.
Whereas with the old setup, the drivers would often enter the dispatch office while waiting to loadout, Travis Rohrer wanted to separate the two groups to ensure that the dispatcher and control room operators were not distracted or disturbed. We needed to separate those two groups to keep the dispatch operation from making mistakes, he observes. But more than that, we needed a break room, kitchen and locker room for the drivers in this part of the operation. We can also use that space for safety training. We also added a bathroom, which was a necessity.
Ten Bosch IP cameras are set up to give the batch room operator an overview of the operation. These cameras feed to a server that makes the images available anywhere via the internet.
Safety is a key aspect to the new plant as well, according to the younger Rohrer. We have safety cords along the conveyor belts, better catwalks, more storage, easier-to-feed bins, he states. Since everything is gravity fed, there aren’t as many moving parts in this plant, so that means less maintenance. It also means production goes much faster.
In fact, according to Travis Rohrer, although the new plant has not been pushed in terms of its capacity, he has noticed that load times have been cut by more than half, from six to eight minutes down to two minutes per 10-yd. load. We are also capable of stack loading two loads on top of each other.
He adds that eventually the plant intends to reuse its waste water and begin to look at the ÎgreenÌ possibilities of its operation. We do recycle some concrete, he says. But we did that before.
Currently the ready mixed operation has a fleet of 25 mixer trucks Û 19 Oshkosh front-discharge and six Mack-mounted rear-discharge models. In this area, the demand is for front-discharge, so the driver controls everything without having to get out of the truck, says Rohrer. I can’t say we have drivers for all 25 trucks at this point, but we will.
Rohrer’s opted not to dismantle its older wet-process plant, and it does occasionally get called into action when things get busy, but, according to Travis that is the exception, not the rule.