When helping one of its members’ biggest customers develop a ready mixed plant certification program, the New York City Concrete Promotion Council looked
When helping one of its members’ biggest customers develop a ready mixed plant certification program, the New York City Concrete Promotion Council looked for ideas from an operator located not just across the Hudson River, but well beyond the Mississippi. During mid-2006 meetings at the RMC Research Foundation headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., Maricopa Readymix Concrete Co. staff offered Port Authority of New York and New Jersey representatives its take on quality control, plant technology and related certification criteria.
Why would an agency whose project roster includes the 1,776-ft. Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center site seek concrete plant information from an independent Scottsdale, Ariz., producer best known for residential work? As Concrete Products found during its first company visit in Spring 2002, Maricopa Readymix thrives on adopting commercial or proprietary in-house technology to improve concrete production and delivery.
Investment in fleet management and production technology has enabled Maricopa to nearly double in size over the past five years and, most recently, open a quality control lab and classroom facility in central Phoenix. In 2002, Maricopa stepped up as the premier user of Trimble Mobile Solutions’ GPS-enabled truck tracking system and a pilot user of ConAd, one of the industry’s first quality control tools based on business intelligence software. In 2007, Maricopa has migrated to current versions of those systems, added to fleet specs a collision-detection device for mixers operating in reverse, and rolled out a real time water added reporting service.
The latter entails custom software intercepting GPS-relayed data to Systech-powered central dispatch, and alerting customers by e-mail or text messaging when and how much water has been added to an order after the truck leaves the plant. If customers do not approve of the extra water, they can reject the load. The service is Maricopa’s latest tool in response to looming, California-styled product defect litigation tied to concrete whose water-cement ratio characteristics are insufficient for slabs in sulfate-bearing soils. On top of the water added alerts, Maricopa is testing a slump rack meter that will allow logging of as batched water-cement ratio to accompany as changed data determined by the truck-mounted meters.
Based in Scottsdale, Ariz., Maricopa Readymix was founded in 1999 by a group of residential and commercial concrete contractors. It opened its first four plants at aggregate sites through 2002. The company acquired a fifth ready mixed site from Salt River Materials Group in 2004. The expansion has positioned Maricopa around much of the Phoenix market periphery.
To improve service to the southwest quadrant, the company opened a sixth plant last year adjacent to a tribe-operated pit on the Gila River Indian Reservation. The operation is especially geared to the City of Maricopa, where population has grown to 40,000, from 1,000 seven years ago, and is on track to reach 100,000 by 2010.
The sequence of plant openings has allowed us to make design changes to reduce maintenance and improve safety, says Maricopa Operations Manager Al Benjamin. I have one maintenance manager covering six plants, adding that his most recent shut down was due to power and not equipment failure.
He credits low maintenance and continuous operation at the Gila River plant to such details as: all pipes are off the ground; silo and bin base plates rest on cylinder footings cast 8 inches above paved areas; separate air tanks for the main plant and admixture supply lines; and, a central lubrication hub with 12 lines feeding grease to gates and other moving components.
In addition to 100-ton cement and 75-ton fly ash silos Û and a 150-ton guppy Û the new plant has a 60-ton silo for finely ground calcium carbonate. Maricopa has installed similar vessels at its five other plants, becoming the first volume user in concrete for a product Quebec-based Omya Inc. processes in southern California. Maricopa tested the calcium carbonate filler for 18 months. The material enhances finishability, workability and pumpability, and improves strength development, says Quality Control Manager Don Bain. It works in shotcrete, masonry grout and regular residential slabs, and very well with gritty sand.
While the Maricopa plant at Gila River was in the works, Bain and his three quality control colleagues were setting up a lab and training facility in central Phoenix, complete with staff-cast concrete counters. We moved from a small lab at one of our plants to a combined testing and training center, he says. It is more fitting with the character of the rest of the company and a functional space that shows how seriously Maricopa takes quality control.
The lab conducts American Concrete Institute certification and related coursework for Arizona State University students enrolled in the new Concrete Industry Management Program. Located just outside Phoenix in Tempe, Arizona State was one of three schools to introduce for the 2006-07 term a CIM program modeled after the Middle Tennessee State University flagship Û two graduates of which are on the Maricopa payroll.
The lab and training center reinforce a quality control message that weighs more heavily these days, as Maricopa steps up commercial work to balance lower volume in residential. We have a pattern in residential work similar to the steady years leading into 2006, when business really dropped off, says Al Benjamin. We have seen signs of housing bottoming out, and are looking for the market to pick up later into spring and summer. For now, we are prepared for the ample amount of commercial work available.
In anticipation of strong commercial building activity and a return of housing to normal levels, he is bringing the Maricopa fleet back over 100 this spring, taking delivery of 10 new mixers. The company has also begun permitting a seventh ready mixed plant sited west of its Sun City operation, targeting a late spring opening.