Pike Industries, how the 138-year-old company uses new, forward-looking technology
(New Hampshire) — Not too many companies in the road-construction industry can say they have been around almost as long as the modern asphalt road-but Pike Industries can. The New Hampshire-based company had its start in 1872, just two years after the first strip of modern asphalt was placed in front of the city hall in Newark, New Jersey.
As you can imagine, the company has seen a lot of changes in 138 years. When the company started, for example, workers mixed the hot-mix asphalt (HMA) by hand. In 1923, the company acquired its first HMA batch plant, capable of a whopping 7 tph (6.4 tonnes per hour). Over time, the company expanded and grew, adding more HMA plants. In 1988 it was purchased by CRH of Dublin, Ireland and became part of Oldcastle Materials.
Things changed. But over the years, many things about Pike Industries have stayed the same. The company is still operated by descendants of the founder and is now in its fifth generation of Pike management. The company has also kept two other things constant: a desire to grow and a willingness to look for and adopt new technology.
This last point is exemplified in Pike Industries’ newest asphalt production facility in Poland, Maine. Up until this year’s paving season, the location was home to a 1956 Stansteel 3-ton (2.7-tonne) batch plant. Simply upgrading to a more modern batch plant would have been a solid upgrade for the location, but Pike Industries went above and beyond a solid upgrade. They looked forward into the future to what many consider to be the next phase in roadbuilding technology: warm-mix asphalt (WMA).
The new plant, which went into operation in May 2010, is an Astec 8-ft. (2.4-m) relocatable Double Barrel® dryer/mixer asphalt production facility featuring the Astec Double Barrel Green® system. This system enables the company to produce WMA-a capability that brings with it the associated benefits of fuel savings, easier handling of material, and increased comfort for the paving crews who work with the material.
WMA is still a relatively new concept in the paving industry, but Pike Industries has worked to familiarize its employees, the media, the general public, and important decision-makers about its benefits. In mid-August, the company provided a tour of the facility that was attended by Representative Michael H. Michaud, who is a member of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
Education is the first step in ensuring the wide use of this beneficial product. “It’s the wave of the future,” Pike Industries spokesman Jim Hanley was quoted as saying in an August 19 article in Maine’s Sun Journal. “Anyone who doesn’t jump in is going to get left behind, so we’re jumping in.”
In addition to its attractive WMA capabilities, the Astec plant has proved itself as a steady producer of both HMA and WMA all season long. Greg Damien, the facility manager for Pike Industries, said the plant produced approximately 150,000 tons (136,078 tonnes) of mix in its first three months of operation.
“In one week in August, we put 20,000 tons (18,144 tonnes) though it,” said Damien in a recent interview, “and its biggest single-day total was 4,970 tons (4,509 tonnes). That included four different mixes-so it was not exactly an easy order.”
Damien gives full credit for the successful operation of the new plant to five individuals who were involved in its installation and startup: Jamie Carlton, the plant foreperson; Fred Bard, silo loadout operator; Roger Campbell, maintenance and service technician; Kevin Hart, plant foreperson; and Dave Edmondson, the Astec service technician. “As far as the day-to-day operation is concerned, Carloader operator, Richard Foster, are the responsible ones.”
The plant’s versatility is aided by a 10 x 16-ft. (3 x 4.9-m) six-compartment cold-feed system and triple 10 x 14-ft. (3 x 4.3-m) recycle-feed bins. In a unique setup, two of the RAP bins are designed to do double-duty as cold-feed bins-essentially giving the plant a potential total of eight cold-feed bins. This is achieved by reversing the flow of material coming to the RAP bins. A radial stacker can move virgin material out of the RAP bins and onto the virgin screen, or recycled material can be moved from the RAP bins to a stockpile. “That way we can clean out our RAP bins without needing to run the recycled material across the screen and through the plant,” said Damien.
Producing and storing multiple mixes for Pike Industries’ own paving crews as well as outside customers is no problem, as the facility has six 200-ton (181- tonne) Astec New Generation storage silos.
In just a few short months, the Pike Industries Poland, Maine location has moved forward to become part of the future of road construction-making that old 3-ton batch plant another page in the company’s successful history.
“Now, we can produce 2,000 or 3,000 tons (1,814 or 2,722 tonnes) of mix each day and it doesn’t even look like we are working hard,” said Damien. “We never would have even come close to that with our old plant.
“It runs every day and we have not had any problems,” added Damien. “That is the best kind of plant to own.”