Taking Control of Mix Production
SJ&L General Contractors purchases their first asphalt plant, allowing them to better serve their market and their company needs
|Country / Region||USA|
|Installation Site||Huntsville, AL|
|End User||SJ&L General Contractors|
|Drum||300tph Unidrum® Dryer/Mixer|
|Burner||Whisper Jet Burner|
|Baghouse||Pulse Jet Baghouse|
|Storage||2-300 Ton Long-Term Storage Silos|
|Controls||Astec PMIII Plant Controls with Weigh Mate 2000 Truck Loadout and Management System|
If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.
That’s always been the mindset of Jacky Eakes and why he sought to open his own construction business nearly 20 years ago after spending most of his life in the industry. SJ&L General, located in Huntsville, TN, primarily completes full excavation grading and fine grading of surfaces for state, city and county roads and highways. Licensed in both Tennessee and Alabama, projects can range anywhere from $500,000 to $20 million and the company takes on the role of general contractor for their jobs.
As the company grew, SJ&L was subbing out paving work for the roads and highways they were working on and they looked at bringing it in house. They now install asphalt paving on roadways, parking lots, airports, subdivisions and apartment complexes primarily in the greater Huntsville-Alabama area.
“We have always done complete jobs and we subbed out paving work for years,” Eakes said. “We decided to hire a couple of good paving crews and then would buy mix from local plants.”
The problem with that was SJ&L crews weren’t able to start paving until 9 or 10 each day, causing delays for their workers, and their customers.
“Producers naturally take care of making mix for the work their crews have before giving mix to other companies,” Eakes said. “Our crews were waiting to start and that was becoming a problem. We were also seeing the mixes we were given having very low asphalt cement content which made it more difficult to put down and produce a good looking product.”
As SJ&L began needing more mix for their growing project list, they looked into purchasing their own asphalt plant to control when their crews could start working, and maintain quality control as well. Astec was at the top of the list for their needs.
History & Trust Build Solid Relationships
Eakes has a long history in the construction industry before he started SJ&L in 2003, working for Mid-South, an APAC company, with his father since he graduated high school.
“Mid-South is one of the largest mix producers in the country and they used Astec mix plants at their locations so I was very familiar with their operations,” Eakes said. “I had worked at the plant and worked on these facilities many times. I had also attended Astec Customer Schools so I felt very comfortable with these plants.”
When SJ&L decided to move forward with purchasing a plant, they called Troy Norris, regional sales manager for Astec, who arranged a tour of the Astec corporate headquarters, as well as tours of local plants. The team at SJ&L was able to see Astec operations first hand and interview other Astec plant owners as well.
“We did look at other models, but based on what we saw on the tour and our history with the Astec brand, we knew a purchase from them was the right move,” Eakes said. “Our past experience with the company made us feel comfortable and we knew we would be getting a reliable piece of equipment that would always be well supported.”
Ready to Run
SJ&L chose a 300-tph Unidrum for their operations in Huntsville and Astec was on-hand to help the company with site drawings and obtaining operating permits for the area. The initial plan called for the install of two 300-ton storage silos as well.
The company handled site prep and construction of the footings for the plant, while the team at Astec worked on getting the plant ready for installation. The plant was purchased in August of 2021 and pieces started to arrive on site by the end of the year.
“We wanted a pretty fast turnaround from purchase to install,” Eakes said. “We bought the plant and our site was ready for installation when it came. The plant took about three weeks to install and another three weeks for power and wiring, and then we were ready to make mix in the middle of January.”
The Astec team was on site the entire time and for two weeks after the plant was up and running, making sure the SJ&L team was properly trained and comfortable with the entire operation.
“The whole team at Astec was very helpful and knowledgeable,” Eakes said. “They made it easy for us to purchase, install and learn the plant.”
SJ&L is now able to fully produce Alabama DOT mixtures and other mix designs based on their customer needs, and on their own schedule.
“That was the whole reason for this purchase,” Eakes said. “We wanted to be able to work with our customers on their needs and on our schedule instead of waiting on others. This plant makes that possible.”
SJ&L is already working with Astec to add more storage and an additional RAP bin to better serve their customers and their future plans for growth.