The Value of a Relationship
The crew at General Materials works nearly around the clock to produce a wide variety of products for their customers. A unique new venture has given them an industry advantage to clearly set them apart.
The history of General Materials begins in 1948, with the founding of Haskell Lemon, the group’s sister company. Over the last decades, Haskell Lemon grew from a small paving company into a large, diversified contracting company. In 1975, to complement the expansion of Haskell Lemon, the group established General Materials to expand their resources into the sand processing industry. Jay Lemon and Ken Wert, partners at General Materials and Haskell Lemon, took a chance on an unrealized opportunity within General Materials’ operation that allowed them to expand into the frac sand market. With stable market conditions and an increased need for the product, it was an opportune time for General Materials to expand its capabilities. Being so familiar with Astec through a long-spanning relationship, the group didn’t turn anywhere else when they needed new equipment.
During General Materials’ initial introduction to the sand processing industry in the 70s, they built their first plant to make concrete, asphalt and fill sands. Recently, the group added two new, turn-key plants to produce a wider variety of materials. One of the new systems is fed processed material from the company’s existing wash plant, which was erected over twenty years ago. The product is fed into a new Astec model 1830 screening and washing plant, which has a 6’ by 20’ screen that separates the material to either be stockpiled as tailings, or sent to a set of dewatering cyclones and into a density classifier. The fine material from the density classifier is sent to a Astec series 9200 fines recovery system, where it is pumped through another dewatering cyclone and discharged onto a dewatering screen before being stockpiled as frac sand. The coarse material from the density classifier goes to a fine material washer and is stockpiled as an additional saleable product.
The second Astec system is fed using General Materials’ on-site dredge. Since the beginning of the group’s sand processing endeavor, they have been putting their unsaleable material back into their lake. After General Materials realized the potential of the built-up product, they needed the equipment to process it. Once the material is dredged up, it is sent to a series 1830 screening and washing plant with a 6’ by 20’ screen. From the screen, oversized material is stockpiled as a discarded product, while the smaller material is pumped to a Astec series 9000 sand plant with three classifying cyclones. After processing through the cyclones, the material goes through a 9200 fines recovery plant with another classifying cyclone and across a dewatering screen to be placed in a stockpile, dried and sold.
The group’s unique set-up and resourcefulness have allowed them to fully utilize all of their resources and materials to make an additional saleable product from what was once thought to be waste. Jack Lemon, project manager at General Materials, explains, “Our system that is hooked up to our dredge, which includes the 1830 screening plant, 9000 sand plant and 9200 fines recovery plant, is re-mining a wash back area that has been a waste product for us. Since the mid 70’s, we’ve been putting our unsaleable material back into the lake and now we have the ability to go out there, dredge it, re-wash it, re-size it and put it through the plant to make a saleable product.”
After realizing the potential of their material, the operation needed the necessary equipment and an engineering team that would stand behind them and their vision. “Our sand business, historically, has been wash classifiers and sand classifiers that have been feeding the construction market materials with concrete sands, wash fill sands and other mason-type products. These two new plants are bringing on additional pieces and technology, and it’s been great learning about the new-to-us processing that Astec brought to the table,” says Jay. Jack adds, “The most useful features to our operation are the user-friendly controls that allow us to easily adjust the gradations of the finished product. You can adjust anything you want with three clicks on the touch screen. Most importantly, is the group of people we have gotten to know and work with, how helpful they’ve been on everything from plant set up to operation and now service.”
Easy access to parts and service is an essential factor in any operation. “Parts and service are arguably the most important factor. Without parts and service, we don’t run and without running, nothing else happens. We are always able to get our parts quickly,” says Jack. The group’s local dealer, Van Keppel, has provided them with parts and service for over twenty years. He adds, “Any sort of issue we had with set up, the team at Astec was also incredibly helpful. With just a phone call or video chat we had our issues resolved.” Jay adds, “American-made equipment and support has been huge for us, the support especially. It gives us great pride, as an Oklahoma-based company to use American equipment every chance we get. The guys that helped design it got it shipped to us, helped us with the setup and they went online and started performing quicker than new plants we have erected in the past.” He says, “Our plant was a unique design, something we weren’t very familiar with, but Astec took a custom need and designed something they don’t have on their shelf, got it down here and we were able to start with the push of a few buttons.”
Being a multi-generational company, the group is very familiar with the Astec family. “Our company has had Astec equipment longer than I have been employed here. It’s those relationships that give us the reliability we need, as well as the expertise from their engineering, and new products that help us create new materials for our expanding market,” explains Jay. When asked how Astec equipment compared to competitive equipment while they were searching for new plants, Jay says, “Honestly, when we had the opportunity to grow into this new market, we didn’t call anybody else. We didn’t feel the need to shop designs against anyone else.” Jay continues on to say, “Relationships are the key to this whole deal; trust and relationships. People can make iron, other people can dredge, but it’s having faith in a company that brings you a new product and helps you every step of the way. There’s a very complicated set of machines behind us, and they’ve given us the tools we need to provide for our customers.”
A THRIVING FUTURE
Ken, Jay, Jack and the whole crew at General Materials have conquered a new market by utilizing unconventional resources and techniques to create two additional saleable products. When asked about the future of General Materials, Jay says, “We are working towards more than doubling our annual volume. We love new opportunities and challenges and we are constantly seeking out what we can do with the resources we already have to serve new markets. We expect to get very comfortable with our new equipment and will continue to look for new ways we can use these tools and the raw materials we have to serve anyone else we can reach. It’s always fun to find a new opportunity and work with people like those at Astec to turn those ideas into reality.”