Pete Lien & Sons


Feb 18, 2010

Komatsu’s equipment offers advanced features, dependability, and durability

When it comes to protecting natural resources, Pete Lien & Sons has always been ahead of the curve. The Rapid City company was given its first environmental preservation award in 1961 — a Letter of Commendation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Forest Services for Achievement in Conservation and Reclamation in the North Fork area of Rapid Creek Basin.

What makes the commendation unique is that Pete Lien & Sons was given the honor 15 years before reclamation was required by law. In the years since, the company has garnered a long list of achievements and recognitions, including an Earth Care Award from the Environmental Protection Agency and an Environmental Steward Industry Award.

The honors might seem out of place considering that Pete Lien & Sons’ business is harvesting natural materials out of the earth. The company strongly believes that it’s necessary and beneficial to our economy and way of life to mine those products, but it’s just as essential to do it in a way that has as little impact as possible on the environment.

“The company always remains aware of how the land is disturbed and how to put it back in as good or better shape than it was before,” said Mobile Equipment Manager Ron Sargent. “Even if it wasn’t required by law, Pete Lien & Sons would do whatever’s necessary to reclaim our mining operations because it makes sense and is the right thing to do.”

Considerable growth

Pete Lien & Sons’ mining operations were already growing considerably when it won its first award nearly 50 years ago. Its history dates back to 1944, when Pete and his sons Chuck and Bruce founded the company with a small limestone rock quarry in Rapid City that’s since been mined and reclaimed.

Buying the quarry was a move that immediately paid off with Pete Lien & Sons supplying much of the aggregate materials for Ellsworth Air Force Base and the Interstate roadways in western South Dakota. Five years into the business, Chuck worked a deal with a local cement plant to provide iron ore, something the company continues today.

Limestone rock and iron ore are only a fraction of what the company now supplies. Through its various holdings — which include Birdsall Sand & Gravel, Colorado Lien Company, Dakota Block Company, Trans Colorado Concrete and Wyoming Lime Producers — Pete Lien & Sons also provides sandstone, gypsum, sand and gravel for various building projects; finely ground, high-calcium limestone for livestock feed; manufactured lime for purifying water and scrubbing sulfur and mercury from gas stacks and stabilizing acidic soils; and block and ready-mix products. The company has its own testing labs for quality control and to ensure products meet specifications.

Pete Lien & Sons’ quarry and sand and gravel operations run their own trucks to haul and deliver material, but the vast majority of products are picked up by everyone from local contractors who need bulk amounts to homeowners who need a pickup load or less. It also supplies materials to large industrial plants throughout the region for various applications.

It can do that because its roots in Rapid City have spread to include 11 ready-mix, eight quarries and seven sand and gravel operations that produce more than 100 products in all. Now in its third generation of family members running the business, original founder Chuck Lien is the Chairman of Pete Lien & Sons, while his son Pete Lien is President and Joel Brannan is Chief Operating Officer.

The payroll numbers have jumped considerably throughout the years as well, with the company and its various holdings employing more than 400 among its 30 various sites. Its original location in Rapid City makes up about a quarter of that total.

Durable machinery

Ron Sargent is among that Rapid City contingent, but manages Pete Lien & Sons’ entire mobile equipment fleet, which includes four Komatsu wheel loaders (two WA320s, a WA450 and a WA500) and a Komatsu PC200LC-6 excavator.

“The company was already using Komatsu equipment when I came on board a few years ago, and we’ve continued to add a few pieces here and there,” said Sargent. “When we bought the WA450, which is a Dash-5 model, one of the aspects that stood out to us was the advanced features that other brands didn’t have at the time. Over the years, I’ve also really come to appreciate the durability Komatsu offers.”

That’s a major factor for Sargent and Pete Lien & Sons, which tends to keep equipment for 40,000 to 50,000 hours. The WA450 is nearly at the 30,000-hour mark, often doing severe-duty work inside one of the company’s lime warehouses, where the atmosphere is dusty and can be corrosive. During times of key production, it’s often running continuously for 18 hours a day. To ensure it maintains productivity, Sargent and his staff keep a fairly aggressive maintenance schedule.

“We do the routine services on time or a little ahead of time, and every six to eight months we change out the radiator because the dust tends to plug things up if we don’t,” explained Sargent. “Other than that, we don’t have to do much with that loader. It had 19,000 hours before we did any major repair work. The dependability that the Komatsu loaders offer is important to us because we keep minimal extra equipment around.”

Pete Lien & Sons’ uses other wheel loaders for various tasks, such as loading, carrying and feeding material into crushers. The company puts its PC200LC-6 excavator to work on a variety of applications as well.

“We use the excavator quite a bit for scaling, which is pulling loose materials off the pit walls,” said Sargent. “We also use it for some overburden removal. Our other wheel loaders get a good workout doing whatever needs to be done. Our WA500 has more than 40,000 hours on it — of course, we’ve done some rebuild work over the years — but it remains productive, so we’re confident that it will keep producing.”

Sargent and Pete Lien & Sons are also confident in the DMI Rapid City branch’s ability to provide parts and service help as needed. “We do maintenance ourselves with Komatsu parts from DMI, and we’ll occasionally call on them for technical support,” Sargent pointed out. “We look hard at service support when we buy equipment, and Branch Manager Mark Barry and the staff at DMI have been great to work with.” >

Industry leader

Pete Lien & Sons’ goals include offering that same high level of service to its customers while continuing to be good stewards to the land. Nearly every year since 1993 the company has received a recognition for its continued reclamation efforts, including several from the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association.

It’s also been a leader in safety in the industry, something that’s stressed throughout the entire operation, including equipment maintenance. “It all works hand-in-hand in providing good, quality products,” said Sargent. “The company is proud to be a standard-bearer for safety and environmental awareness. That’s been a tradition at Pete Lien & Sons from day one and will continue to be.”