Edwards Gravel & Construction

A FATHER’S SIDE BUSINESS TURNS INTO A SON’S PASSION FOR CRUSHING AND SUPPLYING AGGREGATE

Jul 3, 2013

Komatsu equipment - reliable and fuel-efficient

In the early 1960s, James Edwards saw an opportunity and took it, leading to the founding of what’s now known as Edwards Gravel & Construction. A farmer and rancher in the Minot area, James used a portion of his land and opened up a gravel pit from which he supplied and hauled materials for area counties and townships.

“He did quite a bit of contract hauling, and much of the material he hauled went into the construction of ‘missile’ roads for the U.S. Air Force,” explained his son Robbie Edwards, who now owns and operates Edwards Gravel & Construction. His wife, Stephanie, works in the company’s office in Minot. “He basically did it as a side business to the farm, pulling the end gate out of a two-ton truck in order to haul the materials. I tried to get him to buy something with a gravel box, but going to a larger truck and hauling more material really wasn’t his deal. Eventually, he decided to stop trucking altogether.”

But moving material certainly was Robbie’s deal. “I often tagged along with my dad when he hauled, and I really enjoyed it. Most kids on the farm have toy farm machines in their sandbox. I had blades and dump trucks and I’d build roads and structures, so I guess at an early age I was already setting myself up to eventually run a gravel and construction business full time.”

This year marks the 20th anniversary of when Robbie took over the business and set about transforming it. Before that, he worked for a construction company, where he ran a crusher.

“The material that came out of the farm pit went straight from the bank to the road, with no crushing involved,” recalled Edwards. “I spent a lot of time out on the county and township roads picking up the large rocks and throwing them back into the truck. Working for a construction company was good experience because it taught me how to go about crushing to make different materials and specs.”

Quality fuels growth

Edwards Gravel & Construction still pulls material out of that original farm pit, plus leases five others and does custom and mobile crushing in about a 50-mile radius of Minot. The company produces nine base products, ranging from sand to two-inch gravel, with two road-base materials making up the bulk of more than 1 million tons of material it makes each year. Customers can pick up materials with their own trucks at Edwards Gravel & Construction’s pits, or the company delivers with its fleet of more than 20 trucks.

“Twenty years ago, we were well below 100,000 tons, and at the time I made a conscious effort to increase that,” compared Edwards. “ Factors in us being able to do that include a focus on quality, both from product and customer-service standpoints. To ensure our materials meet our customers’ exacting standards, we test every day. Our customers appreciate that attention to detail, and to be honest, it’s one of the reasons I wanted to start crushing our own materials as opposed to having others come in and crush for us. They didn’t always test on a consistent basis, and that was unacceptable to me.

“I’ve never shied away from looking for potential clients,” he added. “For example, when the oil boom started, I made many phone calls to the companies coming into the area. The first rig to be put in around here was about eight miles from our house. I contacted the company about supplying them gravel. They called me back for one load of rock. It was the middle of winter and about 30 below, but I fired up the equipment and took care of them. Like many of the businesses we deal with, they’re now a repeat customer.

“Another reason we’ve been able to grow is good employees,” Edwards continued. “The staff includes more than 40 of the best people you’ll ever meet, and they take the same approach to customer service and quality products that I do.”

Expansion includes additional services

While the bulk of the company’s work is related to crushing and supplying gravel, Edwards Gravel & Construction also offers related services, such as the 114 miles of roads it maintains for Mountrail County and townships. It also offers snow removal.

“We do some earthwork, and one of our main areas of emphasis has been rehabilitation of old oil sites,” noted Edwards. “We come in and take out the rock and other materials that have been left behind, then haul in black dirt and put the area back to its original contours. Through the years, we’ve become very good at it, and we’re very particular with the dirt we haul in. We want the area to be as good as or better than it was before the oil site was there, and landowners really appreciate that.

“In addition, we help out with installing water and septic systems, and we’ve built small pads, mainly for agricultural buildings, such as grain bins and tanks,” he added. “Basement digs and small demolition projects are on our list as well.”

Efficient equipment

During the past few years, Edwards Gravel & Construction’s equipment fleet has grown, including several pieces of Komatsu and Cedarapids machinery rented and purchased from General Equipment & Supplies. With the help of Minot Sales Representative/Branch Manager Dave Solper, Edwards recently added two Cedarapids/Fabtec 1313 -style, closed-circuit crushing and screening plants that have MVP380 and MVP380X roller-cone crushers and six-foot by 20-foot, three-deck screens.

“The Cedarapids crushers give us excellent production, which is what crushing is all about,” said Edwards. “We average between 750 and 800 tons per hour consistently during our peak production time. Those crushers have no problem producing that volume, and doing it more efficiently, compared to the units they replaced.”

Edwards Gravel & Construction’s Komatsu equipment includes two dozers (D155, D65) and a PC160LC excavator. It uses the D155 to push up and maintain stockpiles and the D65 as for grading and supplementing the D155 at the gravel pits, as needed. The PC120 excavator, which is equipped with a thumb, performs a variety of tasks, including digging test holes and moving larger rocks at gravel pits, excavating basements and demolition.

“Equipment uptime is critical in order to maintain production,” Edwards pointed out. “There are times when we’ve crushed 24 hours a day, and the D155 has no problem keeping up. Its production and fuel efficiency lowered our per-ton costs. The D65 is a great support piece to the D155 when we need it in the pits, and it works very well when we use it for earthwork projects. I like the versatility it gives us. It has excellent pushing power for dozing large loads, while also being good for finer grading applications.

“The PC120 is a solid general-purpose machine,” added Edwards, who buys parts from General Equipment & Supplies and calls on them for service as needed. “We’re very happy with the equipment, but we’re even more impressed with the service that Dave and General provide. Anything we’ve needed, they’ve quickly stepped up to take care of us.”

Considering the next steps

Early last year, Edwards Gravel & Construction did its largest crushing job to date as it made about 400,000 tons of road material for Mountrail County to be used for Palermo Road. Edwards said the capacity to do such jobs wasn’t there 20 years ago.

“We’ve slowly built to the point where we can do a project like that without sacrificing our quality and integrity,” said Edwards. “Those are things I refuse to give up. When I say I’m going to take on a project, I stand by my word of delivering the right material, on time and at the price we determined. I also stand by the fact that I’ll work with any customer, large or small. A private homeowner who needs a five-gallon bucket of gravel receives the same commitment as our largest customers who are buying multiple loads of rock.”

Edwards aims to keep that commitment as he ponders the next steps in Edward Gravel & Construction’s future. He’s considering importing materials for sale.

“Bringing in decorative stone and mulch is something I’ve looked into, as long as doesn’t interfere with our ability to take care of the customer. I’ve never believed in growth for growth’s sake. Our customers have always determined and driven how fast we grow, and I expect that to continue to be the case.”