FHI Plant Services


Aug 19, 2013

Komatsu equipment, quality service that goes above and beyond

Inside the Four Corners Power Plant near Farmington, N.M., FHI Plant Services works around the clock moving materials, including fly and bottom ashes, by-products of the coal-powered generating station. Under a contract with the plant’s parent company, FHI disposes of about 100,000 tons of ash per month, putting it in on-site cells then covering it with earth.

“FHI started here three years ago by simply hauling fly ash, and we’ve continued to build up to the point where we have 70 people working in two shifts a day,” said Vice President John Kafadar. “It’s a familiar story to what we’ve done in many similar circumstances. Once the company we’re working for sees our commitment to providing quality service that often goes above and beyond our contract, they want us to do more. It’s much like a traditional earthmoving company that’s built its reputation and success through word-of-mouth referral.”

During the past four-plus decades, FHI has continued to add to its list of services, and today offers mechanical work, construction, mining, excavation, flood control, high-pressure welding, warehousing and a myriad of other offerings. Ash hauling remains a core component, as it was when President Bill Strunk founded FHI (Fly Ash Haulers Inc.) in 1970 with a single truck at the Mojave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nev.

“We’re working in about 20 plants, but our contracts vary with each one,” explained Dave Johnson, Director of Fossil Fuel and Civil Operations. “It all depends on what the customer wants. For instance, we have one plant where we simply handle warehousing. Other plants may use us for mechanical needs or hauling or a combination of services. We’re willing to work with customers to meet their needs in any way we can.”

Large portion of work in energy sector

Based in Las Vegas, FHI Plant Services now works extensively throughout the Southwest, including Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah and New Mexico. The company employs more than 300, including key personnel such as Kafadar, Johnson and Secretary/Treasurer Jody Kirby.

“Diversification plays a key role in our success, and our customers appreciate that,” noted Johnson. “Because we can handle so many services, customers often look to us for projects beyond the scope of our original contract with them. When they ask if we can do something, the answer is almost 100-percent ‘yes.’ ”

In plants, that involves services and work on boilers, including erection, repair and replacement, as well as partnering with the plant to manage planned and emergency outages. FHI offers welding on all types of metal, HDPE and PVC piping, and holds an “R” Stamp from the National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors so it can work on high-pressure steam boilers.

Work outside of power plants includes building, maintaining and decommissioning retention ponds. At its original location at the Mojave Generating Station, FHI Plant Services decommissioned nine ponds, moving in excess of 2 million yards of sludge over more than 300 acres.

In addition to coal and other power plants, FHI also works in other energy sectors. It is currently working on seven solar contracts near Gila Bend, Ariz., including one of the nation’s largest solar farms, a three-square-mile site where 200 workers are performing mechanical work, such as process piping, high-pressure welding and putting together stainless-steel tubes. FHI has a similar project in California.

Impressed with Komatsu, Road Machinery, LLC

Because hauling ash and moving earth is an around-the-clock operation at the Four Corners Power Plant, FHI Plant Services has invested heavily in equipment. The company moves ash with three Komatsu haul trucks it owns — two HD465s and an HD605. It also has more than a dozen rented machines, including a Tier 4 Interim PC360LC-10 excavator, two D155AX-7 dozers and a total of six HM400-3 and HM300-3 articulated trucks. FHI works with Road Machinery, LLC Account Manager Eric Hirengen to acquire equipment as needed.

“Komatsu continues to outperform other brands of equipment that we run and have run,” said Johnson. “Because we run our machines 24/7, downtime can have a significant impact. That’s not a problem with our Komatsu machinery. We bought the HD trucks about four years ago, and have continued to rent the other machines without major issues. Komatsu equipment is reliable, productive and more fuel-efficient than other brands.”

Road Machinery helps maintain those features under a service contract with FHI Plant Services that keeps two dedicated service trucks on site. In addition to the Komatsu pieces, Road Machinery services FHI’s competitive equipment.

“One of the reasons we choose to do that is Road Machinery’s expertise,” said Kafadar. “Another is its dedication to service, which we had problems with when it came to other dealers. As an example, we have a competitive truck that just never ran right, and that company could never figure out the issue. When we moved it to Farmington, Road Machinery took a look at it, and within short order had it fixed.”

“Road Machinery is the only reliable equipment distributor we’ve found in this area, and that extends beyond Farmington,” Johnson added. “We’ve developed a good relationship with Road Machinery, and the advantage is that if we move equipment to other locations, they will service those machines out of the nearest branch. Eric did a great job of finding us equipment, and Road Machinery backs it up with quality service. They’ve met and exceeded our expectations.”

Welcomes new avenues

Even with more than 40 years of success under its belt, FHI Plant Services isn’t resting on its laurels. The company continues to seek ways to help customers with their needs.

“Our willingness to look at opportunities that customers bring to us has resulted in tremendous growth, especially during the past few years,” observed Kafadar. “Much of our diversification has come as a result of customers asking us to do something we weren’t doing, and taking the necessary steps to handle it. We expect that to continue, and we welcome it.”