Aug 31, 2006

Komatsu WA800-3 wheel loaders provide power and portability for Midwest aggregates provider

In 1919, the Crown brothers – Henry, Sol and Irving – decided to cast their lot into the highly competitive Chicago-area sand and gravel market. A daunting challenge, especially considering they had no source for raw material and only had a 50 ft.- by-100 ft. lot from which to distribute products. But through it all, they abided by one principle – provide better service – and that founding principle spawned a successful business, using service as its middle name.

Over the years, the Crowns acquired and developed several production facilities and formed Material Service Corp., now one of the Midwest’s largest aggregate producers – ranking as the 12th largest crushed stone producer in the U.S., and the 15th largest aggregate producer in the U.S. Material Service Corp., with its headquarters in Chicago, mines and sells aggregates – stone, sand, and gravel – primarily for highway construction and various infrastructure projects, but also for commercial and residential building construction. Its territory covers Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.

Material Service now operates 11 stone quarries, three sand and gravel pits, two mineral filler plants, and a fleet of towboats and barges that provide low-cost delivery of aggregates via the Chicago and Illinois River system. It also has rail distribution capabilities at its Thornton, Ill., quarry and barge/rail capabilities at its Romeoville, Ill., quarry. Annually, all of this amounts to aggregate production in excess of 20 million tons.

Equipment Must be Reliable and Productive

With so much material to move, Material Service relies on its wide-ranging fleet of equipment to back up its promise of outstanding customer service. It owns all the equipment in its fleet, and has been working with Roland Machinery Company (Springfield, Ill.) since the mid-1990s for its equipment needs. “More and more, our equipment is moving towards Komatsu products,” says Mike Gaglione, vice president, Aggregates Operations, Material Service Corp. “As far as Komatsu goes, we have two HD605s (rigid haul truck), eight HD785s (rigid haul truck), two D155s (crawler dozer) and two D135s (crawler dozer). We also have one PC400 (hydraulic excavator), two HM400s (articulated haul truck), four WA700s (wheel loader), two WA800s (wheel loader), a bunch of WA600s (wheel loader) and 20 WA500s (wheel loader),” According to Gaglione, Material Service owns approximately 85 pieces of “rolling stock” equipment from various manufacturers.

Its hardest working machines just might be its fleet of wheel loaders, ranging from the 203 HP WA500s to the 808 HP WA800-3s, working at its various quarry sites. Material Service believes the Komatsu wheel loaders offer the right balance of power and control for the required applications.

Finding the Perfect Blend of Size and Portability

The two WA800-3s were the latest additions to this hard-working fleet. As with any forward-thinking company, Material Service is constantly looking for ways to make its processes as efficient as possible. At its Thornton quarry, it needed a machine big enough to load its 100-ton rigid trucks at various blast piles throughout the quarry. Once loaded to capacity, the trucks drive the rock to the primary crusher where the refinement process turns the shot rock into the numerous final products the company provides to its customers. In addition, the Thornton quarry has rail distribution capabilities and the company was looking for a more cost-effective and productive way to load them as well.

Komatsu WA800s Added to the Mix

“We checked into these loaders years ago,” says Gaglione. “We were running (Letourneau) L1000s.” That’s when they decided to take delivery of two, new Komatsu WA800-3s. “We have a good relationship with Roland. After looking at these WA800s for a few years, we decided they were the best fit for our needs. They (Roland) always bring in the bigger equipment for us to check out and demo before we make our decision.”

The main job for Material Service’s WA800-3s is at its Thornton quarry – loading shot rock stockpiles at the face of the material banks of limestone into the 100-ton off-highway trucks. The WA800-3’s size (dump clearances ranging from 15 ft. 2 in. to 17 ft. 1 in., and reaches at maximum heights of 7 ft. 7 in. to 8 ft. 2 in.) makes loading the 100-ton trucks easy, with room to spare. “Something worth mentioning – the Komatsu HD785 100-ton trucks – we have eight of them that we run, and three of them have over 35,000 hours on them, and they still show up for work every day,” notes Chuck Shepherd, equipment maintenance supervisor, Material Service Corp.

The WA800-3s also solved the problem of filling the rail cars – improving the efficiency in loading the trains. “That definitely increases efficiency. We’ve had a significant reduction in labor costs,” says Gaglione. “Again, the 800s have really improved efficiency with our outside rail shipments as well. We’ve seen a significant reduction in operating costs of our unit rail cars.”

“The loaders are big and strong enough to use in place of the hydraulic shovels – and they’re much more portable allowing us to mine various spots more efficiently,” added Gaglione. The WA800-3’s three-speed transmission means it’s capable of reaching top speeds of 17.4 mph going forward, and 17.6 mph in reverse.

“We select the equipment by sizing it to the job. We worked closely with our dealer and they came out and performed a time study before we bought these loaders,” says Gaglione. “Working closely with our supplier, we can determine what is the most efficient way to operate. We were able to double the size of the bucket we were using.”

The WA800-3’s standard operating weight is 216,450 lb., and it has a bucket capacity of up to 16.1 yd³. Its 808 HP, turbocharged and air-to-air aftercooled direct injection engine running at 2000 rpm provides plenty of power to maneuver and load the biggest piles. The WA800’s bucket breakout forces range from 141,470 lb. to 158,270 lb. The WA800-3s integrated design means that its components are matched to provide the most efficient use of power, whether you’re working the face of a material bank or traveling with a loaded bucket.

Low Maintenance Keeps Machine Running and Productive

The Komatsu WA800-3 is easy to service. Some of its features include large, swing-out hood doors for easier access to the engine, a hinged radiator grill with clean-out doors on both sides and a sight gauge for the hydraulic tank to allow for ground-level checks. The machine’s service monitor with diagnostics includes an air cleaner sensor, and three-level monitoring provides the operator with pre-start level checks, cautions and warnings.

“They’ve been very reliable. The WA800 is a good machine,” notes Shepherd. Even so, Material Service is confident that if a problem arises, Roland Machinery will handle it quickly. “They stand with us, side by side and handle any problems,” he adds.

Furthermore, the WA800-3’s fully hydraulic brake system requires less maintenance and provides more reliability. And its extended 500-hour oil and filter change intervals reduce service time, while minimizing waste oil disposal costs.

Easy on the Operator

Working 10-hour shifts in the unpredictable and variable climate of Illinois can be tough on machine operators. The WA800-3 offers a larger, two-door walk-through cab for increased operator productivity, and comes equipped with a Grammer air suspension seat and five-mode air conditioning – just a few of the creature comforts aimed at making work inside the WA800 as comfortable as possible. The cab provides outstanding visibility with a pillarless flat glass windshield and power windows. “The operators seem very positive. They have great power, and visibility is good; a comfortable cab, good controls…the operator comfort is very high,” says Shepherd.

For Material Service’s operators, machine control is paramount, and the WA800-3 has low-effort brake pedals, which actuate the WA800-3’s fully hydraulic brakes, and Komatsu’s Advanced Joystick Steering (AJSS), which offers precise, low-effort steering performance.

Material Service Looks Ahead

As far as the future goes, Material Service Corp. has plans to continue what’s been a successful and productive relationship with Komatsu and Roland Machinery. “We plan on purchasing new Komatsu equipment going forward,” says Gaglione. “Komatsu definitely will be one of our choices. We like to test the equipment – and compare it against the competition.” Material Service hopes to build on what the Crown brothers started in 1919 and make the next 85 years as rewarding and profitable by maintaining its founding principle of putting the customer first – providing excellent customer service in everything it does.