Silex Group


Sep 06, 2013

“Komatsu was the clear winner”

The environmental/ecological benefits of recycling of concrete and asphalt are obvious — primarily, the conservation of natural resources and the lengthening of landfill life. However, recycling is not only environmentally responsible, it also offers significant economic benefits for contractors.

“The biggest advantage for road builders and utility contractors is that recycled aggregate product meets the same specs and does the same, exact thing as virgin limestone, but is about half the price,” said Brian Shank, Partner and General Manager of Silex Group, a concrete and asphalt crushing/recycling firm near Springfield, Neb., just off I-80 southwest of Omaha. “That’s a very good incentive to consider recycled product for base and fill material.”

Shank and his partners, Karen Lurkowski and Patrick Weber, who are primarily financial backers, started Silex Group (Silex is Latin for crushed stone) about a year ago.

“Because of the benefits, we think it’s a growing industry,” said Shank. “It took the better part of a year to find the property and get all the necessary permits, but when we opened the doors, we were able to hit the ground running. We had some customers already lined up, including the company where I previously worked, Beaver Excavating, which my dad owns. Of course, it’s a little nerve-wracking to start a capital-intensive business like this, but we’ve been able to grow and add new customers virtually every week.”

In addition to Beaver Excavating, Silex Group often works with Tab Construction and Luxa Construction. The company also supplies many nearby municipalities, such as Springfield, Louisville and Papillion, as well as Sarpy County, with material for road rock and road base.

Emphasis on customer service

Silex Group creates a number of different crushed aggregate products.

“We stockpile the most common sizes of materials, but we’ll also custom crush if somebody has a specific request,” said Shank. “We’re proud of the quality of our products and we’re one of the few recyclers that offers a 100-percent crushed-asphalt product. Most others mix asphalt into their other products.

“That’s one way we try to separate ourselves from the competition, and another way is by providing what we believe is the highest level of service,” he added. “Our facility is easy to access. It’s a quick in and out for customers, whether they’re dropping off material or picking it up. We’re also willing to work with them to accommodate their needs. Our regular hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., but we’ll come in early or stay late, and we’ll work weekends as needed, to help them get their jobs done in a timely manner.”

Komatsu mobile machines and Metso crusher

Because he started the business from scratch, Shank needed a crushing spread and mobile equipment to run it. He turned to RoadBuilders Machinery & Supply in Omaha for a Metso 1213 impact crusher, a Komatsu PC220 excavator to feed it and a Komatsu WA470 wheel loader to maintain the piles and load out trucks.

“For mobile equipment, I demo’d the top brands, and Komatsu was the clear winner,” said Shank. “The Komatsu wheel loader, which I bought brand new, performed exceptionally well in the demo, and where it really separated itself was in fuel consumption. It was much more fuel-efficient than the other units we tested.

“I also appreciated RoadBuilders’ help in locating a high-quality used excavator for me,” he noted. “The PC220 I got was six years old but only had 1,600 hours on it. It looks great and runs great. I’ve got my eye on upgrading to a PC300 soon, not because there’s anything wrong with the PC220, but because I think I’m going to need more capacity going forward.”

As for the crushing spread, Shank admits, he was a novice.

“I was fairly familiar with mobile equipment, but I had never crushed a rock in my life before this. Everybody at RoadBuilders, especially my Sales Rep Jeff Smith, was very knowledgeable, informative and helpful in getting me up and running. I went with a brand-new Metso crusher for greater reliability and uptime, and it’s worked well.

“But equally important to me is the peace of mind I get because I know I have the support of RoadBuilders behind me,” he added. “Jeff and Donny Wilmer, the PSSR for aggregate equipment, have been there for me every step of the way. If I have any questions or need anything, they’re just a phone call away. And the RoadBuilders service department has been great. They understand the urgency associated with crushing and they understand that when I need help, I need it right away. Technicians respond quickly and make repairs right the first time.”

Looking to grow

As he looks to the future, Shank is cautiously optimistic about the economy in general and Silex Group in particular.

“We’ve had some tough years, but I think the economy is now improving. Of course, everybody would like to see it get better faster, but slow and steady isn’t all bad. Obviously, we’re dependent on the economy as a whole. For us to grow, we need a strong combination of private and governmental construction spending, and it looks like things are now headed in that direction.”

And make no mistake, Shank’s intention is to grow Silex Group.

“Down the road, I hope to open a second operation like we have here. In addition, I’d like to have a mobile crushing crew that can travel around the region and take on jobs wherever the work is, rather than being dependent on jobs happening in the specific marketplace where our plants are located. That’s the dream. I don’t want to become a huge company but I’d like to someday have about 20 people with two stationary locations and the mobile crew.

“I think that’s realistic, but we know the only way we can get there is by being the best material supplier we can be. That means providing our customers with a quality product at a fair price and routinely delivering topnotch service. At Silex, our goal is to do that day-in and day-out, with each and every load.”