Productive Komatsu equipment and reliable service
Judging by its name, you might think Ellensburg, Wash.-based Ellensburg Cement Products (ECP) makes and sells cement. It doesn’t. It is a producer of ready-mix concrete. It also runs numerous aggregate pits and sells sand, gravel and crushed rock products. The longevity and steady growth of the business indicate that any possible confusion regarding the name has not been a detriment to long-term success.
“My grandfather Ivan Hutchinson actually started a company called Hutchinson Sand & Gravel in the 1930s,” said ECP President Jeff Hutchinson. “We’ve been in business as Ellensburg Cement since 1945. I guess back then, the terms cement and concrete were used somewhat interchangeably. Later, tradition and business sense kind of took over. We had built a good name and reputation as Ellensburg Cement. Since people already knew who we were and what we did, it never seemed necessary — or a good idea — to c hange the name.”
Certainly, in its home of Kittitas County, ECP is well-known enough that there’s little to no confusion concerning the name.
“All our customers and potential customers know what we do and, just as important, what we don’t do,” said Hutchinson. “We don’t do any lay-down paving or construction work on our own so we don’t compete with them. We strictly supply rock, sand or ready-mix concrete, primarily to paving contractors, excavating contractors and local and state government entities in our area.”
ECP has nine active aggregate pits (four sand and gravel, and five quarries), eight of which are in Kittitas County. The company has a mobile crushing operation it moves to each quarry to make a full mix of aggregate products at each location. Wash plants and ready-mix plants are located in Ellensburg and Cle Elum.
During peak season ECP typically employs about 60 people, most of whom work at the company’s various pits and plants.
Employees are key
ECP Relies on trusted field personnel to produce material safely and efficiently.
“We believe we have the best field hands in the business,” said Hutchinson. “They really get after it, and that’s a testament not only to their own strong work ethic but also to our General Superintendent George Seubert. George demands top effort from his guys, and he gets it.”
In addition to Seubert, key field personnel at ECP include his son, also named George Seubert, who is a plant foreman, and his son-in-law Byron Warren, who oversees the wash plants. Other vital personnel include another plant foreman, Kevin Morris, and excavator operator Todd Krueger.
ECP is very much a family business, now in its third generation of Hutchinson family ownership. Ivan Hutchinson started it, and his son Jim joined in 1958, overseeing much of the growth. Jim still serves as Vice President but is currently turning control of the company over to his children, Jeff Hutchinson and Heidi Sny. Jeff is President and Heidi is Secretary/Treasurer and Office Manager.
“We’ve essentially been in business for about 75 years,” Jim noted. “I started working here after I got out of the service in 1958, so I’ve been here more than 50 years. There were only about a dozen or so people here when I started. Obviously, we’ve grown a lot. My wife, Helen, did most of the administrative and office work for much of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. This was our life and I’m very proud of what the company has become.”
“Heidi and I are very pleased with the opportunity we’re being given,” remarked Jeff Hutchinson. “Our goal is to continue to provide the top customer service that Ellensburg Cement Products is known for and continue to look for ways to improve the operation.”
Productive equipment/reliable service
Ellensburg Cement Products started using Komatsu equipment from Modern Machinery about 10 years ago.
“We had a different brand of excavator that was getting pretty old and wasn’t giving us the productivity we wanted,” Jeff Hutchinson recalled. “We called the top equipment dealers in the region and told them we wanted to demo their machines, so they all brought similar-size excavators out here for us to try. Bottom line, the Komatsu PC600 performed the best. An added bonus for us was that it was also a little lighter than the others, which would make it easier for us to move around the county, which we do frequently.”
“We bought that first PC600 and have since replaced it with a second one,” noted Superintendent George Seubert. “It’s our primary mining tool. We use it to excavate out of the water and to strip our pits.”
Because the experience with that first excavator, and with Modern Machinery’s service, was a good one, ECP has since added numerous other Komatsu units, including a WA600 wheel loader, a WA500 wheel loader, an HD325 haul truck and an SK820 skid steer loader.
“All of our Komatsu units have held up really well,” reported Seubert. “We use the WA600 to feed the crusher and the WA500 to feed the wash plants. The WA600 has more power than any loader we’ve ever had. It comes out of the pit faster and we get much better tire wear. I estimate we’re getting a third more life out of the WA600’s front tires than we got out of the previous brand we were running. We now have 8,000 hours on it. We’ve had very few issues and it still runs great. Also, fuel consumption on both wheel loaders and the excavator has been very good.”
ECP turns to Modern Machinery out of Seattle (Kent branch) to do almost all the service work and much of the maintenance on the units.
“We have a bumper-to-bumper warranty for service and maintenance (including oil changes) on the PC600 because it’s such a crucial machine for us,” said Seubert. “We can’t afford to have the excavator down; we let Modern take care of everything on it.
“We change the oil ourselves on the other machines, but Modern does most of the service work,” he added. “They have really good technicians. I’ve been very pleased with the service Modern gives us, and I’ll admit, I’m not the easiest guy to please. Anytime I do have a problem or need anything, I call Modern’s Washington Regional Manager Jim Hassebrock or my PSSR Andy Fong, and they make sure we get what we need. “
Optimistic about the future
Ellensburg Cement Products has grown substantially through the years, but like many companies, has seen a decline compared to two or three years ago.
“Demand for aggregate product has shown signs of coming back, but remains down from the peak years,” said Jeff Hutchinson. “We’ve sized our operations accordingly. Virtually all of our customers and jobs are in Kittitas County and a little bit in Yakima. There’s still not much private development work in our territory. Most of the jobs today involve fixing highways and streets.”
Hutchinson says he’s optimistic that eventually the economy will recover and, at some point, turn back up. His goal is to be ready to meet the increased demand when that happens.
“That’s why even today, we’re looking to grow and expand — specifically to acquire additional pits if they become available. To succeed in the aggregate supply and ready-mix business, an operation needs convenient locations; a good, clean, reasonably priced product; and outstanding customer service. At ECP, that’s how we’ve lasted all these years, and it’s how we’ll continue to succeed in the years to come.”