Customers in Action

Hallett Dock Company

FOCUS ON CUSTOMER SATISFACTION, LOCATION EQUALS SUCCESS FOR DULUTH, MINN., COMMODITIES HANDLER

December 02, 2015

“Production and efficiency were big factors in choosing the WA500”

Hallett Dock Company

Nearly 55 years ago, Ernest W. Hallett established Hallett Dock Company in the Duluth-Superior Harbor, making it one of 30 companies under the Hallett Construction Company umbrella. Today, it handles millions of tons of bulk commodities each year, receiving, storing and shipping them to customers from what is the western-most maritime facility on the St. Lawrence Seaway.

“Our focus is, and has always been, on providing the best service in the industry,” said President Mike McCoshen. “That permeates throughout the company, from the newest dock worker to our management team. And it’s what helped Hallett Dock become one of the most successful bulk-commodity handlers in the upper Midwest.”

In addition to McCoshen, Hallett Dock’s management team includes Chairman Jerry Fryberger, Treasurer Steve Sykes and Secretary Clyde Jago. They have more than 125 years of combined experience handling and transloading bulk commodities.

Hallett Dock Company has three facilities in the Duluth-Superior Harbor – Dock 5, Dock 6 and Dock 8 – which provide more than 100 acres of flat storage for more than 2 million tons of product. Dock 5 and Dock 8 are maritime facilities, giving access to vessels and barges transporting commodities to and from ports in the eastern Great Lakes, Canada and Europe. Dock 6 is used for commodities brought in and taken out by rail and trucks.

“Our location on the harbor in the middle part of the country, coupled with a major highway network and a national rail system is ideal and facilitates the efficient handling and timely delivery of a wide variety of products,” said McCoshen. “Our list of products has increased during the past few years and so have our markets. We handle commodities from a variety of sources and locations, and we have the ability, know-how and capacity to get them to our customers quickly. Or, if they need products stored for a length of time, we can accommodate that need, too.”

Extensive commodities list

Hallett Dock Company

Products include, but are not limited to, bentonite clay; sinter ore; petroleum coke; Class 5 and 6 base material for road construction and concrete foundations; black diamond slag for shingles; ice-control salt; coal; limestone; mill scale used in blast-furnace iron production; blast furnace trim; calcium chloride for dust suppression and ice control on roads; urea used in fertilizer; and slag that goes into ceiling-tile manufacturing.

“Steel is a major industry for the products we handle and has been for a long time,” noted McCoshen. “When it declined a few years ago, that had a major impact on us, so we looked at diversifying. One area where we expanded services was cleaning rail cars for the railroads. That helped us weather the storm well. With steel coming back, the amount of materials we handle for that industry has increased considerably, and it’s once again the bulk of the products we deal with.”

In addition to handling products for customers, Hallett Dock owns and is a wholesale agent for several materials, such as limestone and limestone screenings; decorative stone; red ball aggregate; ballast stone; black dirt and topsoil; roofing ballast; and salt/sand blend.

Despite such an extensive list of products, Hallett Dock Company maintains one of the most streamlined operations in the industry. About a decade ago, it was encouraged to consolidate operations, and it went from four docks to two and has since added back a dock. During the scale down, the company installed state-of-the-art rail car unloading facilities and other systems designed to increase efficiency.

“Reducing our footprint at the time certainly didn’t slow us down, and in fact, expanded our services,” said McCoshen. “We’re proud of that, and we kept efficiency in mind when we added our Dock 6 property back into the mix a few years ago. We’re now a seven-days-a-week operation: 20 hours a day on weekdays and 12 hours a day on the weekend.”

Employee-owned

Hallett Dock Company is also proud to be employee-owned with a staff of about 25. McCoshen said experience is high because the company has very little turnover, and that’s a major benefit.

“Our ‘younger’ people have been here 10 years or less, and we really have a good mix between them and our more ‘seasoned’ people, many of whom have been here 25 years or more,” said McCoshen. “Our employees know they play a vital role in Hallett Dock’s success, so they take responsibility very seriously. They like the challenge of the work; no two days are ever the same.

“Many of our greatest ideas about day-to-day operations and efficiencies came from our people,” he added. “Another benefit of being a small, employee-owned company is that it allows us to be more nimble and resolve issues and make decisions more quickly.”

Great efficiency with Komatsu

Hallett Dock Company

McCoshen said equipment-buying decisions are often the result of testing and feedback from operators. The company recently added a Komatsu WA500-7 yard loader to a fleet that already included several WA600-6, WA500 and WA250 models, as well as a D135-1 dozer.

“We let the operators try several brands before we buy a loader, and, to a man, they always choose Komatsu,” said McCoshen. “They like the ease of operation, the creature comforts and the visibility. From a management standpoint, we appreciate that they are happy with the machines, and we like the longevity and reliability we get from the equipment. We have some older loaders that have more than 20,000 hours, but we decided to rebuild them because it’s cost-effective and the machines remain productive. And, what can I say about our dozer? It’s more than 25 years old and still provides us good production.

“Production and efficiency were big factors in choosing the WA500 yard loader with a 10-yard bucket,” he added, noting that it stays at Dock 6 for loading trucks and railcars. “The extra bucket capacity allows us to load in fewer passes, and it has better reach than our other loaders. Another factor we like about the yard loader is that it weighs less than the WA600s. The docks were built almost 100 years ago, when overhead gantry cranes were used to offload ships and load railcars, so they weren’t designed for heavy equipment. The WA500 yard loader has a distinct advantage because it puts less stress on the docks.”

Hallett Dock Company worked with Road Machinery & Supplies Territory Manager Wade Stromgren to purchase the WA500-7 yard loader. Road Machinery & Supplies provides complimentary scheduled maintenance for the first 2,000 hours or three years, through the Komatsu CARE program.

“That level of service is another reason we continue to buy Komatsu,” said McCoshen. “Everyone at Road Machinery has been terrific to work with. Wade helped us make a good, informed decision on the yard loader. Road Machinery has parts when we need them, and Duluth Service Manager Earl Cooley and his staff have been outstanding. They handle our major work, including 1,000-hour maintenance and hydraulic service, and we have them perform quite a bit of specialty work, such as ship-loader equipment engines. They do an excellent job.”

More technology

Loader operators can remotely control ship conveyors with state-of-the-art technology from the cab. More-efficient practices using technology is an area where McCoshen sees potential changes for Hallett Dock Company.

“There’s always room to increase efficiency, and technology is and will play a role,” he said. “We see it with each generation of Komatsu loaders. We embrace it, and use it to our advantage. But, we’ll always be a transloading operation with the same company focus on service, and we plan to be here for a long time to come.”