“We have as many as 200 loads of material leave here each day, and the WA500s allow us to do that”
A lot of business owners have a secret to their success that they keep closely guarded. For Don Satoski, President/Co-Owner of Landmark Materials, LLC, that isn’t the case. He will tell anyone who asks him what has made his northwestern-Indiana aggregate plant successful.
“We just work hard to create the best product we can,” he stated. “It’s no secret. Our customers know that when they get our sand, it’s exactly what they expect.”
Don got into the aggregate business in 1997 while he was working with his father in their excavating business. A brother owned a small pond and wanted to boost its size to 20 acres. Don moved his focus to the pit and began washing the product and selling sand. After a couple of years, Don acquired the property and started Sand Road Gravel.
“When my brother wanted to expand, it only made sense to start washing and selling sand,” said Don. “We started to build a reputation, and I decided to stay with aggregates.”
In 2015, Don opened a second pit and formed Landmark Materials in LaPorte County, Ind. It was a move that has paid and will continue to pay dividends for his family and the firm. They go hand-in-hand.
“We’re a true family business,” said Don. “My wife, Connie, is Co-Owner and runs the office and our middle son, Cody, is a Partner/Operator. Our youngest son, Reed, is in college and will join us when he completes his business degree. Haley, our daughter-in-law, operates the dredge, and my sister, Kathy, manages the scales. When we started, it was just family, but we have grown and added four other employees as well.”
Landmark Materials’ main product is concrete and asphalt sand for road construction projects, specifically Indiana #23/Illinois FM02 sand. It also washes four types of gravel and sells stone. In 2016 – the new plant’s first full year of operation – it produced 400,000 tons of material and followed that with 800,000 tons in 2017. Don expects to reach 1.2 million tons in 2018.
Hard work = good luck
With the amount of growth Landmark Materials has experienced, it would seem like Don has discovered magical sand. The “magic” is merely a result of his dedication to quality control and the willingness to put in long hours.
“God put the sand there, we just take it out,” deflected Don. “Luckily, our site is quite naturally clean. Our clay layer is roughly 45 feet deep, and it’s just sand between here and there. We don’t have to fight with random clay veins like some pits.”
Don’s luck may be a result of his meticulous preparation. Before purchasing the LaPorte County site, he spent a year making plans for his firm and sampling soils to make sure he selected the best location. That attention to detail also applies to the production process as Landmark employs a strict testing schedule to ensure that the sand continues to meet and exceed industry standards.
“We go above and beyond to make sure it remains clean when we take it out of the ground,” shared Don. “Our product is routinely between .01 and .02 percent dirty, and industry standard is 3.0 percent – so we’re very clean. It’s a combination of good fortune and hard work.”
Komatsu and Roland
In order to meet a growing demand for its product with a small staff, Landmark Materials turned to Roland Machinery Company’s Portage, Ind., branch and Territory Manager Dave Cruise for a pair of Komatsu WA500 wheel loaders as well as a PC400LC excavator.
“We have as many as 200 loads of material leave here each day, and the WA500s allow us to do that,” noted Don. “They are tough, they can handle any load we need them to and we know we can count on them to work every day while using little fuel.”
Don adds that the wheel loaders never seem to tire and neither do his operators. “The cabs of the WA500s are so nice and quiet. Our operators are in there for 10 hours a day, but they aren’t worn out when they go home. When I started, we didn’t even have a windshield, and you were exhausted when your shift ended. These new machines are awesome.”
In addition to the comfort and efficiency of the Komatsu product, Landmark Materials also appreciates the dedicated service Roland provides.
“We’re a small customer, but Roland treats us like we buy 70 machines a year,” shared Don. “Dave and the Shop Foreman Rob Gardner are always there for us. We don’t have a staff of mechanics, and we don’t need to with Roland. They are just as committed to keeping our equipment running as we are. The service after the sale is the reason we continue to go with Komatsu equipment from Roland.”
Landmark Materials has built a reputation for producing some of the best and most consistent product on the market. With a 45-year life expectancy at the pit and generations of Satoskis in the mix, the future is bright for this family business.
“It’s great to know that we have established something that, theoretically, my grandchildren will be able to run,” said Don. “Right now, we are focused on getting this plant to its maximum output and efficiency while still delivering a quality product. Eventually, the kids will take over. I can see us possibly expanding, but for right now we are really excited and proud of what we have here.”