KOMTRAX improves efficiency
Following the conclusion of World War II, the American highway system began a massive westward expansion. At the time, Pete Lien and his sons, Chuck and Bruce, were running a small rock quarry in Rapid City. Capitalizing on the demand for materials to complete the highway projects, the family began expanding their operations. The aptly named Pete Lien & Sons, Inc. has flourished through the decades by acquiring complementary businesses in South Dakota, Wyoming and Colorado.
Today, Pete Lien – the grandson and namesake of the firm’s founder – serves as President of the organization. Many extended members of the Lien family continue to work for the business, which helps this employer of 450 people to maintain the values upon which it was built.
“We started as an aggregates construction supplier and have progressed into more technical operations,” explained Grant Neff, Aggregates Division Manager. “In South Dakota, we produce a large volume of lime and hydrated lime products. We also have a ready-mix concrete division, construction aggregates, sand and gravel operations as well as an iron mine.”
Pete Lien & Sons operates four quarries in the greater Rapid City area – named Black Hawk, Wasta, Oral and Nemo. Production ranges from large aggregates such as Class D riprap to washed and dried fine-materials. Much of what is mined is sent to either the kiln feed at the lime plant or to the ready-mix division for resale as finished products. The ability to run the entire operation within a small geographic area has been an important factor for success.
“The Black Hills area is unique in that it has a large supply of resources readily available in one of the region’s major hubs,” noted Neff. “Being able to supply our customers from Rapid City makes our location an advantage.”
As the economy thrives, Pete Lien & Sons continues to increase the number of products and services it offers. Demand from the limestone-producing Black Hawk Quarry has grown steadily. The material is broken down on-site, then taken to a secondary crushing and processing facility before being sold.
“Lime is an important resource for the economy here,” said Matt Sudbeck, Black Hawk Quarry Superintendent. “It’s used in power plants, water treatment plants and for oil and gas drilling. It serves as a natural filtration device to help projects stay as clean as possible.”
The Nemo Quarry is another success as the four-man, iron-mining operation has grown to a year-round production facility. Accessing the ore that contains the target percentage of iron, however, remains difficult.
“The formation at Nemo is vertical, whereas the limestone lays along the bed at Black Hawk,” said Neff. “It requires more drilling, blasting and hauling to obtain the iron. We chase the limestone horizontally, but to reach iron we have to go down.”
To help keep pace with its growing operations, Pete Lien & Sons purchased its first Komatsu, a WA500-3 wheel loader, in 1997. Today, the 55,000-hour machine is still a part of the fleet, but is now surrounded by a host of other Komatsu products. The firm has worked with Diesel Machinery, Inc. (DMI) and Branch Manager Mark Barry to add a variety of Komatsu pieces throughout the last 20 years.
“Komatsu equipment has proven to be reliable and a good value,” said Brian Baldwin, Mobile Maintenance Manager. “We’ve added many Komatsu machines to our fleet because they have stood up well against competitive brands.”
The company utilizes Komatsu WA500-8 and WA470-8 wheel loaders to move material and load trucks at its Rapid City crushing and processing facility. The cabs provide an unobstructed, 360-degree view with an integrated load meter for improved handling and safety in a busy environment.
Pete Lien & Sons recently purchased an Epiroc SmartROC T40 surface drill rig for its quarrying operations.
“Epiroc spent several days training our operators on the equipment,” recalled Sudbeck. “Because the Black Hawk Quarry is near a community, we want to reduce the vibration and sound generated by the rig as much as possible. We decided to use a smaller-width drill, and the machine has done an excellent job breaking up the rock without disturbing residents in the surrounding area.”
The organization also added three Komatsu HD605-8 off-highway trucks at Black Hawk. Capable of hauling up to 70 tons, these trucks have a tight turning radius and good speed out of pits, which shortens cycle time. The vehicles are outfitted with sideboards to hold more of the lighter, less-compactable material.
“The HD605 trucks have been excellent,” remarked Baldwin. “Their reliability and limited maintenance have really stood out and have been exceptionally beneficial for us. We can’t afford to have trucks down, and they’ve been a huge asset for the Black Hawk Quarry in uptime alone.”
To increase the trucks’ efficiency, Neff utilizes My Komatsu and KOMTRAX, both complimentary services, to gather data about fuel efficiency, weight, idle time and other daily data points. He can then adjust the hauling process using the information provided by KOMTRAX.
“We found that a lot of our trucks were underloaded,” explained Neff. “This discovery led to the addition of side boards and, ultimately, to the realization that the additional time spent loading the trucks to the maximum 70 tons didn’t affect cycle time and, in fact, improved our efficiency. We were able to monitor and validate those changes through KOMTRAX. The system offers a huge advantage.”
DMI also provides Pete Lien & Sons with complimentary maintenance on new Komatsu equipment for the first 2,000 hours or three years as part of the Komatsu CARE program. This benefit has helped solidify the relationship between Baldwin and the team from DMI’s Rapid City shop.
“The people at DMI monitor the equipment and let me know when maintenance is needed, so I don’t have to worry about that,” said Baldwin. “They take care of us. It’s been a good partnership.”
Innovation drives growth
One of the main challenges facing the company is the low unemployment rate in the region. With more jobs available than workers, finding and training qualified people requires innovative thinking.
“We’re bringing on some people who have less experience in this particular type of mining,” explained Neff. “We have a mentor program where we pair new hires with more experienced safety leaders who show them the ropes. We’ve seen promising results.”
These new staff members will be important because Pete Lien & Sons is in the process of increasing the capabilities of its existing mines while also opening multiple new pits. The multi-phase process is aimed at boosting production and drawing in new customers.
“We’ve evaluated business trends and want to capitalize on the current surging economy,” explained Neff. “We also will continue our focus on expanding markets. We expect to be providing material to the area for many generations to come.”