New life for an old quarry
By Kerry Clines, Senior Editor
TXI’s Bridgeport Stone operation is located in North Central Texas on top of a large limestone deposit that has kept the Dallas/Fort Worth area supplied with aggregate since the middle of the last century. “TXI bought the plant in 1953,” says Gary Allen, general operations manager for TXI.
More than 50 years of continuous growth brought 50 years of technology advances, but it also brought 50 years of inefficiencies that needed to be addressed.
“The primary crusher had a separate control building, the sand plant had a separate control building, the concrete products plant had a separate control building, and the asphalt products plant had a separate control building,” says Todd Lacey, plant manager at Bridgeport Stone.
If the plant was to stay productive and competitive, something needed to change.
Automating the plant
“We felt like we were leaving a lot of money on the table with the facility as it was,” Allen says. So, two years ago, rather than tear everything down and start all over with a new plant, the entire operation was automated.
“We turned it on April 26, 2008,” Allen says. “We upgraded and automated the whole thing so we could run the entire plant out of one central location. We targeted the efficiencies and throughputs, and ultimately lowered our energy consumption by 25 percent.”
With all the individual operations running in a coordinated fashion and being controlled from one central location, the company was able to balance and fine tune the entire operation for optimum performance and production.
“The timing actually was great,” Allen says, “because the economy turned about the same time these improvements were completed, enabling us to operate more cost-effectively at a time when it was needed the most. Had the automation not been completed, continuing operational challenges and inefficiency would have made these last two years much more difficult. The results have exceeded our expectations, and, while it has taken us some time to get everything refined, it has really come together well.”
Before the plant was automated, one person was required in each control tower along with two ground hands to run each of the individual operations.
Instead of labor, the plant now has 15 cameras in strategic locations throughout the operation. The cameras are monitored and controlled by two operators in the central control room. “This is the heart of it all,” Lacey says. “We have people on the ground that can check things out, but for the most part, the two people in the control room run it all. One operator monitors the asphalt products plant, concrete products plant, and sand plant. The other operates the primary crushers, scrubbers, split bin, and the road base plant. They can speed the operation up or slow it down to optimize the production flow, and if you want to know what’s going on in the plant, you call them. It’s nice to go to one place and get every answer you need.”
The cameras can even be monitored and controlled from home, Lacey adds with a laugh, “but we try not to do it too often — it can become addictive, and we have to be careful.”
In addition to automation, Bridgeport Stone did several other things to streamline its operation and improve its bottom line.