February 1, 2009

by Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (pun intended), you’re well aware that the nation and the aggregates industry are experiencing some of the toughest financial conditions in decades. Although the alphabet soup of infrastructure bills such as ISTEA, TEA-21, and SAFETEA-LU have all been important indicators of the industry demand, many operators view the highway spending portion of President Obama’s economic stimulus package as a make or break factor for 2009.

Throughout the 18 years I’ve covered this market, employment issues have dealt almost exclusively with the shortage of skilled labor, not the surplus. That, too, has changed during recent months. As I scan regional and national headlines, plant shutdowns and layoffs are among the most common news trends.

During tough economic times, it is more important than ever to implement smart management and operations strategies throughout your operation. We can complain about harsh market conditions or we can trim our costs, improve our operational practices, review our product sizes and ranges, and lay the groundwork for healthier, more vital operations.

Throughout its existence, Aggregates Manager has been the industry leader in providing this type of coverage. We’re more committed than ever to giving our market practical information on how to contain costs and maximize investments in both people and machinery. In this month’s Operations Illustrated section (page 25), you’ll find practical tips on how to eliminate plant bottlenecks. Through simple procedures such as changing how a loader operator approaches a pile of shotrock or how a truck driver gets his ticket, there are many no-cost or low-cost ways to streamline operations. Look for upcoming installments to feature best practices throughout the production chain.

We’ll also continue to feature ways to extend equipment life through planned, preventive maintenance. In our Equipment Management department (page 38), you’ll find advice on how to prolong the life – and efficiency – of dust control equipment. While this may not yield additional tons in the stockpile, it’s important to maintaining your social license to operate and to preventing costly fines from the Environmental Protection Agency.

This industry is comprised of smart, savvy, and selfless people. Time and again, I’ve seen people offer advice and assistance to their peers in other companies. If you would like to share an operational or business practice that has worked for your company, please contact me at 330-920-9737 or

Whether streamlining operations, maintaining equipment, or dealing with business challenges, Aggregates Manager is dedicated to offering practical solutions to the aggregates industry.

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