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Speaking Volumes

With two of the country's top metropolitan areas and a population of 40 million in reach, Oldcastle Architectural Inc. was confident of landscape unit

Don Marsh

With two of the country's top metropolitan areas and a population of 40 million in reach, Oldcastle Architectural Inc. was confident of landscape unit and concrete block prospects for one of its early greenfield properties. Oldcastle Easton (Pa.) opened six years ago; toward mid-decade, the well-muffled hum of the plant's two machines running seven days a week reminded management how conservative the initial market assessment had been.

Our location is central to a region that had unforeseen landscape and building block demand, says Oldcastle Easton General Manager Randy Gottlieb. The original plant has allowed us to cover national retail accounts and grow a landscape and masonry dealer base. By nearly doubling capacity, we now have significantly greater flexibility with existing and new product lines.

Among new offerings for the Easton production log, he adds, are recently crafted paver, wall and step units in Oldcastle Architectural's Belgard brand, which carriers the tagline, Walls and Floors for Your Outdoors; conventional and premium wet cast stepping stones; and, Dufferin Stone, a machine-molded masonry veneer that debuted in Canada and is being rolled out across the franchise as a labor-saving alternative to individual precast faux stone units.

Wide ranging, high volume capability allows Easton to supply Dufferin Stone, wet cast patio stones, and other premium product to sister properties in the Oldcastle Architectural/Northeast Region, encompassing mid-Atlantic and New England states. The opening of Easton #2 follows a string of new machinery installations or plant construction the company has completed in Arizona, California, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio since 2002.

TERRA FIRMA

Oldcastle Easton occupies a 45-acre plot on the edge of Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, about an hour north of Philadelphia and slightly more west of New York City. Efficient access to New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia is afforded by Interstates 78, 80 and 476, although the Lehigh Valley is proving fertile on its own. A December 2005 New York Times report, Shaking Off the Rust - New Suburbs are Born, for example, notes how Easton, Bethlehem and Allentown, Pa., attracted 14,000 new residents from the New York region in 2004 alone Û double the influx of 1998.

A build out plan positioning Oldcastle Easton for at least the second half of this decade has yielded a two-machine twin plant Û sporting 5,000 sq. ft. of catwalk and mezzanine area Û that started up in December and proceeded to a full shift, five-day schedule in January. With a Besser V312 and Rekers big board machine (#1, 2000 start up) and a second Rekers big board machine and CMS wet cast line (#2), Oldcastle Easton is poised to become one of North America's highest output concrete masonry plants.

Central to Easton #1 and #2 is an aggregate storage and transfer system with volume and conveyor belt footage more typical of a quarry-based ready mixed plant; dust controls comprehensive enough to please even the toughest industrial hygienists, or EPA or OSHA inspectors; and, weighing speed and accuracy to keep three plant mixers charged with little or no waiting. The new aggregate delivery and transfer plan eliminates bottlenecks that were created from #1's limited underground storage, which at peak times had led to outdoor stockpiling and the need to deploy loaders for second step handling.

To consolidate aggregate handling for the existing and new facilities, Easton General Manager Billy Wauhop, recently named Oldcastle Architectural Northeast Region engineer, detailed four underground hoppers, each with two to three truckloads' storage. The hoppers charge 16 round, 125-ton silos served by a shuttle conveyor and built within the new facility in an area closest to existing plant. Eight split rear silos serve Easton #1 or #2, while the front silos serve the latter plant only. The vessels feed eight weigh belts transferring rock and sand to either of the plants' main conveyors.

Dust control is prolific, as collectors are placed at all points of conveyor-to-conveyor or belt-to-mixer transfer. One dust collector situated between Easton #2's aggregate silos and production areas is dedicated to interior points. Separate dust collection handles exterior points, primarily at the plant's four 125-ton cement or fly ash silos.

Granumat granulated pigment dispensing and blending equipment for the new plant includes hoppers with bin indicators, versus load cells. The equipment is set up for speed and blending flexibility, where dosing of each pigment can be uniform or significantly varied.

The pigment dispensing and aggregate delivery systems evolved from input of Oldcastle Easton's charter staff. Plant #1 employees helped build plant #2, says Wauhop. They know the machines and handling and packaging components. We didn't want to isolate them in the existing plant, and have shifted about 10 over to the new line.

The production plan calls for Easton #1 to handle taller units, with the second plant producing any and all wall units or paving stones. Tumbling equipment installed shortly after Oldcastle Easton opened will handle product from both plants.