When Tipton Precast President Shawn Maddox (the one-time head of Maddox Excavating) and Vice President Mike Masters decided to enter the precast market, the last thing on their minds was taking their time. In the two years since Tipton purchased 30 acres of empty farm field in an industrial park (as well as the adjacent 15 acres for future development), Maddox, Masters and their team of employees have gone from bringing in ready mixed to pour a few pieces a day to a state-of-the-art operation with wet and dry casting capability; cutting-edge coring technology; and, two new buildings in which to work. Maddox puts it best, We did our homework before we jumped into this, and ever since we've opened, we've surpassed our expectations. Mike Master, with 21-plus years of experience in the precast industry, was the driving force in tackling such an undertaking, and his years of knowledge and expertise were able to be transformed from vision and dreams to reality.
As Maddox explains it, in the first year after the company began operation in March 2005, it purchased a portion of precast from other producers. The wet cast operation began outdoors on a concrete slab in a field. We struggled initially, he admits.
It didn't take long for Tipton to envision an enclosed production facility for its wet cast manhole production line. The company began construction in March 2006 of a new 22,000-sq.-ft. facility. The Tipton County Economic Development Corporation provided assistance with the company's tax abatement application request, which was ultimately granted by the Tipton Common Council. The owners and employees constructed the entire facility, including all design work, installation of infrastructure, site excavation, structural steel erection, and concrete work. The only work subcontracted was the erection of the building, HVAC, electrical, and plumbing. Tipton Precast employees also participated in the installation of the batch plant, dry cast equipment, and all other machinery.
PIECE BY PIECE
In early 2006, Maddox approached Advanced Concrete Technologies to engineer a Wiggert/ACT MobilMat Mo 45-4-PCS batch plant that would be capable of providing 1-yd. of wet or dry cast mixes per cycle, with continuous production capability of 46 yd. per hour. To ensure year-round production in a part of the country that often sees subzero temperatures, the four aggregate bins are housed indoors, slightly below grade for charging with front-end loaders. The bins are currently 125-ton capacity, but can be expanded to 250 tons when needed. Two outdoor silos provide 135 tons of cement and 95 tons of fly ash storage. Two of the aggregate bins are fitted with Hydrotester moisture control probes for automatic moisture compensation to maintain batch yield and adjust final batch water to maintain a consistent water-cement ratio.
The mixer is a Planetary Countercurrent HPGM 1125 with two discharge gates, one to feed the wet cast production via pour buckets and cranes, and the other feeding the dry cast production machine via conveyor. The mixer has a final moisture control probe called a Hydromat, which is used when the highest degree of precision is required, as for self consolidating concrete (SCC), dry cast mixes with low water-cement ratio, and colored concrete.
For wet cast products, an SCC mix design with admixtures from Axim (a division of Essroc, which is Tipton's cement supplier) allows for ambient curing and gives next-day strength without steam. Axim's recently unveiled Axsis Mobile Tech Unit Û a 52-ft. tractor and gooseneck trailer engineered to provide customers and agencies onsite technical assistance Û made Tipton one of its first stops.
Shipped from Italy, the Colle pipe/precast machinery was installed in the final months of 2006. Supplied by Colle's North American distributor, New Hampton Metal Fab of Iowa, the machine is the first of its kind in the United States.
We visited Europe Û France, Italy, Switzerland Û to look at different machines, Maddox says. Some of the facilities we visited had as many as 15 Colle machines within one factory. One particular plant had one of the first Colle machines ever produced, some 41 years ago. This was of particular interest to the Tipton Precast team since it indicated that the machine was structurally sound and still in operation, producing components along with more modern Colle models.
Maddox and Masters underscore the contributions of ACT, Essroc/Axim and New Hampton to the engineering and start-up of the facility and the transition into the world of dry cast production.
The single-station Colle machine extends below floor level within an underground pit. Once the form is filled with the dry cast mix, the vibration and pressing cycles take over. The product is then automatically raised out of the pit within its form, and a moving trolley (similar to a walking floor) enters the machine. The finished product minus form is placed on the trolley, moved out of the machine, and taken off the trolley by a modified forklift, with clamp, to an adjacent curing area. Production is constant and uninterrupted, explains Maddox.
Since the form and core stay in the machine, the following product is being produced while the finished product is being placed in the curing area. The entire automated process is controlled and monitored by a user-friendly Windows-based PC system called Vicom. The machine also has the ability to produce monolithic bases. The bases are produced upside-down, and then the form/core/product is rotated 180 degrees within the machine before being demolded and placed on the trolley. This allows a monobase product to be cured rightside-up.
Once the product enters the curing area the finished pieces are covered immediately by individual tarps that handle 10-12 pieces depending on size. The main indoor curing area is capable of storing more than a day's production of dry cast. Production continues during the winter months, with adjustments made to mix designs, machine parameters and curing times to compensate for the colder weather.
Tipton prefers to keep a great deal of overstock product in its yard. If a machine breaks down and you lose a day or so of production, you have backup, explains Maddox. So our yard might look like we have a lot, but that's by design.
The area around Tipton, Ind., which includes Indianapolis about 25 miles due south, has been growing steadily in recent years, according to Maddox. The majority of our sales are south of us, but we have delivered as far south as Brookville or Martinsville, north to the Chicago area, and east to Muncie, he says.
With our equipment now in place, we can fulfill 100 percent of our contractor needs, Maddox adds. We are currently operating at a fraction of our capacity due to the efficiency and high output of the dry cast equipment and batch plant.
Tipton Precast's product line includes a variety of items such as catch basins, riser rings, and sanitary and storm structures. A large percent of our sales is 48-in. structures, Maddox says. This includes bases, risers, barrel sections and cones. As we grow, we will add other forms to our dry cast operation. Dry cast helps us keep up with the volume.
On the still-active wet cast operation at the north end of the facility, Tipton produces odd sizes and specialty items. Many of the forms are supplied by New Hampton and Besser. A 30-ton and two 10-ton overhead cranes serve the wet cast bays and the adjacent coring operation. Our flattops and box forms, which we build ourselves, have built-in holes, but normally we core rather than cast holes in products, Maddox explains. We brought in the coring equipment in the first quarter of our business, and customers would bring in pieces for us to finish. Our plant can produce 72-in. pieces, but we purchase up to 144-in. pieces for coring. We can core with up to a 60-in. diameter bit.
Plant Manager (and Shawn's brother) Clee Maddox, who previously owned and operated a successful masonry business, has been with Tipton every step of the way, and played a major role in allowing the company to design and build the new facility in house. Shawn Maddox says the employees' expertise and loyalty has been instrumental in building up the business so quickly, recognizing Cale Martin, head of shipping & transportation, and equipment technician Rick Powell as being key players in the operation's success. We couldn't have done any of this without them, Shawn Maddox affirms.