QUALITY INDEX

Basalite Concrete Products earns premier NCMA/ICPI plant certification

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The NCMA/ICPI Plant Certification reflects such standard Tracy plant operating procedures as advanced height measurement for the Tiger PS-1400 HD (1,380- x 1,400-mm board size) machine.
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Basalite Concrete Products’ recently upgraded, dealer-driven Tracy, Calif., block and paver operation is the first mover in the NCMA/ICPI Plant Certification Program. Initially good for one year, plant certification indicates that a National Concrete Masonry Association or Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute producer has implemented a quality control system whose sampling, testing and recordkeeping measures equal or exceed program baselines and clear a third party auditor.

The latter would observe a main Tracy production line with advanced cement and aggregate weighing and transfer systems plus three colored-mix belts—all serving one of the largest paver and slab machines in North America, with 1,380- x 1,400-mm board size. “We are land locked and needed to fit the new machine into an existing building,” says Tracy Plant Manager Bryan Langland. “We moved the centerline of the machine, so all foundation and slab concrete had to be removed. The feed system changed, where base mixes are conveyed on one end, face mixes the other.”

Basalite’s material handling and machinery investments align perfectly with NCMA/ICPI Plant Certification, guidelines for which hold that an operation’s quality plan will ensure quality masonry units are produced and errors minimized, and should prove to be “a cost effective business investment … An effective quality control program requires a commitment from all employees involved in production. [It] starts with the support of management in providing the necessary tools, personnel and guidance.”

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Ahead of firming up 2017 offerings, Basalite tested new coloring system capabilities on 16-in. square pavers.
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The producer transitioned molds from the existing machine for the new Tiger PS-1400 HD using Pathfinder plate adapters. Among new products for the Tracy line are 6- x 18-in. wood grain pavers. Kobra Molds scanned the pattern from an Oregon farm harboring choice vintage wood supplied by Basalite. Joining the wood grain pavers in new Basalite offerings especially geared for northern California are 3- x 18-in. index pavers (left), 100-mm thick and thus far specified for commercial plazas and high-end residential jobs.
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A designated quality manager, certification documents stipulate, shall have “defined authority for ensuring that the management system related to quality is implemented and followed at all times” and “direct access to the highest level of management at which decisions are made regarding plant policy or resources.”

NCMA and ICPI developed the program to provide Basalite Concrete Products and fellow members the ability to a) independently control their production process; and, b) deliver on a timely basis block, brick, paver, slab and segmental retaining wall units consistently produced at an acceptable quality level. The program is oriented to units complying with 11 ASTM International and five CSA standards.

Among standards to which Tracy equipment and staff are especially suited is ASTM C15 Committee on Manufactured Masonry Units’ new C1782, Specification for Utility Segmental Concrete Paving Slabs. It determines the minimum flexural strength, dimensional tolerances, and freeze-thaw durability requirements for 12- to 48-in. square products of dry cast, wet cast or hydraulic press methods. The new Tracy machine, a Tiger PS-1400 HD, is earmarked for offerings that fall into the C1782 size range. Requirements in the new standard reflect familiar terms and references for larger paving slabs that do not fall under the existing ASTM C936, Standard Specification for Solid Concrete Interlocking Paving Units.

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All hardscape and block product pallets are stretch-wrapped. Plant volume, coupled with recycling protocol across California industry, compels Basalite to run its own pallet restoration shop at Tracy. Alongside proactive measures to extend wood shipping pallet service life, the producer recycles nearly all material from rejected mixes and crushed culls (stockpiles shown here in background of shrink wrapped pallet).
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TRACY AT TWENTY

Basalite Concrete Products serves northern California, the Central Valley and northern Nevada from Tracy, Dixon, Carson City, and Selma plants. Based in Dixon, near the San Francisco Bay, it is one of the top private concrete masonry producers west of the Mississippi River, running nine block or hardscape unit plants in five states and Canada. During an expansion phase timed with the addition of bagged products in California and Washington, it acquired the Tracy plant in 1997 from Hokanson Block. A single building at the 22-acre site housed the initial three-at-a-time block machine, and was soon joined by a second and third structure for two packaged-concrete product lines and a big board paver machine.

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New Cyclonaire pneumatic transfer devices operate more efficiently than screw conveyors, Basalite finds, and allow the Tracy staff to blend cement from three silos versus the prior configuration’s two-powder blend limit.

Located about one hour inland of the Bay Area, the Tracy site now has 1) the main production line, where the Tiger PS-1400 HD runs primarily paving stone and slab units; 2) a smaller block and segmental retaining wall unit line running on a Besser Dynapac in its third tour of Basalite duty, following stops at the Napa and Dixon plants; and, 3) a Sakrete and private label bagging line. At peak demand, Tracy dispatches well over 100 truckloads daily to South Bay Area and California Central Valley and Sacramento markets. The latter were among the hardest hit nationwide during the housing crisis, but have recently rebounded. Tracy plant output is about two-thirds the volume of the Dixon headquarters operation, whose principal focus is the North Bay Area and Sacramento.

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An existing Wurscham color system was redesigned and refurbished with the help of Advanced Concrete Technologies to improve the overall speed and efficiency. As part of the redesign, color holding pots were moved from under the color machine to cyclones above the mixers and the rest of the system was completely refurbished.
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Tracy has become a bedroom community for Silicon Valley and San Francisco, two of the country’s priciest housing markets. Along with residential development, the surrounding San Joaquin County is attracting distribution and logistics operations for brands no less than Amazon, Home Depot and W.W. Grainger.

Residential and commercial building market improvement outside the Bay Area and Silicon Valley drove Basalite’s 2014 decision to move the Tracy plant beyond its first generation paving stone workhorse. Management opted to deploy the largest Tiger machine in North America, recognizing that a 280-mm board length increase could afford an extra row of standard size product compared to a traditional 1,100- x 1,400-mm board machine, and efficiently mold larger slabs the market was demanding.

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The plant upgrade saw existing exterior aggregate bins maintained for base mixes, and a repurposed rail car maintained for face mix aggregate bins. Standley Batch equipped the new line with base and face mix hoppers plus feed belts charging the Tiger machine from separate ends.

Along with the new machine, 480-pallet buffer zone and dry side infrastructure—all from Pathfinder Systems—the 2016 plant upgrade saw the erection of inordinately robust, seismic code-worthy steel supports for new base and face mix hoppers; localizing of all safety devices, primarily with trapped key interlocks; and, a switch from wood to Wasa Uniplast plastic pallets, each marked for integrity testing at scheduled intervals. An existing kiln with 12 bays, each holding 360 pallets, continues to serve the main Tracy production line.

“Basalite Concrete Products takes tremendous pride in being an industry leader,” notes Vice President California/Nevada Dale Puskas. “The recent investments that we’ve made in the Tracy facility, in both the paver plant equipment replacement project and our quality assurance program through plant certification, demonstrate deep commitment to the Masonry and Hardscapes industry. These moves will position us well for further innovation and growth in the Northern California market.”


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