Experience in manufacturing has paid off for Buzz Chinnis, president and owner of Triangle Aggregates, Inc., a relatively new mine operation in Jackson, Ala.
Chinnis retired about two years ago from a dredge equipment manufacturing business he helped found in 1982. In May 2004, he purchased a pit and ordered a crushing and screening plant that went operational in January 2006.
Between those two dates was a lot of research and planning. Like all of Chinnis' decisions in the past, the new plant reflected his strong background in manufacturing and a keen sense of business. Before making any major decisions on anything, Chinnis created a detailed business plan that was based on operating costs and current market prices.
Chinnis' in-depth research included meetings with representatives of crushing and screening plant manufacturer KPI-JCI.
"With their help and that of other people, we got it exactly right," he said. "Starting from scratch, it was a lot easier. For example, we had new ground for the plant, so we could lay it out to suit our needs."
Triangle Aggregates is located about 60 miles north of Mobile, Ala. The company's market area includes southern Alabama, the Mississippi Coast and some of the Florida Panhandle.
"It's a very active area," Chinnis noted. "The demand is here and we are doing our best to meet it."
The company operates a number of quarry sites. The proximity of two of the quarry operations — they are less than 2 miles apart on a 2,200-acre site — significantly improves the company's efficiency.
"The quarry's original operation was pretty primitive," he said. "It worked, but it wasn't really topnotch. That's why we decided to upgrade all of the equipment."
Equipment decisions began at the ground level, with Chinnis sending raw material samples from the mine to the KPI-JCI laboratory for testing. This allowed KPI-JCI to match the material's characteristics with the right equipment. The samples were also labeled and stored for reference so that, later, he can plan his future mining efforts.
The KPI-JCI test lab also performed a special wet test to determine the true material gradation. The typical dry test does not separate the silts, clays and deleterious materials from the useful aggregate.
"If you make clean gravel," Chinnis said, "you can sell everything you make. This is especially true of concrete customers because they want clean gravel. So that's what we give them. We make it a point never to send them dirty gravel."
Chinnes noted that a key factor is the custom-designed, skid-mounted KPI-JCI Model 1830 portable crushing and screening plant. "It is very well laid out," he said, and "it has performed up to Chinnis' expectations."
Triangle Aggregates' mines have good deposits of sand and gravel, with relatively little overburden. Most of the plant's final output is 57 and pea gravel. Anything over 1.5 inches is sold to asphalt producers to be crushed for use in their mixes. The mines operate about 20 hours per day, six days a week. Sundays are set aside for equipment inspection and the performance of routine maintenance.
Chinnis said they ordered a second KPI-JCI plant, which was delivered late last year. His new plant came with vulcanized belts installed. The new plant also has polyurethane decking.
"As much gravel as we put through them, the screens don't last very long without that protection," he said. "But with the polyurethene, we think they will last a lot longer."
"I'm new to the aggregate business," Chinnis said, "but everybody who looks at our operation says it is impressive." He added, "We're doing something right."