Editors’ Blog

The next portable plant opportunities

By |  February 24, 2014

03-portabeplantA great shift has taken place within the crushing industry, and some of the biggest producers may not realize it. So says Don Brock, chairman and CEO of Astec Industries, who founded his company more than 40 years ago on a foundation of hot-mix asphalt plants.

“These track-mounted small crushers and screens,” Brock says. “How many do you think are being built worldwide each year?”

Brock pauses for a moment before revealing his answer: About 7,000.

“Ten to 12 years ago there were none,” Brock says. “What this has done is put people in the crushing business that would not normally have been in the crushing business. It’s taken away volume from the big players. I kind of laughed at the first track-mounted crushers that came out of Northern Ireland from the Powerscreens and Terexes. I stopped laughing when I realized how many they were building.”

The shift will continue toward track-mounted equipment, Brock adds. One opportunity he sees is the small quarry that doesn’t have a mega deposit.

“If you can [use] three or four of those off a trailer, you don’t have all the infrastructure some others have,” Brock says. “Every time they crush they’re taking away tonnage from the big guys.”

Brock estimates that about half of all the crushed stone being produced in the United States is processed through mobile machines. Unfortunately, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) doesn’t track whether the machines processing crushed stone are mobile or not, but even an estimate such as Brock’s shows how far technology has come – and in such a short period of time.

Recycling is another threat to the traditional quarry model. According to USGS’s latest crushed stone data, the amount of material reported to be recycled increased 11 percent year-over-year. This following two consecutive years of decreasing year-over-year activity in recycling.

“In 30 years we will be doing more reuse of material,” Brock says. “Companies like the Vulcans and Martin Mariettas need to embrace that and get into it. There’s probably 18 billion tons of hot-mix asphalt on roads in America.”

Of course, a company’s ability to spend on new machinery will impact how much and how quickly markets shift. One report from research firm The Freedonia Group indicates global demand for mining machinery is expected to expand 8.6 percent per year through 2017. Growth in North America (4.3 percent per year) isn’t anticipated to be as bullish compared with regions such as Asia (10.1 percent per year) and Central and South America (8.8 percent), where infrastructure development is taking place at a rapid pace.

Construction machinery demand in North America (2.9 percent per year) is expected to be even slower compared with global demand (6.0 percent per year), according to a separate report from the same research firm.

ConExpo-Con/Agg should be another indicator of growth to come. See you in Las Vegas.

Comments are closed.