A truck loads finished asphalt mix into the hopper of the elevator conveyor which moves material by roller chains with steel blades guaranteeing high durability, cleanliness and reliability.
Having a clear market vision is anything but simple, especially at a time when trends and responses are rapidly changing.
But the Vaccari family, owner of Vaccari Antonio Giulio S.p.A. (Vaccari), is certainly not discouraged and on the wave of continuous corporate investments has asked some fundamental questions.
The evolution of the market demand requires an increasing flexibility with how asphalt mix is produced and stored based on the relatively limited shelf life of the finished product. To be successful, producers need to formulate a strategy that meets the demands of the market, while limiting excess production of unused asphalt mix.
The average cost of starting a plant to produce asphalt mix fluctuates approximately 400 Euros ($262 USD). That cost often discourages the supply of small quantities on days when the plant is not operating, not to mention when the production facility is engaged in some large supply where it is difficult to place small orders, especially when different mix designs are required to fill the smaller orders.
But the market the Vaccari family serves features a portfolio of small and medium-sized jobs that are often not as programmable as one would like. Small quantities that are difficult to manage in a rational way represent an important part of the overall volume the producer turns out.
A problem that is difficult to solve
The Astec solution seemed the most convincing on paper, and we have validated this assumption.
— Nicola. Vaccari, Vaccari Antonio Giulio SpA
And it’s just talking to Nicola Vaccari, sales manager of Vaccari, which highlighted the problems of an organizationally difficult job.
“Our problems partly relate to the preservation of the product packaged for long periods,” explains Vaccari.
“The demands of the market often present a fragmentation of supplies with many small jobs, often non-programmable, that require small amounts of asphalt mix,” he adds, while touring the Montecchio Maggiore plant, “and for us it is difficult to satisfy every single request. We therefore decided to understand what opportunities the market offered to be able to produce and store the two main types of asphalt mix most marketed to always have quantities ready for loading. We collected data, examined various technical solutions and visited a production site in Northern Europe that works in difficult conditions. We evaluated all the available technologies, and the Astec solution seemed the most convincing on paper, and we have since validated this assumption.”
The choice of the Vaccari Group has indeed fallen on the long-term storage silos of the satellite storage system designed with Astec long-term silos, which have particular characteristics and allow the producer to insulate the material for four days with the guarantee of preserving the technical characteristics of the mix.
Modularity and technology
“At first sight they look like simple silos,” explains Nicola Vaccari, “but, they are real machines with a very sophisticated technology that comes from a deep knowledge of the material and its dynamics of oxidation and loss of the original features.”
The choice of Vaccari fell on two long-term storage silos with a capacity of 100 tons each.
“The system developed by Astec focuses on modularity and integration,” explains Vaccari, “and the sizing with the total 200 tons of load capacity allows us to have that organizational autonomy necessary to satisfy a wider market in a much more linear and optimized way. The combination with the production plant can take place without any problem,” illustrates Nicola Vaccari, “leaving us ample operational space.”
“We were definitely convinced when we saw a plant in Belgium at work where the asphalt mix was produced and stored on Friday and then loaded perfectly intact with all its best technical characteristics on Monday morning,” he says.
“Even in the middle of winter, with very low temperatures, the stored asphalt mix that contained milled material that was soaked from heavy winter rains proved the ultimate challenge for producing and storing an exceptionally high quality of the outgoing materials, but we were able to remove any remaining doubts regarding the technologies developed by Astec.”
The advantages of a highly technological solution
Even in the middle of winter, we proved we could produce and store an exceptionally high quality of asphalt mixes.
— Ing. Vaccari, Vaccari Antonio Giulio SpA
What are the advantages of a highly technological solution like the long-term storage silos from Astec?
The possibility of planning the production of the plant in a more linear way is certainly the first and most obvious advantage. By storing up to four days of material with Astec’s guarantee of the quality, you can cope with peak loads, small supply requirements and intelligently use system downtime.
The second is certainly that of being able to provide maximum availability to all of your growing customer base, which need supplies of small quantities at any time.
But the other big advantage consists of being able to logically schedule when to start a plant and when to shut it off. With the silos, it is possible to cope with the first load flow very quickly, as well as, shorten the loading times thanks to the material that can be prepared continuously and loaded quickly when the trucks arrive.
“The purchase of the two silos from Astec,” explains Nicola Vaccari, “represents a revolutionary way we approach the market, our customers and the way we organize our work. From the analysis we performed, it was decided to store the materials subject to the greatest purchase, especially in small quantities and in a less programmed way. The silos come into action to serve customers who need ordinary mixes.”
And he continues, “In the event there are jobs of a certain size, nothing removes the use of the silos also as a regulator of the flow of cargo, preparing the material in the dead times and loading it quickly when the vehicles arrive. In short, it is an investment that allows us to position ourselves in a very different way than in the past, opening new niches to service customers with certain delivery times and loading capabilities.
“We are a structured company with three mining and processing sites. In addition to having the asphalt mix system here in Montecchio Maggiore,” explains Ing. Vaccari. “Being organized and efficient for us is fundamental from every point of view. The two Astec silos will allow us to increase our efficiency even further. We have seen how Astec builds plants with truly cutting-edge technologies and these silos could be the first step to evaluate future expansions.”
Much more than simple silos
The long-term storage silos are real machines, with technology based on a deep knowledge of the asphalt mix. They are not just insulated containers but a storage system in which all the elements, starting from the loading hopper, passing through the elevator conveyor and the transverse conveyor up to the silo batcher to the silo and lower cone, are designed to optimize the process.
The main elements that make it a unique technology are: