In the southern Indiana and Indianapolis area, the name Milestone carries a reputation for both high quality and high quantity asphalt products. The company operates several plants in the area, one of which is a legacy facility in southwestern Indianapolis that was the biggest of its kind and had been owned by one of the original companies in the area.
However, today, the silos were in need of repair and various components were heading near the end of their lifecycle. The decision was made to replace it with a 600 TPH (544 MTPH) Astec plant with nine silos, 12 cold-feed bins, and six liquid asphalt storage tanks—making it one of the largest plants not just in the Indiana area but in the country.
Mike James, Astec sales representative, remembered the job well. “It’s certainly the largest plant I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “Just the parts list on this order stretched 13 pages.”
ROOM TO GROW
Impressive for a plant this size, the designs called for maximum efficiency, as well as increased productivity. Originally, Milestone was considering overnight silos, but given the enormous production rates expected from Milestone’s customers, the company chose the long-term, four-day storage silos in a 3-by-3 setup.
According to James, if customer orders perform according to Milestone’s expectations, he wouldn’t be surprised to see an additional row of silos in the future. That’s because the plant will perform the production that Astec promises with a high percentage of recycle material. “In the past, plant manufacturers were infamous for just missing the mark,” James said, “but Astec’s reputation is to fulfill customer expectations and they know it.”
That’s certainly true of Astec customer Mark McGaughey, who served as plant manager for several years before becoming corporate maintenance manager for Milestone.
“We customized the plant to meet our specific needs with nine 320-ton (290 tonne) silos and four truck scales equipped with RFID; this is probably the leading edge in terms of technology of any asphalt plant in the nation,” said McGaughey.
BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE
The Indianapolis plants traditionally ran a high load, meeting the needs of many Milestone customers in the area. It was common to have 60 to 70 trucks ready to go at the start of an average workday.
McGaughey shared, “Before the new plant, when we were running only 500 TPH (454 MTPH), you could pretty much set your watch by when those early morning trucks would pull out and the 9:30 to 10 a.m. trucks would be waiting empty—even if the plant was full at the start of the day.”
Therefore, when Milestone first considered replacing the Indianapolis plant, McGaughey and his team considered two factors: first, recognizing that the ship-through rate of the plant was very high and likely to increase; and second, to take advantage of the technological improvements now on the market since the plant was initially built back in 1992.
“There were several developments in the market that had been introduced since the plant was first opened,” McGaughey noted, “Upgrades that went from parallel flow to counter flow, 400 TPH (363 MTPH) to 500 TPH (454 MTPH)—every iteration helped us, but the underlying cabling and backbone for the plant was stuck in 1992. Now, we have a Dillman counterflow drum running 600 TPH (544 MTPH) and it’s supported by the most advanced technology on the market.”
Replacing the old systems was more than just a question of convenience. Milestone knew that as the plant’s customer demands continued to increase, the probability of a catastrophic failure occurring sometime during the year was growing. Milestone President C.J. Potts thought it wise to invest in the future of the facility and bring the Indianapolis site into the 21st century with a new plant—one with all the bells and whistles.
THE DREAM COMES TO LIFE
“I sat down with Mike James on the curb out by the plant,” McGaughey remembered, “and I told him what we wanted, what I had in my mind of what the perfect plant would be.” James then presented Milestone with a quote on their designs that pleased the powers-that-be at Milestone’s corporate headquarters. Not only could they build the plant of their dreams, but do so for less than they expected.
In his 30 years with Milestone, McGaughey has gone through several plant builds, but this was the first time he was given carte blanche to build a plant from the ground up. No piece—not the control house, not the drum, not a single light switch—would be left from the original facility.
With everything wiped clean, the land was cleared off and reimagined for the new plant. Milestone even repositioned the entrance, loading, and exit points for the trucks to further streamline the future plant’s efficiency and driver safety.
“We have the ability to load three trucks on three scales simultaneously,” McGaughey added. “With this plant’s capacity, that situation may not happen often, but it’s comforting to know that the plant can handle it when needed. It’s just really helped with our customers’ flow patterns, getting in and getting out, as well as providing ample space for the next truck that’s waiting in line.”
And, the new plant delivers. “This plant will do 600 tons (544 tonnes) with ease,” McGaughey proudly noted. “Easy on the plant, and easy on the operator. Just type six-zero-zero and enter, and watch it go. Only the loader operator can tell the difference when this plant is running 250 TPH (227 MTPH) to 600 TPH (544 MTPH). No change in pitch. No excessive noise. We’ve actually had people look out to the bin just to prove to themselves the plant’s running. It’s that quiet. Astec did a wonderful job.”