Process Machinery Inc.
Construction and operation of mineral processing plants requires several widely different disciplines. “Essentially, this company is several companies under one roof,” CEO/co-founder David Miles concedes. “Process Machinery Inc. provides in-house engineering, design, detailing and project management for mineral process flow, application of process equipment, mechanical power transmission, structural design and concrete design. We also provide in-house manufacturing and fabrication, field construction and repair services.
“Many of our competitors subcontract some or all of the major disciplines,” Miles continues. “This may keep overhead low, but it severely limits control of overall quality and leaves for a lot of opportunity for finger-pointing when things go wrong. In our case, we provide most of the services in-house. If something isn’t right, we fix it – no excuses.
“We have been in business for 32 years and have many long-term employees who have accumulated a great deal of knowledge and expertise,” he continues. “We have experienced degreed structural and concrete professional engineers on staff. We have project managers and a field construction group with a work ethic and experience that are unequaled in the industry. Over the years, we have grown to become a quality provider that is known in the industry to do high-end, high-capacity stationary processing plants and conveyor systems, and to have the engineering capacity to solve difficult process, mechanical and structural problems. This is our strength and our niche that sets us apart from other competitors.”
We have been in business for 32 years and have many long-term employees who have accumulated a great deal of knowledge and expertise.
Process Machinery Inc.’s state-of-the-art facility in Shelbyville, Ky., measures 95,000 square feet.
“In a good year, we’ll do three major stationary plants and a bunch of small projects,” Miles says.
In the course of building aggregate plants, the company also produces other niche products.
“We build asphalt recycle crushers, cold feed bins and systems for the asphalt industry, base stabilization pug mills, portable rock crushing plants, stationary building enclosures for crushing and screening plants and large, custom radial stacking conveyors,” he says.
The company distributes several major processing equipment product lines in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio. “But we do plant work in every state east of the Mississippi,” Miles points out. “We do work for both large and small producers, so we go where our customers tell us to go.”
Miles emphasizes that the company builds substantial, complex projects. “We do a lot of things that are pretty far out there, so to speak, in terms of engineering and construction challenges,” he declares. These include a 240-foot span conveyor crossing a river, a 200-foot span conveyor crossing a road, a 2,000-foot slope conveyor with 1,000 horsepower drives out of a mine or a complete processing plant enclosed in a building designed for hurricane wind loads. “All of these things require some massive efforts,”?he adds.
Design and construction of a plant typically requires nine months to a year. “We can do a substantial project in a six-month window, but that’s really stretching it,” Miles stresses. He would love to have a standard plant, but each one is unique and has to have a custom-engineered solution. “They all do essentially the same thing,” he concedes.
Many plants have existing facilities around which the new equipment must be installed. “The site-specific restrictions that you’re dealing with over and over again complicate what might otherwise be a simple solution,” Miles stresses. “We have concepts we try to do, but they have to be custom renditions.”
Limestone reserves accessible from the surface are being depleted, so more underground limestone mines are being constructed. “They don’t disturb as much surface area,” Miles reveals. “We’ve been involved in many underground mining operations in the last 15 to 20 years. It has become a niche for us. We learned a lot about how to get major components into an underground operation and install them and make them work. We’ve actually built a complete processing plant underground.”
Miles sees this trend continuing. “You’re going to see more underground mining in the aggregate industry as time goes on,” he predicts. “Everybody thinks crushed stone reserves are an infinite source of supply – there’s rock everywhere. That may be, but you’ve also got to manage how much ground you disturb while you’re extracting those reserves. You find yourself in places that neighbors don’t want any more surface disturbed, so you’re going to take it from underground mines, or you’re not going to have any source.”
Bigger and Better
When Miles and his late father, William, founded Process Machinery Inc. in 1979, systems that handled 350 to 400 tons hourly were standard. Now plants process 1,200 to 1,500 tons hourly and in some cases much more. Also in 1979, crusher plants were not yet automated.
“It was a completely manual operation,” Miles remembers. “You used a relay-type push button to start and stop processes. Now it’s all programmed logic, process control. You’re looking at sequential startup and shut down. We’re monitoring feed levels, amp draw, oil temperatures, etc. in the equipment and controlling feeders on loop-back controls that are driving the whole plant. So an operator pushes one button to control the process.”
Video monitors allow a single operator to view the entire plant. “One operator oversees monitors and cameras and controls the plant,” Miles explains.
Family and employee-owned, Process Machinery Inc. employs two of Miles’ three children. “My son Daniel is president of the company, and my daughter, Jennifer Ratterman, is executive vice president,” Miles notes. “Many of our key employees and managers are significant stockholders. We believe that if you want your employees to treat it like it is their own, then you should give them the opportunity to own part of it. It’s a very simple concept, but it works.”