“We decided to do more than modernize our existing plant. Building a new plant has enabled us to more than double production and allows us to produce a variety of new, very high quality products,” says CEO Jim Vinke.
But this new plant was not built overnight. According to Vinke, a significant amount of teamwork, pre-planning, research, and a willingness to work with local government officials were key to the plant’s success. “One of the first things we did was to assemble a team of key Redland personnel that worked together to generate ideas and implement plans for the new plant,” Vinke says. “We built this new plant to meet the needs of our customers, so the input of our sales and marketing people was crucial. When it came to designing and managing the construction of the new plant, the individuals we really relied on, however, were Simon Whalley, our director of manufacturing, John Vrobel, our Harmar plant manager, and their staffs.”
“We looked seriously at this new plant for probably three years before we broke ground, but it took us less than one year to get the permits we needed,” adds Vrobel. “Because we did all of this work early on, the overall project went pretty smoothly.”
“Before we could begin construction on the new plant, we had to move about 300,000 cubic yards of material off the site,” says Vrobel. “We also had to deal with the local government on some wetland issues. We worked closely with a wetlands consultant and with the local branch of the Department of Environmental Protection to obtain the necessary wetlands encroachment permits.”
According to Vrobel, keeping an open mind was essential in the permitting process. “If you go in with attorneys, it’s going to lengthen the project by at least twofold. We went in very wide open and worked very closely with the local community leaders and government agencies, and that made the process a lot easier. We had to make some concessions—for example, a trout stream wraps its way around the property. We agreed to leave a wooded corridor between our property and the stream and to leave the stream open to fishing. But that was a tradeoff we were willing to make for being able to use the site.”
“We did a lot of homework in the planning process,” says Vrobel. “We traveled quite a bit to Europe to look at machinery that suppliers had built and installed in brick plants over there, and we ran tests using our material in some of the equipment we were considering.”
“We were looking at equipment from a few different companies, and these machines were the best value,” says Vrobel. “They offered both ease of maintenance and low repair costs. Some of the other Redland Brick plants have also used these machines with a great deal of success, so we knew they would be reliable. We ran full-scale trials on both machines with our material before we bought them.”
Working with MECO, Redland selected H?le, a German company, to design and build the grinding plant. Although a number of companies bid on the project, H?le’s proposal was the most impressive. “There aren’t many companies in the U.S. that will put together a grinding plant like this,” Vrobel says. “Additionally, our parent company, Belden, had used H?le for some of the engineering and design in their new grinding plant as well and had been pleased with the results.”
The raw materials—local shale and imported fireclay—are sized to –10 mesh using two Mogensen screen banks, and then proceed to a H?le double-shaft mixer, where a precise amount of water is added. According to Vrobel, this type of mixing system is unusual for a U.S. plant but is often seen in Europe. “Adding water at this stage in the process improves the extrusion qualities by giving the moisture time to even out in the material, and it also eliminates any dust issues,” Vrobel says.
H?le also supplied two excavators, which are used to remove the blended material from the storage bunkers; a second double-shaft mixer, which is used to mix Additive A® and additional water into the formulation; a de-airing double-shaft mixer, which is used to add the final water to bring the moisture content of the clay up to 12.5-13%; and an extruder, a H?le Futura S, which extrudes the brick at up to 28,900 SBE per hour. Three Novatronic controllers are used throughout the process to control the moisture content of the clays.
“We found Ingredient Masters at the Powder & Bulk Solids show in Chicago a few years ago when we were looking for a company to do the batching for us, and they were the best value that we could find,” Vrobel says. “The system is completely automated, so it’s much more accurate and much more efficient than the manual batching system we used in our old plant. We can easily do the same operations in half the time with the automated system.”
Raw materials for coatings are stored in several hoppers along a track. A cart holding a 2000-lb stiff-walled super sack moves down the track and gathers a precise amount of material from each hopper using a gain-in-weight system. Once the batch is complete, it is transferred to either a wet or dry blending station for further processing.
The system was custom-designed specifically for the Harmar plant based on the required accuracy, volume/batch size and batch time. According to Vrobel, the company currently processes a batch in approximately 20-40 minutes; however, the system is set up to handle batch times as fast as four minutes. “This provides us with flexibility for any future increases we might face in production,” Vrobel says.
The coating and texturing system, designed and built by Hallamshire, is also completely automated and is designed to be modular. The individual mixers, pumps and other equipment can be moved around as needed to produce the desired coating and/or texture. Redland Brick commissioned Hallamshire to oversee the design and installation of both the batching system and the coating and texturing system. Both systems are tied together through a single programmable logic controller (PLC), which was supplied by Ingredient Masters.
“It was difficult to find a company that could envision the type of batching, coating and texturing operation that we were looking for,” Vrobel says. “Hallamshire did a good job of taking our vision and putting it together for us.
“We wanted the cutting machine, setting machine, unloading machine, kiln and dryer all to come from the same company, and Ceric had the best package out of the four or five companies that we evaluated,” Vrobel says. “By working with a single supplier for all of these operations, we can much more quickly solve any problems that may arise down the road. It can be easy for companies to pin the blame on somebody else if those operations are split up under different suppliers,” he adds.
To control the plant’s emissions, the company selected a dry lime injection scrubber from Procedair Inc. “We researched the available scrubbers, and this was the one that we felt would best enable us to meet air quality regulations,” says Vinke. “This scrubber has a demonstrated track record of producing the desired results, and we considered it to be the best choice among the options available to us.”
“We really wouldn’t change anything about this new plant,” he adds.