Batch Plant Teams: A Vital Company Asset
Author: Miller & Long Team
Behind the scenes, the batch plant operators, mixer drivers, and various equipment operators are working to ensure our concrete is always ready when needed. It takes much coordination to make this happen, but these dedicated workers successfully do it day in and day out.
The experience gained at the 7272 Wisconsin Avenue project (The Wilson & The Elm), with its own batch plant set up in Rockville, Maryland, paved the way for the successful implementation of the batch plant at Metropolitan Park 7/8 in National Landing, Virginia, (the building that houses Amazon H2Q). The team takes special pride in one aspect of the job: “It’s impressive that our team went 110,000 yards without any concrete break issues,” explained Operation Manager Paul McDonald.
This team was comprised of Batch Plant Operators Kenny Hettenhouser, David Linares, and Charlie Jones (for the mat pours at the start of the project), Alan Wakefield (former operations manager), McDonald, and others. McDonald explained the coordination involved, “It was unique and required more coordination within our team. Usually, we just have one batch plant operator on a site, so both batch plant operators had to work together to get all the concrete out on time.”
Batch Plant Timekeeper, Erin Wakefield, was instrumental to the team. “She’s a timekeeper on steroids. She would help with scheduling the mixer drivers (up to 17 drivers), coordinating vacations, and scheduling off-site deliveries. She did more than she was asked to do,” said McDonald. Wakefield even coordinated a special event at the batch plant to commemorate 9/11 in September 2021.
Other notable batch plant employees include Equipment Operator Jose Santos Cruz, who McDonald said, “works extremely hard and never stops moving.” Cruz’s work ethic earned him the chance to be trained as our next batch plant operator. Equipment Operators Jose Reyes Cruz and Chris Brown were also standouts on the project, along with Tanker Coordinator Anibal Moran, who went the extra mile and picked up any odds-and-ends tasks. Specifically, Reyes Cruz would level out any sediment that built up on the roads in and out of the batch plant, and Brown would assist other subs whenever needed. This versatility and willingness to do other jobs shows an incredible commitment to the team’s success.
In addition, this team also worked with new materials (CarbonCure™) and a new stockpile (sand and stone) monitoring system. “Our stockpiles were monitored electronically utilizing cameras to record the volume in each stockpile. We set our minimums and maximums, and daily it would snap a picture. Those pictures would be used to calculate the amount of material to be ordered,” said McDonald. “The team was on their game. They knew what they were doing. Once we got the initial hurdles ironed out, it went smoothly. They made it look easy.”
Hettenhouser eventually took over operations of both batch plants and overall logistics. This change in focus enabled Linares to concentrate on batching the concrete and ensuring efficient concrete production. Hettenhouser, who has worked for the company for eight years, added, “Batch plants prove that they can be a solo operation and continue to outperform and provide quality concrete.” Linares, who has been with Miller & Long since 1997, said of the project, “It was a great work environment and production was smooth, which resulted in zero concrete quality issues.”
On another job site, Batch Plant Operator Zach Hammers had to contend with site size restrictions. “We had to shrink our Cemco footprint to meet the space we were given, which was challenging,” said McDonald. Hammers made it work, even though that meant that he had to increase his coordination with suppliers due to the unusually small stockpiles. These smaller stockpiles also meant that more frequent deliveries were required, not an easy task on a secure job site that required a checkpoint at the entrance. Also, Hammers did not have the luxury of the stockpile management system, so he had to manually calculate the materials needed based on the production schedule and schedule deliveries accordingly. As a comparison, the small stockpiles meant a maximum of a 200-300-yard pour, whereas a larger batch plant site could manage a 1,000-yard pour.
Versatile employees working with Hammers included Equipment Operator Andre Cockerham and Laborer Jose Cruz. Cockerham made sure the plant never ran out of material and kept the material storage area clean, while Cruz took on additional duties of coordinating tankers, mixer trucks, and dump trucks.
Last, but certainly not least, are Mixer Drivers Jerome Brown, Roger Smallwood, and Cecil Bowman, who McDonald said is “critical” to the plants’ operation.
McDonald is confident that his team is ready to face any project, big or small. He noted, “We have gained so much experience over the last couple of years. I have no doubt this team can handle whatever comes our way.”