Owner Ross Duff explains how his family's company overhauled its productivity using state-of-the-art machinery and iPads.
Duff Quarry, based in Huntsville, Ohio, is a family-owned quarry, founded in the 1960s, that produces stone, gravel and sand products for building and construction use.
The quarry serves a five county area in Ohio. Together with partner businesses--including concrete, lumber and building supply concerns--Duff is a one-stop source for building materials.
It’s a productivity-based business. The more we can get out of the plant with the least amount of manpower, the better we can serve our customers with a high-quality, well-priced product.
Our previous plant, which we operated for 40 years, required a staff of at least a half-dozen people during an operation shift and it would be a really good day if we could squeeze 350 tons per hour out of the machinery. It was an old-school crushing plant where just about everything was a manual operation.
In 2004, we embarked on a three-year complete overhaul of the quarry, introducing state-of-the-art machinery and the IT automation systems to operate it, including Rockwell Automation Systems technology. Now, the entire facility is completely automated. It can be operated by a single operator and it produces approximately 700 tons per hour.
iPads have become a critical part of operating this quarry efficiently and safely. The plant operator uses computers and specialized software to monitor the condition of the entire plant, from the stone crushers to the belts that move the product along. At the same time, it is important for the plant operator to be out in the quarry to deal with a problem quickly should one arise. The only way for him to do that is to have access to the automation software while he's out in the quarry.
That's where the iPad comes in. We use free remote access software from LogMeIn on the iPad to access the control room PC. The iPad/LogMeIn combination is thousands of dollars less than the custom laptop option.
Also, a quarry is a dirty environment with lots of dust in the air. Unlike expensive laptops designed for industrial use, the iPads don't have any vents or fans and the last thing we need is all that stuff getting sucked into the laptop and destroying it. The iPads have proven to be bullet proof in our harsh working environment.
For example: This quarry is the size of six football fields. If an amp sensor on the machinery detects that a belt is overloaded or has gone off its track, it shows up on the automation software in the control room.
If the operator is sitting in the control room, he sees that warning, but it can take him time after he shuts it down to get out to the trouble spot and take care of the issue. But with the iPad, he can use it out in the yard to instantly access the control room software and shut the plant down. Since he's already out in the yard, it saves valuable time.
Breaking and making rocks is a very "old-school" type of industry. Yet we safely and efficiently provide an absolutely critical source of quality building materials by deploying modern machinery and technology and tablets, which have become an indispensable part of our success.