Ind.'s Rieth-Riley Celebrates its 100th Anniversary
A company founded prior to World War I looks back at its success.
📅 Fri November 18, 2016 - Midwest Edition #24
Irwin Rapoport - CEG Correspondent
Rieth-Riley has a large fleet of vehicles and equipment.
Founded prior to the United States involvement in WWI, Rieth-Riley Construction Co. in Goshen, Ind., is celebrating its 100th anniversary and is looking forward to another century of success in Indiana, Michigan and neighboring states. The company is still headquartered in Goshen, Ind., where it was founded in 1916.
The company is now 100 percent employee-owned, Albert A. Rieth, the chief surveyor of Elkhart County, started the company, which received the county's first contract to build a gravel road in 1916 — County Road 32.
Rieth earned a degree in civil engineering from Purdue University, and recognized the need for modern roads and infrastructure to ensure that the state would be ready to enter the motor vehicle age, and that the network be built and maintained in a way that respected the taxpayer. Two years later, Rieth's friend George Riley, became a partner and Rieth-Riley was born. Riley's entrance bolstered the company's finances and his expertise in finance placed it on a firm footing in terms of purchases of equipment and construction materials, investments, and long-range planning.
From gravel roads to concrete to asphalt paving, Rieth-Riley was soon building small bridges and it constructed part of the Indiana section of the coast-to-coast Lincoln Highway (U.S. 66) in the 1920s. The company continued to expand in both states, with a major focus on Michigan.
Riley retired in 1940 and sold his share of the business to Rieth in 1940. In 1943, Rieth passed away, but the mantle of leadership was immediately taken up by his sons Blair, Bill and Lee, who worked hard to ensure the continued growth of the company.
In 1972, the Ford Motor Company hired the company to pave its parabolic test track at the Romeo Michigan Proving Grounds. The company continued to grow, and the three brothers decided that the company's future lay with the employees, which led to them being the first family-owned heavy/highway construction firm to sell 50 percent of its interests to the employees in 1985. In 1992, the company sold the remander.
Today, the company, which employs 1,600, performs more than 60 percent of its business on road and bridge projects for the Indiana and Michigan DOTs and public agencies.
In addition to its DOT work, the company also performs site prep work, excavation and the installation of underground infrastructure for hospitals and other institutions, and businesses.
The company is striving to expand, and now has asphalt plants throughout Indiana and Michigan; portable concrete plants; aggregate crushing and washing plants; docks on Lake Michigan, which are also used for deliveries of other materials such as logs and rock salt; many aggregate pits and limestone quarries; and storage terminals.
Keith Rose, Rieth-Riley's CEO, stressed that the company's future is bright.
“No question about it,” he said, “our greatest asset is our employees and the employee-ownership culture. We invest in training and improving the professionalism of our employees from the crews and equipment operators to upper management. We all want the company to succeed and for our employees to able to advance their careers and range of responsibilities.
“This translates into satisfied customers,” he said. “We're only as good as our last job and we work hard to ensure that we deliver what the customer ordered on-time and on-budget. Our quality control is meticulous and they do not hesitate to halt work on a project if the quality is sub-standard. We not only meet the specifications of the individual contracts, but exceed them with our own internal standards. This is well known by our clients, who appreciate our input and suggestions to increase infrastructure lifespans, and reduce construction costs and delivery times as much as possible.
He said that the company was founded on integrity and respect for the customer.
“Our founders knew that they had to deliver for their various clients and we've never compromised on our values and standards. We've witnessed the ups and downs of the construction industry and weathered them while some of our competitors did not survive. We never take anything for granted, which means that we're always innovating and learning on the job.”
Blair, Bill and Lee worked for the father and started at the crew level to gain an understanding of the business and experience all the levels of it. Rose praised the three brothers for their hard work, which secured the Ford test track contract, which he says was a seminal moment in the company's history.
“Through it we gained the expertise and experience that led us to be recognized as one of the premier road construction companies in the country,” he said. “We've been brought on to work on many major projects since then, but our success is based on our dedication and skills. It all goes back to the gravel road we built in 1916. We delivered a quality product then and that spirit is with us today.”
Some of the company's major projects include:
• The Indiana Toll Road (1954) in St. Joseph County
• King's Highway, Beaver Island, Mich.
• I-465 around Indianapolis, I-94/Borman Expressway in northwest Indiana
• I-94 across Michigan; U.S.-131 central Michigan, including the Constantine bypass
• The Transportation Research Center in Liberty, Ohio
• U.S.-31 expansion in western Michigan through central Indiana.
“Many of the roads you drive in Indiana and Michigan have been touched by Rieth-Riley at some point,” said Rose.
Rieth-Riley is currently working on the Indiana Department of Transportation's $122.7 million State Street Redevelopment Project and is currently constructing the $200 million project for the Indiana Toll Road, reconstructing a road it helped build more than 60 years ago.
“We are very fortunate to have such dedicated employees” said Brian Inniger, CFO of 20 years with Rieth-Riley. “We have been able to survive all these years because these employees believe in our culture of hard work and conservatism. In addition, we are a group that will change with the times to stay current with a commitment to quality materials and workmanship. This culture starts at the top and permeates throughout the organization”
Rieth-Riley has a large fleet of vehicles and equipment that is based at yards/maintenance facilities throughout the geographic locations. The fleet consists of more than 1,500 pieces of equipment ranging from cranes to pick-up trucks, which is maintained by a staff of 28 mechanics, as well as assistance from its vendors.
The equipment includes pieces from BearCat, Caterpillar, Deere, Etnyre, Gomaco, Gradall, Guntert & Zimmerman, Hamm, Kawasaki, Komatsu, Rosco, Trail King, Vogele, Volvo and Wirtgen, among others.
Al Caggiano, Rieth-Riley's equipment manager, has been looking after the fleet since early 2012.
“The key to maintaining a large fleet is accurate and thorough records detailing parts, labor and maintenance costs of the components of an asset class,” he said. “Our annual acquisition costs are a moving target ranging from $5 to $25 million. Operational requirements, utilization targets, life cycle and percentage of usable asset life plotted against asset market value are some of the factors considered in our purchase / replacement program. We prefer to own our construction fleet but do lease and rent when appropriate.
“Using a Certified Rebuild program, some assets are capable of a second or even a third life driving down overall life-time ownership costs,” Caggiano said. “Some assets are sold based on the used market demand. Other assets required by operations for specific functions but have lower utilization numbers are kept in the fleet for many years and used until the life of the asset is exhausted. For a diverse fleet such as ours, there is no 'one size fits all' answer.”
Vendor relationships are very important to Rieth-Riley.
“The equipment manufactured today is more efficient than it has ever been because of the available technology built into each machine,” said Caggiano. “While technology has increased efficiency and productivity, it has also increased the complexity of machine diagnostics and repair. The laptop computer is now the first line of defense for the technicians of today.
“It's not practical to purchase the software and diagnostic equipment for each equipment manufacturer we use and remain current with software and training,” he added. “We have improved our uptime and efficiency utilizing the latest diagnostic tools available through our vendor partnerships.”
Caggiano said he has expectations from the dealers he works with.
“Our expectations include multiple locations, 95 percent plus same day parts inventory, fully staffed service department capable of mobile service calls or block time, and a late model rental fleet. Our vendors expect open communication, honest feedback and the opportunity to support our company. Open communication and honest feedback are fundamental for both parties to succeed. We strive to build a partnership. This allows both sides to combine their strengths and experience while identifying areas needing improvement.”
Rieth-Riley does business with most of the prominent equipment dealerships within its areas throughout the Midwest.
The company typically contracts its fuel delivery. Mechanics have access to a fleet of repair vehicles that carry a wide variety of tools and equipment to various types of repairs, as well as carry various fluids.
Safety is ongoing focus for Rieth-Riley and in 2015, it was awarded the Indiana Construction Association Gold Summit Award for Leadership in Construction Employee Safety.
“It's a proactive approach that revolves around becoming more aware of our surroundings, speaking up when we see at-risk behaviors, fixing hazards as we see them, and reporting those finds and fixes,” said Inniger. “We are committed to making absolutely sure that the safety of every employee is paramount. Our dedication to safety has resulted in a safety record well above the industry average. To maintain it we require that all of our supervisors receive formal safety training, including OSHA 10-hour and OSHA 30-hour courses in construction safety, OSHA trenching, Excavation and Soil Mechanics. As well, every supervisor receives mandatory First Aid/CPR training on a regular basis.
“Employees working at our mining operations receive training in accordance with MSHA safety regulations and attend eight-hour refresher training annually,” he added. “All of our employees are required to attend weekly Toolbox Talks that cover topics specific to the construction industry and ongoing work operations within the company. Our Stretch and Flex program is second to none and is completed on a daily basis amongst all of our craft employees.”
When incidents do arise on a project, Rieth-Riley's Risk Management and Safety Team immediately launches a thorough investigation to understand what happened and take steps to avoid a future occurrence.
“We're regularly recognized by the AGC of America's Safety Award program for having injury incident and lost time incident rates 25 percent below the national industry rates,” said Inniger, who noted that Rieth-Riley is a partner with IOSHA in its Safety Management Program.
Building trust, open communication and a quality product are principles originated from the company's founder, Albert Rieth, according to the company.