Hitachi Drives Lattimore Operations in TX

Mon April 18, 2005 - West Edition

In a world dominated by publicly owned ready-mix and aggregate companies, Lattimore Materials is a thriving, family-owned business. But don’t equate “family owned” with “small.”

Headquartered in McKinney, TX, Lattimore is one of the top three ready-mix producers in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. The company owns 19 ready-mix plants, and seven sand, gravel and rock mining operations in north Texas and southern Oklahoma.

As a vertically integrated company, Lattimore also has a trucking company, a material-delivery arm and several rail yards. It pours in excess of 2.5 million cu. yds. (1.9 cu m) of concrete a year in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area alone, and employs more than 1,000 people in 24 different locations.

“There is most definitely a place for us in this business,” said John Victor Lattimore Jr., president of Lattimore Materials. “Most of our key people have come from companies that went public. They saw the advantages of being with a private company and chose to work for us instead. Our small, fast-acting management team concept, our high view of customer service and our ability to look long-term beyond the next quarter’s profit statements have helped us compete and be successful against the publicly owned companies.”

Purchases Based on Each Site’s Needs

Due to the company’s structure, requests for heavy equipment purchases are not made by multiple committees, but by the people who will use them. Mark Clark, vice president of aggregates of Lattimore Materials, does his homework prior to every purchase to ensure his requests are on-target for his specific needs.

As a result, three Hitachi EH1100 70-ton (63.5 t) rigid-frame trucks recently joined three older 40-ton (36.2 t) Euclids and an EX1200 shovel at the Stringtown, OK, aggregates operation.

“We don’t do cookie-cutter buying; we do pluses and minuses between all the brands for each purchase,” stated Clark. “Our research showed that the Hitachi-Euclid trucks have more steel in them than competitive models. We felt that was essential for durability. And we’ve been running a number of older Euclids for years and have been very pleased with them and the support we receive from G.W. Van Keppel.

“There have been no undue expenses or problems with them. The only new variable this time for us to consider was the Detroit Diesel engine; they had been Cummins before. We have a slight preference for Cummins, but not enough to be a significant factor. Van Keppel worked hard to put together several different packages that were very attractive. Everything fit, hence the selection of Hitachi,” added Clark.

“Each time we buy a machine, we take into account the site needs and evaluate the particular machine, as well as the service and pricing that goes with it,” Lattimore elaborated. “We understand all the brands –– and their weaknesses and strengths. We want the best product, a great price, and excellent service.”

Dealer Support Is Critical

“No machine is perfect,” stated Lattimore. “The real question is, ’How quickly will we get it back up?’ Especially given the remote locations of our operations. But Hitachi and Van Keppel have done an excellent job in addressing any problems and fixing them.”

According to Lattimore, the company’s experience with Hitachi goes back to 1997 when we bought an EX700 shovel from ROMCO in Texas for use at our Coleman quarry near Durant, OK.

“It had a very minor oil leak, which concerned Hitachi enough that they wanted to shut it down to do a repair,” he said. “We had a rather busy work schedule, and it wasn’t worth it to us to lose the machine over a minor oil leak. They took it upon themselves to replace the hydraulic cylinder over a three-day holiday weekend – at no expense to us. I was impressed. They were willing to come in and give that kind of customer service in order to not slow us down. Over the years, the Hitachi-dealer partnership of support has continued to be very, very good. And that EX700 had no downtime whatsoever after that first leak. After about 15,000 hours, we replaced it with an EX750.”

The Hitachi Fleet

In July 2000, the company embarked on a program of acquiring new equipment rather than rehabbing the old.

The recent acquisition of the three EH1100s pretty much completed the program. As a result, a total of 10 Hitachi trucks are currently used by Lattimore in three quarry operations.

All are 40-ton (36.2 t) trucks, with the exception of the three new 70-ton (63.5 t) trucks. Hitachi excavators include an EX1100 at Bridgeport, TX; an EX750 at Coleman, OK (it replaced the EX700); and the EX1200 at Stringtown –– the first EX1200 purchased in the United States. The excavators are equipped with shovel fronts.

“We’ve always felt that it was more economical to use a hydraulic excavator with a shovel front when working in a 35-foot or taller rock face,” said Lattimore.

The company also has six smaller Hitachi excavators with backhoe fronts in use at other operations. They range in size from the EX270 to the EX550. Lattimore operates the large excavators and trucks approximately 2,500 hours a year, working Monday through Friday, day shifts, except as needed to fill orders.

Stringtown was acquired by Lattimore in 1999. Lee White is the area manager and Terry Wilson, the plant manager.

Stringtown currently sells more than 1.5 million tons (1.36 t) of materials each year –– primarily to the Dallas market.

Customer Care Requires Reliable Equipment

“We are really concerned about taking care of our customers,” said Clark. “For us to do that, we need reliable equipment. If a machine is down and the dealer won’t acknowledge there is a problem, or won’t help us get it up and running, then we can’t take care of that customer.

“Hitachi’s approach has been, ’Let’s get the problem fixed, then we can worry about whose fault it is.’ I appreciate that approach. It is the same approach we take with our customers. We find that when we take care of the problem first, then work to settle who pays, everyone is a lot happier. Hitachi operates the same way, so our relationship has been excellent,” he added.

Lattimore Materials is serviced by the G.W. Van Keppel Company, Tulsa, OK, and Romco Equipment, Dallas, TX.

(This story appears courtesy of “Hitachi Breakout.”)