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J&S Exchange Inc. Finds Success in Soil Stabilization

Thu June 15, 2006 - West Edition
CEG



Sand is a substance one hopes to find at a beach, not on a job site.

These golden granules add a level of complexity to a road construction project that requires a particular density, as it can be difficult to attain load-bearing requirements in a highly sandy soil.

Because particles in a granular soil do not bind together as well as particles in a more cohesive soil, this phenomenon can prevent contractors from achieving a specific density.

However, the challenge of sand is entirely possible to overcome with the help of soil stabilization materials, such as cement kiln dust.

This substance, when added to sandy soil, binds the fine granular particles together to increase the soil’s compactibility. This results in a higher density that ensures the base is capable of supporting a quality finished driving surface.

As difficult as it may be, an Ada, OK, company has turned this challenge into a profitable opportunity. J&S Exchange Inc. has been selling and transporting soil stabilization material for four years, partnering with general contractors who require stabilization materials to meet job-site density requirements.

Ironically, J&S owner Joe Nemecek built his soil stabilization business around his 10 years of experience with sand. He previously owned a trucking company that supplied oil and natural gas operations with frac sand.

This substance is driven into wells at a high pressure to force the earth open and allow more oil and gas to reach the wellhead.

Nemecek’s background in delivering sand to oil and natural gas companies throughout the United States and Canada helped him build new business relationships with area road construction contractors.

These key players in the construction industry quickly realized that with an experienced leader like Nemecek at the helm of a new soil stabilization business, J&S could deliver critical materials to the job site on time.

In fact, contractors were so impressed with the work of Nemecek and his four-person crew that J&S was encouraged to expand beyond material transportation into another area: mixing stabilization material into the soil.

“In the process of hauling material to job sites over the last four years, I had several contractors approach me about doing a ’full-blown package’ — transporting the material to the job site, distributing it and mixing it into the soil,” said Nemecek.

In order to conduct this type of work, Nemecek had two major purchasing decisions to make.

The job of leveling the base required the addition of a motor grader to his fleet. The next purchase was a stabilizer to properly mix material into existing job-site soil.

He settled on a motor grader fairly quickly, but “the mixing piece of equipment was a horse of a different color,” Nemecek said. “We had a serious decision to make.”

The decision wasn’t one to take lightly, as purchasing a high-priced piece of equipment posed a financial risk for the young company. Nemecek had to select the right soil stabilizer that could get mixing jobs done quickly but also produce high quality work. If he made the wrong decision, he could face a difficult financial situation.

With the help of the staff at construction equipment dealer G.W. Van Keppel, Nemecek set to comparing the features and capabilities of four soil stabilizers. In the end, the Bomag MPH122 was chosen.

“After testing four machines, we were totally sold on this piece of equipment,” he said. “As a new company with limited resources, the MPH122 gave us the most for our money.”

While the MPH122 is smaller than most competitive machines, the crew at J&S was pleasantly surprised by its output, thanks to the unit’s 442-hp engine and 19.7-in. (50 cm) cutting depth. The high productivity has allowed the company to take on some challenging projects.

For instance, J&S took a contract to mix 11 loads of cement kiln dust (CKD), a common soil stabilization material, at the beginning of a three-day stabilization and paving project spanning 12,000 sq. ft. in downtown Moore, OK.

CKD, a material carried by hot gasses in a cement kiln and collected by a filter system during the production of cement, can be difficult to mix as it is extremely fine. On top of the mixing challenge, Nemecek and his crew were under an extremely tight deadline.

The project required the loads of CKD to be mixed in one day.

“We had to get our work done on time, because the grade had to be cut the next day and the asphalt was scheduled to be laid the day after that,” Nemecek said. “The crew started mixing with our MPH122 at 6 a.m. and completed the job at midnight. It’s one of the major accomplishments of our business so far. We were actually ahead, not behind, and it was due to the Bomag MPH122.”

The smaller size of the MPH122 allows J&S to leverage the versatility of the young business as well.

The unit is capable of taking on both large jobs and small projects.

“We have the ability to build our reputation faster by working on government highway projects one day, then completing a city parking lot the next day,” said Nemecek. “The MPH122 helps us show contractors that J&S can do any job, big or small.”

The unit’s ease of operation has proven essential to J&S as well. With a crew of only four, being short an operator can greatly affect how the company functions. However, Nemecek learned first-hand how simple it can be to run the unit.

J&S was recently subcontracted to do the soil stabilization portion of a federal airport runway project in Yukon, OK, but was without a mixing operator.

In order to complete the project on time, Nemecek himself took on the role of MPH122 operator with no prior experience.

“I’d never run the machine before, but it was easy enough that I could get comfortable with it in only two hours,” he said. “In 12 hours, I was able to dry-mix and wet-mix 12 loads of stabilization material. It just goes to show that even a new operator can learn the unit quickly enough to achieve the productivity we need to keep a project moving along.”

Based on the success J&S has seen with the unit, Nemecek has contracts for more work piling up on his desk.

“Contractors have seen that we’re able to complete small and large projects quickly and produce very high quality work,” he said. “That’s led us to receive so much work that we’ve booked jobs through this year and are already bidding on jobs for next year, thanks to the MPH122 and the work it does.”

While J&S took a calculated risk in purchasing such an expensive piece of equipment, the investment has proven to be a wise business decision. With the help of the Bomag MPH122, Nemecek and his crew have turned golden granules of sand into a golden return on investment.

(This story also can be found on Construction Equipment Guide’s Web site at www.cegltd.com.) CEG