Syrstone Makes Most of Optimas Paver on Unilock Job

Sat June 04, 2005 - Midwest Edition

Some might say nobody knows paving stones better than Unilock.

More than 30 years ago, Unilock introduced its interlocking paving stones to North America and continues to be a leader in the industry with product innovation and the development and education of contemporary design methodologies.

Its product is manufactured in blocks and is used in high-end designs for many driveways and walkways for both commercial and residential properties.

The blocks are molded to 3, 4 or 4.7 in. (8, 10 or 12 cm) thick and at these thicknesses the finished pavement is strong enough to handle continuous operation such as heavy forklift or cargo traffic. Repairs and replacement of these paving sections also are quick and economical.

However, for many years this type of block laying was done by hand, which is costly and time consuming.

When Unilock wanted a 50,000-sq.-ft. (4,645 sq m) loading and display area installed at its Cleveland-area location in Rittman, it was the perfect opportunity to show off its product. A project this size, though, would inflate both the time and cost, so Unilock called on another leader to do the installation — Syrstone.

Syrstone, originally the Syracuse Stone Company, is a specialty subcontractor with more than 35 years of experience in the site and highway construction industry. The company has been machine block laying for seaports, stockyards and streets for 15 years and has installed more square footage than any other domestic contractor, according to the company.

For the Rittman job, Syrstone sent a crew of six workers — three to prepare the bed and three to work the Optimas Comfort paving machine.

Optimas GmbH of Germany introduced the Optimas Comfort paving machine in early 1996. It looks and performs like a mini-skid steer with a boom and a 350-degree hydraulic rotating head for the easy, precise laying and spacing of these blocks.

To use the machine, block manufacturers like Unilock must produce the blocks with molds and stack them in a pre-set pattern. The machine then clamps down, lifts and places the blocks one at a time.

Because of the pace at which the Optimas can work, job Foreman Jim Kamp, who also served as the installer, guided the flats set down by the paving machine, while the forklift operator kept busy delivering pallets to the work area and the set up crew worked to prepare the base at the other end of the job site.

Allen Estes, Optimas operator of Syrstone for 16 years, called the machine unique and said operating it takes skill and a lot of practice.

The Optimas articulates at two different points with one wheel following the other, allowing the machine to turn in a perfect circle with no side scuff while keeping the blocks extremely stable. Syrstone brings out the Optimas for its bigger jobs with tighter time frames. With the machine, a crew of three can set 100 pallets a day, or approximately 7,800 sq. ft. (725 sq m) of paving stone. Without the machine, the same crew could only set approximately 1,000 sq. ft. (93 sq m).

Paving Tools Inc., a specialist in supplying these machines, offers a team that it says it can travel to any location to provide training on the Optimas equipment.

Syrstone owns two of only a handful of these German-made machines in operation in the United States. Syrstone bought its first Optimas back in the late 1980s.

With a territory spanning the United States, Kamp and his crew do a lot of traveling and are able to work throughout the year while many in Syracuse, NY, are forced to wait for a break in the winter. Along with the really big jobs like the Port of New Orleans, some of the company’s jobs are for “big” people, including residential work for Reba McEntire and Garth Brooks, to name a few.

A bulk of its work is on this type of application, doing approximately 90 percent commercial and 10 percent residential business.

For project applications ranging from the highly decorative, such as Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park, to industrial necessities such as the vast machine-installed cargo-loading areas at the Port of Baltimore, Syrstone boasts the personnel, equipment and experience to tackle this application, installing virtually all types of interlocking concrete, brick and stone pavers in almost all types of leveling media.

As well as pavers, Syrstone also provides subcontract work in concrete slipforming and granite curbing for bridges and roadways.

Optimas GmbH of Germany is an independent, privately-owned company that was founded in 1977 to develop, manufacture and market professional machine and equipment solutions for use on block paving stone job sites.

Optimas GmbH, owned by Harald Kleinemas and his wife, has strong links to paving stone designers and manufacturers, production equipment suppliers and many representative bodies and end-users.

For more information, visit, or Staff