Harrison Construction Company acquires its Volvos through Ascendum Machinery, the Charlotte-based equipment distributor with branch locations in Asheville and Knoxville, as well as in 10 other regional cities.
There are few road projects that have taken place in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee in recent decades that did not rely on Knoxville-based Harrison Construction Company for the materials and services needed to complete the work successfully.
A subsidiary of CRH Americas, North America's largest building materials company, Harrison Construction provides contractors and the two state transportation agencies with aggregate through its various quarries, as well as asphalt production, paving and construction and ready-mix concrete plants, the latter of which is only available in Tennessee.
One of the key parts of its operation, though, has also come from being a paving contractor for big highway and road surface projects in the region, said Scott Bennis, regional equipment manager for the company.
"In both North Carolina and Tennessee, Interstate 40 has always been a major part of what we do," he said, noting that much of the work is in mountainous terrain. "It seems like every year we are paving part of that freeway. We just finished improving 15 miles from the Tennessee state line east into North Carolina, and now we are completing another 12 to 13 miles on the east side of Buncombe County [N.C.] In Tennessee, we are also paving portions of I-40, and alongside other contractors on I-26 where we are performing all the asphalt work."
The portion of the interstate that is closest to the line separating the two states also is prone to dangerous rockslides that frequently block the route and other secondary roadways. When that occurs, Bennis said, Harrison Construction provides contractors with the materials needed to repair I-40 and mitigate each rockfall.
"Also, among the bigger construction jobs we have done recently was paving the runway expansions at the Asheville airport," he added. "It proved to be a challenge because you cannot just shut down the airport."
Ninety-Three Years, Still Growing
Harrison Construction traces its roots back to 1928 when E.J. Harrison founded the company in Pittsburgh, Pa. Just before World War II, E.J.'s son relocated the operation to Maryville, Tenn., after purchasing an asphalt and concrete plant near where Alcoa had its aluminum factory — a move that introduced Harrison into the paving and construction business.
It was bought in 1972 by another company that allowed Harrison Construction to operate under its own name, before being acquired by CRH in 2006. Following a restructuring of its North American operations, CRH added Harrison to its Southern Atlantic Region, one of four nationwide groups within CRH Americas Materials.
Asphalt Plants Often Paired With Quarries
"Harrison Construction is a vertically integrated company, so we produce crushed stone, which is then used to make asphalt at our plants, before our construction crews apply the finished product onto the roads," said Bennis, from Harrison's Asheville, N.C., repair shop, the centralized service location for all the company's rolling stock working in the western part of the state.
The branch also includes an asphalt plant, with Harrison's nearest granite quarry in Waynesville, 30 mi. to the west, from which crushed granite is made.
"This asphalt facility here is called the Enka plant and it is one of our busier ones because it is located close to the city of Asheville," Bennis said. "In all, we have 19 asphalt plants that produce a million tons of product."
In general, he said, Harrison Construction maintains an asphalt plant close to each of its quarries — if possible, on the same campus. However, because some of its asphalt facilities are in remote locations, the company will turn to its competitors with nearby mines for product.
For instance, rather than paying the trucking fee to move stone from its Waynesville mine to the Enka asphalt plant, Bennis said that Harrison gets what it needs from the Vulcan quarry right next door.
"Yes, we are buying from one of our competitors, but we have a great relationship with them," he said. "And it so much less expensive to do so."
Volvo CE Provides Product Reliability
Harrison Construction depends heavily on the reliability of Volvo Construction Equipment in every part of its business, Bennis said. His company acquires its Volvos through Ascendum Machinery, the Charlotte-based equipment distributor with branch locations in Asheville and Knoxville, as well as in 10 other regional cities.
In Harrison's aggregate operations, Volvo excavators are employed in the quarries, while the maker's wheel loaders work to feed the construction company's ready-mix plants and service its asphalt facilities. Volvo loaders also fill Harrison's customer trucks with aggregates at its mines, according to Bennis, and on the company's construction and paving side, its crews have several Volvo rollers — DD25B through DD90HF double-drum; SD70D single-drum; and PT125 pneumatic rollers — at their disposal.
Volvo's new H series L180 loader, a more efficient, stronger and faster machine than its former iteration, was purchased this year through Ascendum for Harrison Construction's asphalt plant in Hendersonville, N.C., he said.
"We have also preferred to use the five-yard capacity L180 loaders for our customer trucks," Bennis said. "In addition, we are buying a L70H for our Morristown, Tenn., ready-mix plant, which is the smallest loader that we use. Although we were initially looking for a larger model, the folks at Ascendum in Tennessee advised us that the L70 would be the proper loader for that application."
Although not able to rate the Volvo machines from an operator's point of view, Bennis has instead evaluated them from an equipment management perspective — both the machines' price tag and cost per hour. Because fuel expenses are a major outlay for Harrison Construction, the manufacturer's ongoing efforts to improve the efficiency of each model is most appreciated by Bennis.
Full Faith, Confidence
He prefers to think of Ascendum as a trusted partner of Harrison's rather than a vendor, he said, because the support his company receives from the equipment dealer has been so beneficial to the construction firm.
For example, if a Volvo loader goes down, the company can count on Ascendum to quickly provide service support to reduce downtime or avoid shutting down its production.
"That is key for us because we don't have spare machines just sitting around," Bennis said. "Our philosophy is to buy top quality equipment that meets our expected lifecycle for those machines. They must be able to perform and be available for that period."
So, despite maintaining a large shop in Asheville, where Harrison can take care of many of its own maintenance and repair needs, it sometimes calls on Ascendum's advanced service expertise for assistance.
"It is often quite difficult for us to keep up with the technological advances on this equipment, especially with the emissions requirements on the newer machines," Bennis said. "Becoming proficient in working on the Tier IV engines just takes a lot of training, which we certainly provide our people, but the ability to get a quick turnaround time to get our machines up and running again has proven to be plenty for our technicians to do. Luckily, we can count on the added support of our partners at Ascendum."
To illustrate the point, he said that with multiple Volvo wheel loaders at his company's asphalt plants, many of which are newer machines, a piece of equipment will sometimes experience an active emissions fault.
"Once that happens, the loader's engine will derate, and if we have an asphalt crew and other people relying on the machine to remove our material, calls are made to Ascendum," Bennis said. "They respond very quickly and do all that they can to get that loader operating again.
"For that and other reasons, we just appreciate Ascendum and all they do for us."
Harrison Construction Company maintains 42 different operational facilities in North Carolina and Tennessee (including a quarry in north Georgia). Ten quarries supply the firm with aggregate products, 19 asphalt plants stay busy producing material for paving and 13 concrete plants can be found in eastern Tennessee.
For more information about Harrison Construction, call 865/983-3100 or visit www.harrisoncc.com
Besides North Carolina and Tennessee, Ascendum Machinery also serves Southeast customers in South Carolina and Georgia from a total of 12 branch locations.
For more information, visit ascendummachinery.com/en/contact-us/. CEG
(All photographs in this article are Copyright 2021 Construction Equipment Guide. All Rights Reserved.)
Today's top stories