MCT designs the most efficient automated precast plant in North America
For Tom Kelley, the chance to meet colleagues and peers during his overseas visits, was an opportunity to open his eyes on new technologies worldwide and evaluate the state of the precast industry in North America. The rebounding of the market, gave the whole Gage Brothers team the opportunity to seriously consider the option of a new precast plant.
For Tom Kelley, the chance to meet colleagues and peers in Europe, Asia and the Middle East during his overseas visits as chairman of the PCI, was an opportunity to open his eyes on new technologies worldwide and evaluate the state of the precast industry in North America, where he has worked for over 30 years. The rebounding of the market after the harsh economic recession, gave the whole Gage Brothers team the opportunity to seriously consider the option of a new plant, paving the way for an important technological innovation focusing on a fundamental growing concept in the precast industry: the automation of the production process.
Gage Brothers, established in 1915 by William Gage Sr. and Harold Gabel, started his operations pouring sidewalks and small concrete elements in Sioux Falls (SD) and expanded its activity with the sequence of the following generations of Gage family. Throughout the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, the company expanded the business in the pre-stressed concrete industry, focusing on concrete beams or girders and into the bridge girder business: the growth of the company business proceeded simultaneously with the evolution of construction systems in the USA in those years, showing in a clear way the connection between the company expansion and the historical period. It was around this time that the company also began to produce architectural precast; a product used since the early 20th century that have been expanded into wide use in the 1960s and following years.
In 2007, Gage Brothers also began the transition from a family-owned to an employee owned business through the implementation of an employee stock ownership plan.
The precast division products range goes from hollow-core slabs, beams, columns, double-tees and insulated panel systems to the most unique custom architectural precast, including the finest „granite-like“ polished finish.
Leading producer of innovative Precast Concrete
The company employs over 250 people and has built a strong, reliable reputation continuously focusing on innovation and new technologies to improve their production efficiency. With the installation of their new facility Gage Brothers can increase their presence in the market rising to become one of the most dominant companies in the Precast sector in all of North America.
The importance of quality concrete production coupled with an efficient manufacturing process is what forms the foundation of Gage Brothers business philosophy. This encouraged them to seek out MCT, an Italian precast company providing customized solutions. MCT became a reliable partner helping them to realize their new state-of-the-art facility. Sharing the same vision as the client, the MCT team designed, engineered and built the new batch plant focusing on concrete mixing and distribution systems for the new factory, located 10 miles from the former headquarters in the south east corner of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Once the project was awarded in 2016, the MCT team worked closely with Gage Brothers in order to design the batching plant and distribution system. Working with client‘s initial idea and developing the customized solution based on the client‘s request, in order to comply with their expectations in terms of production, accuracy and distribution of quality concrete.
A team of dedicated MCT engineers and technicians was appointed to develop a long-term partnership with the client and to execute the complete process of pre-installation in the Italian production headquarters, managing and organizing all the logistics of the delivery to the job-site, and meet the strict schedule for installation and commissioning of the plant.
High level of commitment in the realization
The plant is composed of two primary hoppers, two separate aggregate storage systems (structural and architectural), four planetary mixers featuring fully automatic concrete distribution systems including high-speed flying buckets and automatic casting machines.
The two insulated primary hoppers with a capacity of 26 yd3 each one, in order to avoid any material contamination, feed the two separate aggregate storage bins dedicated to architectural and structural concrete production. The sliding insulation system has been developed in order to avoid any issue with the weather and snow during the winter period, protecting the material and the components from the weather conditions.
The primary hoppers serve, through two conveying systems, two units of reversible feeding conveyor belt, in order to distribute the material in the two storage systems: 18 aggregate bins, six dedicated to the structural concrete production with a total capacity of 360 yd3 and 12 dedicated to the architectural concrete production with a total capacity of 120 yd3. Both aggregate storage units can serve all the four mixers of the plant, providing a wide range of choices in terms of mixing solutions.
The heating system, installed and operating in the primary hoppers and in both aggregate storage units complies with all rules & regulations in terms of UL standards, and guarantees the possibility to avoid any variation of the inside temperature and consequent quality of the concrete produced, and above allows the plant to produce even during the strong winter period.
The three steel silos, with a total capacity of 431 yd3 of storage for cement, with single discharging opening serving all the four mixers of the plant through a system of reversible screw conveyors able to discharge the material in every cement scale. The silos are designed in modular panels, for a smart delivery by sea containers and quick installation on site, optimizing their dimensions upon the customized layout. The silo roofs are accessible from the aggregates dispensing platform, also simplifying the maintenance of the equipment installed on these areas, such as the continuous level probes (both for aggregates and cements) which support the operators in monitoring the materials inventory.
The plant is equipped with a reliable state-of-the-art concrete distribution system using four flying buckets, capable of delivering up to 13 ft/sec, served by four high intensive output planetary mixer 3000/2000 with an output capacity of 2.6 yd3 per cycle: every mixer is equipped with two discharging gates in order to serve all the buckets operating in the facility and the system can guarantee a high level of flexibility and quality concrete production. The mixing section includes dedicated cement scales and water dosing system for each mixer. The flying buckets move on a double rail track system with a total length of over 3,300 ft, helping the distribution of the material to all the areas of the production facility through the casting machine. Three units of automatic casting machine and one unit of concrete distributor for hollow-core production complete the distribution system, allowing the delivery of the material to the different molds all over the factory.
The plant is equipped with a video control system in order to manage all phases of the production along with the distribution process. The attention to detail, together with the supply of several additional pieces of equipment, demonstrated to Gage Brothers the level of commitment that MCT committed in the realization of their project. The Italian manufacturer included in the supply the water reclaiming station, composed with a separating screw and the storage tank for slurry water equipped with a timed activation agitator, and the filter-press system designed for the automatic dehydration of residual waters generated by the washing of aggregates.
Automation plays a major role
The overall plant equipment supplied to Gage Brothers is equipped with the new integrated software solution, CompuNet, MCT software developed entirely in-house, that manage three of the four phases of the production process: dosing, batching, mixing. The concrete delivery (last and final part of the process) through the flying buckets in order to serve the three production bays of the facility, is managed by CompuMav: this system is perfectly integrated with the automation system of the plant and make the factory a state-of-the-art example of fully automated precast factory.
The software automation system ensures an optimal and consistent level of the production process and reduces manpower required in the batching plant management, in order to focus the attention of all Gage Brothers workers to their elements production. The automation of the whole plant, including all the components from the aggregate loading to the concrete distribution system, is integrated in the MCT CompuNet and CompuMav platform, which operates the electronic control by its PC-PLC based structure. The design of the automation software itself can guarantee the flexibility in the customization of their project, and this aspect is a unique feature of MCT’s technical departments.
Very excited to see this unique project
“After all the visits to several countries and the research involved, we became interested in automated concrete pour technology as a way to increase our efficiency and capacity in order to remain competitive in the market”, says Tom Kelley, Gage Brothers president and CEO. “We also wanted to provide our employees with a safer work environment and be able to make their days more predictable. We researched across Europe and the Middle East to find the most efficient processes that we could,” he says. After the evaluation of all the potential suppliers, Gage Brothers decided to award the realization of the batching plant and the distribution system to MCT. “MCT as a supplier demonstrated that they could give us the complete solution to provide our business with a modern, completely automated and highly efficient plant. We are extremely satisfied with MCT and their continuous support during the complete process”.
“The consistency and concrete quality exceeded our expectations, and this was apparent within a short period of time after MCT’s plant installation. We are also extremely pleased with the ongoing support from their team during project development and since the completion of the facility. The plant, the distribution system and the service we received then and now are excellent. The high quality and consistency of the concrete we produce with this system is of utmost importance in our production and very easy to achieve. Any problem we had, have been immediately and expertly addressed”.
Grateful for opportunities like this
Eng. Alessandro DiCesare, MCT International Sales Manager, says: “The batching plant installed at Gage Brothers factory, confirms that our standard of providing a customized approach is fundamental and ensures that we find the optimum configurations for our client’s needs, because every project and site around the world is different. The very high-level customer standards were a strong challenge for us, but I can definitely affirm that we are proud of the state-of-the-art plant delivered to Gage Brothers”. He concludes: “Gage Brothers is a highly-respected firm with a reputation for exceptional concrete construction work earned over more than a century in business. They will now be manufacturing with their new plant and the automation improvements will be a game-changer. What we call ‚flying buckets‘ will deliver the concrete to the pouring stations, reducing production and delivery times by a third. It‘s a method relatively new to the US which will set the performance standards.”
Gage Brothers Concrete Products
2810 N. Bahnson Avenue
57104 Sioux Falls, SD/USA
+1 (605) 336-1180
MCT Italy S.r.l.
Via Perugia 105
06084 Bettona (Perugia)/Italy
+39 075 988551