photos by Bill Weaver
Intex Corp., based in Albertville, MN, is a 35-year-old family owned business, co-owned by Greg and Brian Buhl, Company CEO and CFO respectively, since 1997. Intex is known for their business specialty, custom crushing and screening. As a road contractor from Minneapolis put it, “When contractors from all around the area produce piles of rubble from tearing up concrete or asphalt, they call on Intex to come in and crush it.” We caught up with one of Intex’s crew while they were crushing concrete rubble piled along a torn-up street in Rochester, MN. There, they were stockpiling it for reuse in the road base for the new construction.
“We’re strictly a mobile crushing service,” explained Wade VanVooren, Operations Manager, who runs five union crews for Intex, each equipped with a mobile Lippmann 30” x 62” Jaw primary crusher.
“One reason we use only Lippmann primary crushers is because with the abnormal shapes of the broken-up concrete, we need a bigger jaw opening. This reduces the amount of initial concrete break down we need to do. Lippmann, in the early 1990s was the first manufacturer to come up with a 62-inch-wide jaw.”
The Lippmann also handles the culverts the company “inherits” on the job. “We have an excavator that can bunch up the culverts. Then we run them through the Lippmann primary. Sometimes we have to landfill them because the amount of concrete vs. the cost to remove the concrete is not economical. One of our customers once described the culverts as ‘Christmas presents’ for us.”
“We don’t normally have major repairs on our crushers. We bring them into our shop in the winter and try to get all the needed repairs done.” Wear parts and routine maintenance are done in the field, and then not until necessary, rather than on a set schedule. That is an advantage of having experienced operators,” he said.
For example, for the secondary cone crusher at the Rochester job, a Cedarapids MVP 380, one crew changed the cone, mantle and liner just before coming to do the job. The experienced operator had noticed that that machine needed a cone change.
The company has a lean staff – only 30 people, including the office staff and management. “Our people are the best in the business,” continued VanVooren. “We have low turnover. Our workers do get a very good wage. We pay the Metro wage no matter if they are working in a small town in Minnesota or in the Dakotas. They are worth it. Our field personnel work 60+ hours a week during the busy season. Maintaining our margin depends on their productivity – the number of tons per hour they put out.”
“One of our owners, CEO Greg Buhl, bids the jobs. He tries to estimate what our tons per hour will be to bid the appropriate price.” Prices paid per ton crushed are not high in this area. While concrete is abrasive, it is not the most abrasive material Intex handles. On jobs in South Dakota, the company can encounter quartzite that is as high as 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale.
“This quartzite is very, very abrasive,” VanVooren said. “It requires ten times the changes of wear parts that concrete does. It wears the steel plates on the conveyors, the hoppers and the steel teeth in the loader buckets. Anything that comes in contact with the quartzite wears out fast!”
He said much of the company’s work in North Dakota is in the eastern part of the state, mainly the Fargo and Grand Forks area, but they have gone farther west than Bismarck has. In South Dakota, Intex has some very good customers who have been with the company for over a decade. Intex hires trucking to move their equipment. “We may have no machinery to move for several weeks, and then we need to move three crews at one time. It’s simpler to rent the trucking as we need it,” he explained.
Intex’s regular crews are OK with the travel to more distant places. “Because we’re a small-sized company, we can be more flexible. We make different arrangements depending on the job and the distance. Sometimes the crew will have ten days on and then we’ll bring them home for four days off.”
The loaders used by Intex’s crews are older model CAT loaders, 988F2’s. “The newer ones kept getting heavier and heavier. I couldn’t move them down the road without taking off a bucket or the tires,” which can be quite expensive. “We depend on their productivity and their durability. Our skid steers are also all CATs. We are fortunate to have the Zeigler CAT dealership in Bloomington, MN. It has consistently been one of the top CAT dealership for a long time. Ziegler is a huge asset to Intex,” continued VanVooren. “We lean on them to do the job, and they have been very dependable. We take our loaders there each winter for repairs.”
To remove the concrete rebar, Intex relies on Dings electromagnets, made in Milwaukee. “We run a minimum of 3 magnets, consisting of both electromagnets and head pulley magnets. The electromagnet pulls out metal pieces in the 3-4” material. Then the metal pieces stick to the magnet head pulley, then drop onto a separate conveyor. Some of these magnets have been here longer than I have [20 years], but we did buy a new one this year, a Trio, to test,” he added.
Intex uses 6’ x 20’ flat, 3-deck screens from Cedarapids. “Theoretically, three products could be pulled off at once, but most of the time they’re pulling two: the final product, which goes to the product belt to be stockpiled, and the 1”+ that goes back to the cone crusher, set at 1”. The 6’ x 20’ screens are a very good size for us because they can handle our production rate. We don’t have to go bigger.”
For the most part, Intex produces a class 5, one-inch material for road base, but they also do virgin sand and gravel in gravel pits. “The amount of fines we get depends on the amount of dirt the customer pulled up with the concrete or asphalt. We have to meet the specs of the job, so on state jobs, every 1,000 tons, we take a sample and have it shaken out and verified by an independent third party to see what the gradations are.”
For non-state jobs, this independent verification is not required. However, Intex still has the samples tested by an independent third party every 2500 tons. It is simply part of the company’s quality control.
Another check Intex performs is a scale check at the beginning of each job. “The scale check is done by our operators. We do this for every customer, every time we move. It assures our customers that we will not over or under charge. Most of our scales that keep a running total are Belt-ways.”
“We weigh the material after it goes onto the product belt before it is stockpiled. Most of our conveyors are Superiors. They are local, and parts are easy to get, with a vendor here in town. Superior makes a good conveyor.” Intex owns over 2600 feet of conveyors for its five crews.
“After we’re finished, we always clean up the site of any pieces of metal and debris as best we can, leaving just the stockpiled, crushed material. We want to leave the site better than it was when we came in. We also call the customer after each job. We could just assume that everything was done satisfactorily, but we want to make sure they are fully satisfied,” he added. For more information on Intex Corp., contact them at (763) 497-5215