After nearly 30 years in the same facility, one local cement supplier felt stuck.
"We simply outgrew the facility. We were turning over supplies twice a day. To do the sheer volume of it all, it had to be done," said Scott Thompson, terminal manager in Minot for Lafarge, a wholesale supplier of cement and fly ash. "We were the only project of this magnitude going on last year (at Lafarge) because of the global economy, so we feel pretty lucky."
That magnitude is a new four-story, 2,500-metric ton cement distribution center located just outside Surrey at 9200 4th Ave. Northeast. The company's previous location at 1230 18th St. SW in Minot had a capacity of approximately 700 metric tons.
John Anderson, an employee with Grand Forks-based Industrial Contract Services, which built the facility, said the company broke ground in October 2008 and worked on it nearly continuously throughout the next year.
Although Lafarge employees moved in at the end of October, Anderson said his crew continued to work on the building for another six weeks, completing the finishing touches before Christmas.
The new facility features five 500 metric ton silos which rest on a 30-foot high platform and reach 150 feet in the air a computerized rail and truck unloading and loading system, a rail spur, locker room, breakroom and office.
Based in France, Lafarge Group is a world leader in building materials. In North America, the company focuses on cement, aggregates, concrete, asphalt, gypsum and ductal products that are used in residential, commercial and public works construction projects. With terminals in Williston, Minot, Bismarck, Grand Forks, Fargo and Valley City, Lafarge Dakota's focus is strictly cement and fly ash, which they provide to ready-mix cement companies and oilfield operations.
"It's like night and day. We could always use more storage, but I like it," Thompson said, who has worked in the cement industry for more than a decade. "Everything here is bigger and less labor intensive so we have been able to drastically cut our in-and-out time from like 40 minutes then to probably nine or 10 minutes now."
The shaving of minutes and streamlining of processes has translated into a big increase in productivity.
Thompson said the new facility can unload 200 metric tons of material per hour, up from 50 metric tons at the old facility. And depending on business, Thompson said the terminal could well exceed the nearly 1,300 railcars that passed through at the old terminal last year.
Like the other five Lafarge terminals in the state, the Minot terminal supplies bulk fly ash a by-product of burning coal that is used as a binder in concrete and cement material to ready-mix companies and oilfield operations in western North Dakota.
"In the winter time the ready-mix industry pretty much grinds to a halt because it's too expense to lay cement but with the oilfield work we've stayed busy," Thompson said, adding that the oil companies operating in the state use the company's Portland Type III and OWG products to encase the well piping. "Then in the summer everyone's building so we easily do 40 loads a day."
While the Minot Lafarge facility is not running at its summer highs, Thompson said the terminal is currently looking for one employee and will hire another this spring.
"We've grown a lot over the last 10 or 15 years and with the new facility, by volume, Minot and Fargo are the biggest," he said. "We supply all of western North Dakota from here."
Although the new terminal has made the work load lighter for the handful of Lafarge employees, there are a few things it doesn't have a heating system and workshop.
With the cost of the facility in the millions of dollars, Thompson said it was important to get the basics up and running first but there are plans for both items in the future after the company finishes an extension to its rail spur.
In the meantime, the company will continue to utilize the Minot facility for some of its operations, he said, but with the terminal for sale, the company would most likely have to outsource nearly all of its maintenance work once the building is sold until a shop is built at the new facility.