Since their inception in 1975, John C. Hipp Construction Equipment Co. has seen development in Alachua County, FL — and all of north central Florida for that matter — proceed at a breakneck pace.
In that time, the company has grown from a general contractor doing driveways, parking lots and subdivisions into a turnkey heavy highway firm regularly tackling large-scale private, municipal and state projects. While that growth has proven challenging overall, it has really impacted the company's asphalt production capability.
Faced with aging equipment incapable of meeting the ever-growing demand for asphalt, company president Virginia Johns recently made the most sizeable capital equipment investment in the company's history. The resultant purchase — a Milemaker 325 asphalt plant from Asphalt Drum Mixers Inc. has, in turn, made a positive impact upon both the company's capabilities and its long-term outlook.
Meeting the demand
The daughter of company founder John C. Hipp, Virginia Johns has seen the changes coming to North Central Florida for some time. The growth which has consumed the southern part of the state has been slowly working its way up I-75, driving property values up and making ever-larger demands on Hipp Construction's business.
"Until last year we were able to make do with what we had — but just barely," Johns says. "The demand for asphalt was steadily increasing, and meeting that demand was getting more and more difficult. Our plant was really showing signs of age and stress and though we briefly considered adding on to increase capacities, deep down we knew the route to take. We felt a new plant would give us the added capacity we needed, but also would provide additional benefits as well, including cleaner emissions, better consistency and lower maintenance, among others. We also saw that upping our capacities would enhance our ability to bid bigger projects; so we made the move."
Johns adds that their research into the right plant was fairly extensive. Eventually — based on both reputation and feedback from existing customers — they chose ADM to provide the new system.
"ADM invited us to visit several existing plants to see the equipment at work firsthand and to talk to users of their systems. We took them up on their offer, often politely asking the ADM salesman to leave us alone with the plant operators so we could get their input," she says. "Many of them had run several plants from different manufacturers and felt that the ADM plant was the easiest to operate and offered the best product control. We also met with lab technicians and plant managers, reviewed their process results and were impressed with the level of consistency they were getting. That coupled with the choice of high-quality components ADM offered as part of the system more or less did it for us."
More than volume
Situated just outside Gainesville, FL, the plant in place at Hipp's Alachua location — the ADM Milemaker — is state-of-the-art, built for versatility and designed with future expansion in mind. With a rated capacity of 325 tons per hour, it more than meets the company's current volume needs. Even though they've handled some extensive projects since installation, they've yet to max out the capacity of the new plant.
"In this area, we are hindered more often by the availability of trucks than anything else," she says. "So even when we've had a big project, we've never been able to see the full potential of the system. Even so, we are doing between 10,000 and 14,000 tons a month which is easily twice what we were producing before and that's been nice. But it's not just the volumes we are getting but the quality of the product that has really pleased us."
Johns says certain aspects of the Milemaker's controls, like its ease of calibration have already shown benefits.