Having different size milling machines also offers advantages in terms of flexibility. The Roadtec RX-60, with an 86-inch cut drum width, and the RX-900 are well suited to interstate and highway jobs. "I bought the RX-900 last spring with the option for the 12-foot 6-inch milling head or the 7-foot 2-inch milling head, which is the option we like with the RX-900,"says Murphy.
But metro streets require smaller machines. "The RX-900 is too big to be out there,"says Murphy. "The Roadtec RX500 is a good, flexible machine for a lot of smaller street paving. It does an excellent job for us where we have a lot of milling on metro streets. It is easier to get around and it isn't too big. The RX-500 can back up the RX-60 or the RX-900 and it is our primary machine on streets."
Dunn Co. is a full-service asphalt company in the Decatur, IL, area that traces its history back to 1936. It entered the paving business in the late 1960s.
Prior to 1988, Dunn Co. outsourced its milling. Now everything is done in-house. "We have eight machines that are all Wirtgen,"says Jim Schwarz, vice president of marketing. They include Models W2200, W2000, W1900, W1000 and W900. "Unless you're a big company, it's pretty hard to justify owning a mill unless you do contract work for other contractors. More than half of our income from milling comes from outside sources."
There is also an economic advantage to recycling the milled material. "We try to recycle 100 percent of our milling,"says Schwarz. The material is used in Dunn Co.'s hot-mix plants. "Millings are worth a whole lot more running back in the plant than they are used as base rock or something like that. There is significant cost savings. And every day that the cost of asphalt goes up, the load of roto millings becomes more valuable. We are able to maintain better margins vs. not being able to recycle."
Having access to the milling machines has also allowed Dunn Co. to more efficiently tackle jobs that would otherwise have been performed with conventional techniques. "We will do some things with the mills that other contractors would do with an excavator,"says Schwarz. "It is faster and easier to do with a mill if you have it."
An example includes golf cart path projects. "Rather than go in with an excavator, we will go in and mill out for the new golf cart paths,"says Schwarz. "It does very little damage to the golf course, and when you are done, they are the exact width you want them. It saves from tearing them up and it is so much faster."
Patching jobs are another example. Traditionally, they require you to saw, then excavate. "If you were going to dig something out 6 inches deep, you might have 4 inches of rock and 2 inches of asphalt,"notes Schwarz. Milling is a better alternative. "We might go in there and mill 4 inches deep and put 4 inches of asphalt back in the patch. You actually have more strength with that 4-inch patch and it saves so much time. It's a single operation versus having to put rock in, then put asphalt on top of it."
So ownership of asphalt milling machines does offer advantages in terms of business control, increased productivity, recycling and versatility. All you have to do is figure out if the advantages more than offset the initial purchase cost and result in a reasonable return on investment.