Martin Marietta Colorado crew combats cold

Sites in the West Division, including Platte Sand & Gravel in Milliken, Colorado, have taken extra steps to ensure the equipment runs smoothly.

Those who have ventured to Colorado in the winter know that the frigid temperatures are not to be taken lightly.

In 2023, temperatures got as low as -11 degrees Fahrenheit in some regions of the state.

That is why sites in the West Division, including Platte Sand & Gravel in Milliken, Colorado, have taken extra steps to ensure the equipment runs smoothly.

“Platte gets colder than other places in or around Denver,” said Rocky Mountain Operational Excellence Manager Greg Jones. “So, our first steps in the winter revolve around combating the extreme weather around here – because we routinely see the temperature go below zero.”

To keep productivity high, for the past two winters, the team at Platte implemented several precautionary measures to keep equipment in the best shape possible, including:

  • Installing overhead heaters over the site’s sand screw to prevent the tank from freezing as well as above all water pumps;
  • Setting up a bypass water line to the silt line so water always trickles through even when the silt pump is not running;
  • Utilizing heat tape around all key water lines and tanks;
  • Applying ‘liquid heat’ spray on overland conveyor belts to ensure snow does not stick to the belts overnight; and
  • Revitalizing the process for closing the site at night by ensuring all key transfer points and conveyor lines are free of material that could freeze overnight and cause problems the following day.

And the results from these changes have been incredible.

“It has been a 100% success rate; there are no downsides at all,” Jones said. Most notably, the team of about eight at Platte has seen increases in safety and productivity from the months of November through February.

“The biggest thing is it improves the safety around the plant. Because we don’t have to drain the sand screw every night, the ice just doesn’t form underneath it and won’t create a possible hazard. So, that’s the primary thing,” Jones said. “Secondarily is our idle time; we no longer have any downtime associated with getting equipment unfrozen.”

This incredible improvement, Jones says, is in line with the crew’s innovative spirit and thought leadership. Jones credits Leadperson RC Stutz and Safety Representative J-Me Duncan, particularly, for their collaboration and ideas on continuous site improvement.

Before these cold weather innovations, back in the winter of 2021-2022, Platte had around 35 hours of downtime while the crew waited for the equipment to defrost.

Today, it is zero.

“Sometimes, the freezing temperatures would cause multiple days of downtime just to get it thawed back out. Thankfully, the crew came up with the idea of using a heater above the screws to help keep them thawed,” Stutz said. “After we got them installed, we have had zero freezing issues and no downtime.“

Jones added the dynamic nature of the crew helped shape this great success story and keep productivity high at the site.

“When the crew came in on winter mornings and saw that it could be better, it could be more productive, they really stepped up and put together some great ideas,” he said. “It has made all the difference."