Hawaii is the land of luaus, leis and lava, but is is also home to the only fully-automated QUIKRETE manufacturing facility in the United States. Bonded Materials is located on the scenic island of Oahu, the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands. This seemingly regular industrial plant is made unique not only by its Hawaiian-themed scale house, but also by its immaculate grounds and 100 percent automation with Rice Lake’s 920i and 820i programmable indicators as well as the IQ plus 590-DC quality control scale.
With an output of 150 tons of materials per day distributed locally to Hawaii, Bonded Materials has established itself as a premier manufacturer, distribute and retailer of concrete restoration and tile-setting materials.
Take a short drive outside of the bustling city center of Honolulu and busy streets slowly turn into rural roads. The Pacific Ocean stretches endlessly in sight and sun-drenched hillsides give way to suburban neighborhoods and industrial parks. Hawaii is ripe with a year-round tropical climate and boundless opportunities to explore both land and sea. Tourists and locals alike enjoy a sense of relaxation and adventure, from scenic beaches and rugged volcanoes to tropical forests and big-wave surfing. The price of paradise, however, comes steep. It costs almost 40 percent more to live in Hawaii than the rest of the United States and the average price of consumer goods is 7.5 percent higher than the national average. Several contributing factors include limited land resources, a four percent excise tax, high real estate competition and the reliance on ocean and air freight for groceries, clothing, construction materials and equipment. Due to the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act, all goods transported by water between U.S. ports must be constructed, owned and carried by U.S. citizens or permanent residents—creating monopolies of the shipping market from the mainland to U.S. ports. However, with an entirely automated process, Bonded Materials is able to provide high-quality construction materials at lower costs directly to the island population, free of any additional ocean or air freight shipping fees.
For example, an 80-pound bag of QUIKRETE at a large home improvement store in Wisconsin costs $3.75. That same 80-pound bag in Honolulu costs $9.25, a 59.5 percent increase. Add the additional shipping and handling from the United States and the cost would rise even more. One of Bonded Materials’ corporate commitments is to give their customers value through improved productivity. That drive for continuous improvement and customer satisfaction is changing the face of industrial automation, not only in Hawaii but throughout the entire United States. By supplying high-quality, in-demand building materials, Bonded Materials is setting a precedent for manufacturing and distribution in support of a more economically sustainable Hawaii.
The PLC-controlled, 35 x 104 foot batch plant is able to drive aggregates so efficiently due to the impressive total of 17 920i and 820i programmable indicators as well as one IQ plus 590-DC quality control scale. At the heart of the operation is the Hawaiian-themed scale house— complete with a grass skirt and surfboard—where every process, from both plants, is monitored and managed. Eight 920i controllers, stacked in groups of four, communicate with a custom-PLC program to automate and accurately fill the QUIKRETE bags to a target weight while the nine 820i indicators are in the bagging and bin area to monitor and control flow. The entire operation is displayed on a large monitor and can interface with management’s smartphones, allowing total visual management of the entire plant. Whenever an issue arises, Operations Manager, Robert Taylor, can see the problem either in the scale house or on his phone and immediately respond. With multiple processes running at one time, each one a delicate result of the other, Director of Operations John Mitchell says “Robert has to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time when both plants are running.”
Bonded Materials had been chasing efficiency for decades. The company didn’t start out this efficient. In 1987, Bonded Materials merged with QUIKRETE of Hawaii, Inc. The original manufacturing facility was deteriorating and the mixing, drying and bagging process was tedious and time-consuming. The original dryers had to be started five hours ahead of the scheduled 8:00 a.m. run-time and dryer crews filled the silos during off-hours just to be able to process during business hours. In 2008, Bonded Materials sought a more efficient process by hiring Astec Inc. and PASCO Systems to completely renovate and automate the facility. A focus on continuous improvement led the company to Young Scale who recommended replacing their system with Rice Lake indicators. Bonded Materials can now produce three times more material with the same number of employees in a five day work week. Scott Miyashiro, service manager and sales for Honolulu-based Young Scale says “not only were we able to remove existing products and put our system in there, we were also able to improve their overall process.”
This Hawaiian success story is rooted in hard work, progressive thinking and continuous improvement. Bonded Materials knew their process wasn’t as efficient as it could be. They knew that there was a better way to live up to their mission and provide high-quality construction materials to the locals—by improving their process and utilizing the very best equipment in automation and process control. By hiring Astec Inc. and PASCO Systems and working with Young Scale, they have now found a system that would impress even the largest manufacturing facility, on the island or abroad. Bonded Materials now says goodbye to inefficiency and waste and “Aloha” to automation.