Water courses through several hundred yards of dredge pipe at 10,000 gallons a minute, but the surface of the lake at Carmel Sand & Gravel is calm.
In some ways, that water is like Plant Manager Steve Becktel, whose demeanor is cool, but who works with an energy equal to that of water flowing at outrageous speeds. Becktel has spent decades in the industry, pushing through the most adverse of conditions. He’s a perfect fit for Carmel.
Operating between a well-traveled parkway and a subdivision of upscale, Midwestern homes, the site presents a host of challenges. Not least among them is the body of water at its center – a necessity for any operation wishing to dredge sand.
"It doubles the time and awareness of the job," the plant manager says. "You’re not standing on land so anything you drop, it’s gone. You’ve got to be extra careful."
The product is extremely abrasive and degrades the equipment quickly so constant maintenance is the routine. In winter, the lake freezes over, forcing all production to halt. An agreement with neighboring homeowners prevents the site from operating a second shift and limits weekend hours.
Still, Carmel’s production increased by 22 percent in 2014, which drove up gross profit by 33 percent.
The crew has sought innovative ways to work while maintaining four consecutive years without a reportable incident, so it’s no surprise to learn that this year’s Honor Plant award, Carmel’s third, is welcomed.
"Winning the Honor Plant award isn’t an indicator that everything went right. There was adversity. There were some problems," says Phil Rowan, assistant plant manager. "It’s an indicator that we faced those challenges, found solutions and were able to have an excellent year."