The Malvern, Arkansas, ground is scorched and dry as the mercury hits the high 90s. A sweat starts to build around JT Young’s brow. He’s just standing in the shade.
The primary and secondary plant operator has worked at Jones Mill Quarry for more than a decade. As are most on the quarry’s team, he’s unfazed by the heat and instead is focused on the job.
“Communication and safety,” Young says. “That’s the core of what makes us successful. There are big decisions to be made throughout the day and you need to be sure you’re making the right ones. There’s no better way to do that than to have close communication with the team beside you.”
They’re common themes that come up again and again as Jones Mill employees discuss the crew’s 2016 Diamond Elite Award: Safety. Communication. Teamwork. Plant Manager Doug Morin says he stresses these themes daily.
While Young speaks, Morin is elsewhere on the grounds, making sure everything looks tip-top for the arrival of Martin Marietta’s leaders to help celebrate the site's Diamond Elite win. But the grounds are pristine and the team is prepared.
When Morin learns his employees have echoed his refrain on safety, communication and teamwork, he’s delighted.
“I’m tickled to death. It means they’ve been listening,” he says with a laugh before growing a bit more serious. “It seems like this team has gotten easier to manage over the years. You can probably attribute that, in part, to Guardian Angel. The team has really bought into the various aspects of that program.”
Guardian Angel and its various elements are just some of the ways Morin and the rest of Jones Mill’s management team encourage the crew.
Young says a big change for him has been the implementation of a mentor program through which he’s been teamed with two newer employees.
The program, he says, not only creates more thorough training opportunities for the new employees, but it also allows each a greater understanding of the quarry’s culture.
“It’s a great program because if either of these two people come across a problem, they can come to me and learn from my experience,” Young says.
Beyond employee engagement during day-to-day operations, the culture of safety, communication and teamwork spills into just about every aspect of Jones Mill.
It’s led to the inclusion of innovative systems that have helped increase the plant’s production rate by more than 7 percent. It’s led to higher earnings and increased production despite working with a crew that is often a few employees short of full. It’s led to well-received community programs like the ones that support local colleges and high schools and help fund events like the Santa Train celebration that gives presents to less fortunate children each December.
The prestige of being part of the first team to win the Diamond Elite Award is what strikes Arkansas District General Manager Deron Jennings.
“This team has been on a journey. It continues to improve, continues to raise volume and continues to be safe,” he says. “Being first truly is special. The Jones Mill name will be on the top of this trophy from now on and that’s because this team has safety in its hearts and minds. The safety comes along with teamwork and is fostered by communication. I look forward to great things in the years to come.”