Pennsylvania-Based Mellott Company Has a Rich History and a Mission to Move the Aggregates Industry Forward.
By Mark S. Kuhar
A Mellott Company crusher repair technician uses a micrometer to ensure the tolerances in a jaw crusher bearing seat.
The easiest way to label Mellott Company is to say it’s committed to “Crush More.” The crushing-and-screening division helps customers crush more; equipment sales-and-service helps customers crush more; Mellott engineering and education is designed for a single purpose – to crush more.
Mellott is also so much more, that the organization is dedicated to being a Values-Based-Leadership company, committed to safety, sustainable growth and environmental responsibility.
The Warfordsburg, Pa.-based company has evolved in spectacular fashion from its roots as a small lumber operation in 1920. “Our grandfather, H.B. Mellott, bought a surplus World War I Army truck and used it to start a lumber company,” said Paul Mellott Jr., who along with his brothers, Brian and Herman, have each worked for the family-owned business for more than 40 years. “H.B. didn’t like the lumber business in the winter because lumber rotted after being in inventory for a short period of time, so he started an aggregate operation in 1936 to provide material for the construction of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.”
When the United States entered World War II the aggregate industry suffered a period of low demand, so H.B. Mellott used his quarry equipment to mine coal to supply the factories manufacturing products for the war effort.
After World War II, the company had grown into a thriving coal and aggregates business, with more than 200 employees, when in 1948 tragedy struck. H.B., his son Herman Jr., and two others died when their private plane crashed while flying back from one of the company’s coal mining operations, in Charleston, W.Va.
H.B.’s widow, Amy, and her son Paul Mellott Sr. took over the operation and together faced an enormous challenge as the coal industry slipped into a period of low demand and low prices.
“Neither H.B. nor his son had a will,” Paul Jr. commented. “Consequently, our father and grandmother got out of the coal business. They sold off the coal equipment to pay the estate taxes and started back up again with a small two-quarry operation and 75 employees.” Because H.B. Mellott died without a will, his estate was reorganized and incorporated under the name “H.B. Mellott Estate Inc.” in 1951.
Under the leadership of brothers Paul Sr. and Forrest, the company grew anew, focusing on aggregates and ready-mixed concrete. With this portfolio, the company was well positioned to supply construction materials when President Eisenhower initiated the construction of the interstate highway system in 1956, and the business rode that wave into the future.
In 1974, Paul Jr. graduated from college and joined the company full-time with his two brothers joining him the following year. Together, they began investing in portable contract crushing.
According to Paul Jr., “That’s when we started to take off. Basically, that’s how my brothers and I started working; learning how to crush stone, and today it is our number-one core competency. The driving force of our success in the past, present, and the future is being able to provide our customers with crushed stone – economically, efficiently, safely and in an environmentally sound manner.”
Mellott Company began mining for aggregates when founder H.Bimages/images/2016/10-Oct/. Mellott needed to supplement his lumber and coal offerings.
Growing Bigger, Then Better
The Mellott family expanded the business in 1992 by forming Mellott Enterprises Inc., more commonly known as “MEI,” which set out to be an aggregate equipment supplier and fabricator.
“We were already building our own crusher frames, bins, conveyors and hoppers, so we decided to form a company for the purpose of also selling to external customers,” Paul Jr. noted. “We hired a retired engineer, a sales team, and some applications specialists, and got to work. We started with cement manufacturers that believed in us and awarded us their accounts and started to really grow that business. We were building plants for our own crushing operations and for other aggregate processing companies. In 2000, we had 20 active portable aggregate plants; four company owned-and-operated quarries; three ready-mix concrete operations; as well as the aggregate equipment company.
“In 2007, we saw an opportunity to sell our own quarries and ready-mixed operations, in order to focus on our other business lines,” stated Paul Jr. “We closed that deal on August 31, 2007. We then merged H.B. Mellott Estate Inc. and Mellott Enterprises Inc. on Jan. 1, 2008, and renamed the combined entity simply Mellott Company.”
Rich Blake joined the company as president in September 2008 just as the Great Recession was taking hold. “We started to really get an indication that the economy was taking the wrong turn in 2008,” Blake said. “That was when it got interesting and 2009 was a challenging year for all of us in the industry.”
Because of its position as a contract crusher for so many different aggregates producers, Mellott was in a unique position to see what was happening throughout the industry – and what they saw was alarming.
“Aggregate producers throughout the country were laying off people, utilizing one crew and one set of mobile equipment to go back and forth between their quarries in order to address the 50 percent drop in aggregates sales and production. Producers started to cut back significantly on people,” Paul Jr. said.
The cutbacks were engineers, process people and experienced senior employees. What became an underlying focus in the Mellott Company was investment in people and preparing for the eventual rebound in the industry and general economy. Additionally, the company has been forced to address the ever-increasing scarcity of qualified technical personnel, service technicians in particular.
“Skilled technical people are hard to find in our industry,” said Jeff Rowland, human resources manager. “We offer a very competitive compensation package, but the reality is that many students go into fields that are more academically oriented. That means fewer people are available to keep aggregates machinery running.”
Focus on Education
The company wanted to expand its emphasis on industry education and training the workforce of the future. The seeds of this endeavor had been planted many years earlier by Paul Jr. “Back in 1993, I was frustrated with the fact that we had so many job applicants who couldn’t spell ‘Warfordsburg’ – the name of the town in which they lived! I went over to the local high school and asked the superintendent if we could do something to help. How could we get involved with the school to help inform these kids that their education was really important?”
The company started a lecture series in the school. “Every two weeks, I would invite a speaker to come into the school to address the eighth grade and talk about what they did for a living,” said Paul Jr. “The underlying theme of our message was that education is a critical part of life’s journey and don’t miss the opportunity to learn.”
The program eventually expanded to the senior class and now involves field trips, mock job-interviews, senior projects designed around Mellott Company values, and the five scholarships that are awarded.
In 2006, the company adopted a Values-Based Leadership culture, which was incorporated into the school partnership. “It has improved our relationship with the community by creating positive value-added experiences for the students,” Paul Jr. explained. “Everything in our company is designed to think about the future. You have to commit to a long-term perspective. That’s what we’re all about. We’ve got to look at where we’re going to be and what we need to do to get there.”
Community involvement and education are central to the Mellott Company culture as shown here, with Paul Mellott Jr. talking to local high school seniors in the company’s main training room.
As the economy recovered from the Great Recession, Mellott Company found itself on a solid path, having re-invented itself – yet again – as a multi-faceted partner to aggregates operations all over the country, while also maintaining its core competency as an expert in the art and science of crushing rock.
According to Paul Jr., “We have contract crushed aggregate in quarries as far west as Arkansas and from New York to the Florida Everglades. Everyone who visits our campus says ‘Wow, I didn’t know you guys were capable of so much.’”
“As the aggregate industry rebounds and continues to grow, the biggest problem will be finding good workers,” Blake said. “We want to be the company that helps producers manage their growth, using our workforce. We want to be the go-to company that producers call upon when they have a challenge, whether it’s building new plants; providing engineering expertise to design flexible and productive crushing plants; contract crushing; or selling parts; service; new or used equipment, and; component exchange. That’s how you build a lasting bond that makes a partnership stronger. We’re constantly looking at how we’re going to be better and who can help us achieve that goal.”
Part of helping producers meet their challenges centers on meeting their parts-and-service needs. “I think that parts and service is really one of the keys to demonstrating our value to our customers,” Blake said. “You’ve got to have the inventory of parts and the people who can troubleshoot and fix the equipment. Since the recession producers and manufacturers are carrying fewer parts.”
Mellott Company maintains a vast and varied inventory, valued in the millions of dollars. This parts-trove includes crusher “wears-and-spares” parts; manganese steel castings; screen spare parts; jaw dies; brass bushings, and; conveyor components – all intended to help producers crush more.
Mellott Company technicians make ready to commission a track-plant for use.
Mellott Company also has:
- Round-the-clock live support for emergency services.
- Regionally based, trained field-service technicians with fully equipped service vehicles.
- Customer Training on repair, rebuild, service and maintenance.
- Delivery service available.
History of Values Based Leadership
While Mellott Company certainly has a unique history, it is the reputation for integrity that Paul Jr. holds highest. “I would like to see people in our industry continue to respect us for our Values: Safety, Integrity, Commitment, Respect and Excellence,” he said. “I would like that to be our legacy. Our brand is really important to me, because I know that’s what my dad and uncle wanted us to do with our stewardship of the company. That’s personal and is very important to me. There is a big motivation for us to find the best people to connect with our customers.”
Meeting the Need for Qualified Technical Personnel
The scarcity of qualified technicians challenged the Mellott management team to experiment with new approaches to attracting and developing the skilled labor needed to keep the industry crushing.
Ramesh Patel, Mellott Company executive vice president, took the existing culture of learning within the company and expanded on the theme. He marshaled internal and external resources into a program designed to fill the gap.
Patel’s efforts developed into the program now known as “Mellott University,” a broad-based educational program for aggregates technicians, within the Mellott organization. The company reached out to high schools in the area, and several students were accepted to the program.
The program is free-of-charge to these students. Some of the participants in the program apprentice in the Mellott Company crusher service shop while other students attend Mellott University as part of their high school curriculum. All students in the program earn hourly wages for their time in the program. The best students are offered the opportunity to work full-time with Mellott Company.
“We put together a year-long program that teaches aggregate technicians what they need to know,” said Patel. “We teach hydraulics, electrical, programmable logic control, rebuilds, preventive maintenance and predictive maintenance.”
As a leading Metso distributor in North America, Mellott is able to partner with Metso to provide students in the program with OEM training under some of the most seasoned individuals in the industry.
The first year of Mellott University concluded in May of 2016, complete with a final exam, in which the students had to completely tear down and rebuild a Metso HP400 cone crusher virtually unassisted by the instructors that administered the exam. The graduating class celebrated the completion of the studies with a graduation ceremony and the company issued diplomas as proof of their efforts.
Mellott management decided Mellott University would benefit from the guidance of faculty with technical skills as well as an extensive background in an academic setting. The company reached out to educator Tony Valente, who has decades of experience in the heavy machinery industry, and many years of teaching experience at Hagerstown Community College.
During the summer of 2016, Valente worked to prepare Mellott University for the second year of students, who are slated to graduate in the spring of 2017. “We have a good program going here,” said Valente. “We are going to augment the curriculum with some additional components and develop technicians with good skills.”
The program is already improved with a dedicated, hands-on training area in the Mellott Company Technology Center, which is located on the Warfordsburg Campus.