Winter Brothers Banks on New Dredge

Winter Brothers Material Co. is a third-generation, family owned business celebrating its 75th birthday this year. What better way to celebrate than with the launch of a new mining dredge in their newest mining location?

Winter Brothers recently opened a new mining operation on the west bank of the Meramec River just outside of Arnold, Mo. The new operation is now well underway with the christening and launch of a new 14-in. electric dredge that was designed and built by Custom Dredge Works specifically for the unique mining requirements of the mine’s Meramec Aggregate deposit. Winter Brothers is one of the top producers of Meramec sand and gravel in the region.

Mine Supervisor Jerry Gunter and Ryan Winter, president of Winter Brothers, offered the following thoughts about why they chose to go with a chain-ladder on their new dredge to cut or agitate the material they wish to mine versus a more traditional cutterhead. They also shared why an electric-powered dredge provides many advantages over diesel-power.

“With our deposit we really don’t need a cutterhead to break the material up. It is free flowing material, and really sluffs off and flows pretty easily to the suction mouth of the dredge,” Gunter said. “However, we do have a small percentage of basketball-sized rock in our deposit. The chain does a good job of removing the rock from the cutting area and keeping the suction mouth clear and uncluttered. Conversely, a cutterhead has the tendency to allow the rock to continually get ‘re-handled’ and often that rock will collect or pile up around the suction mouth, which in turn impedes the production of the free-flowing material we enjoy.”

“Our other two older dredges also utilize a chain-ladder, so we are experienced with this technology and feel that it is the best solution for our type of deposit,” Winter said. “Another thing about the chain-ladder that is superior to a more traditional cutterhead dredge is that the suction ‘fish-mouth’ is positioned much closer to the material, which exponentially increases the amount of suction force and production output.”

With electric the company doesn’t have to deal with any of the maintenance headaches and the costs associated with diesel power. Even if the initial cost to get into an electric dredge is a bit more, it is well worth it and pays for itself quickly, Gunter stated.

“All of our other dredges and wheel loaders are diesel powered, so we have at least five large diesel engines that we have to do maintenance on, which includes refueling, oil changes, replacing air filters and the occasional engine rebuild,” he said. “We also have to deal with the risk and cost of possible oil and fuel spills. On top of all that, we have the huge expense of downtime costs associated with every one of these maintenance items. Just shutting down to refuel is a large downtime expense. I prefer to work smart versus hard.”

“We looked at five dredges when we were doing our initial due diligence on what dredge we should purchase,” Winter said. “Every one of those dredges was electric, and the folks who were kind enough to allow us to view their dredge in operation all just loved their electric dredge. They told us that the electric dredge required very little maintenance, they were quiet, and they were friendly to the environment, which is important to Winter Bros. too.”

There were a number of reasons the company chose a dredge from Custom Dredge Works.

“We took several field trips to different mining operations to look at the dredges out there, which were built by all of the major dredge manufacturers. It was just very clear to us that CDW was incredibly accommodating and were genuinely interested in understanding our needs and building a dredge that suited us,” said Winter. The feeling we had from other manufacturers was, ‘this is what we offer and this what we are going to build you.’ They tried to push us to what they want to build, for example pushing us towards a cutterhead when we really wanted a chain-ladder. We liked the prior dredges that CDW had built that we were able to view. Very impressive, and their clients were very happy with their dredge and the ongoing support they receive.”

“Since we were looking to have a long-term relationship with our dredge manufacturer that might last 25 years or more, we wanted to make sure it was going to be good,” Gunter said. “Do you want to be married to somebody who is easy to work with and who listens to you or someone who is difficult to get along with? CDW seemed like they were willing to work with us, and we did not get that sense at all from the other dredge builders.”

“Downtime is critical! We were impressed with the amount of parts that CDW keeps in inventory should we need anything from them,” Winter said. “Regarding the dredge assembly and launch, their lead launch foreman came to our mine location and said ‘This is what I need to put your dredge together. And this is where we need to build the ramp, etc.’ He just planned out everything for us. The assembly and launch was extremely well advised and planned and went very smoothly.”

John Jones, president of Custom Dredge Works, said, “We are very happy and proud that we were given the opportunity to provide them with this new electric dredge. We have worked very hard on our end to design and build for them a world-class Flag Ship Dredge that they can be proud of and that will continue to insure their place as a dominant force in the St. Louis aggregate market.”

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