Custom service

IN 1896 the Hill and Griffith Company founders took a look at the foundries in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area and decided to establish a business that would serve some of the industry's needs.

Since this beginning, Hill and Griffith has grown to five manufacturing facilities to support the growth of the metal casting industry of North America.

Almost 110 years later, the company continues on that path, having expanded to custom packaging and blending of powder minerals and liquids for other areas of the United States. In the early 2000s, the company had a growth opportunity in the handling and transloading of alternative materials.

“Blending minerals to suit customer specifications and maximizing efficiencies to accomplish that goal have always led our customer service,” says David Greek Jr, a fourth generation descendent of one of the company's founders, John Hill.

Facilities are in Cincinnati, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana; Chicago, Illinois; Burbank, Ohio; and Birmingham, Alabama. The Burbank and Birmingham locations provide off-site transloading, while Cincinnati handles dry bulk on-site and Indianapolis specializes in transloading lubricants on-site.

The Chicago transloading facility contains three railcar spots; Indianapolis has two for unloading and five for storage; Birmingham has eight; and Burbank has seven. CSX Corp is the primary rail service provider for the Hill and Griffith transloading facilities.

“Of course, the amount of bulk material and liquids transferred at each location varies, but as an example of capacity, Cincinnati processes up to 20 bulk trucks a day or about 250 tons of product,” Greek says.

Product grinding

The Cincinnati operation specializes in ground coal, removed premixed clays, carbons, and cob flour. Much of the product grinding and mixing is conducted on site.

In addition to CSX, Norfolk Southern Railway Co is available for some switching in Cincinnati. Eight railcar spots are usually in service on site, with room for more. However, for efficiency handling, operators prefer about five inbound railcar loads and two outbound empty railcars on the track at any given time.

The Cincinnati facility owns a Track Mobile Inc unit for shuttling cars in the transloading area.

One railcar contains enough product to load about four dry bulk trailers, says Roger Rodenberg, plant manager.

Railcars bring in products for crushing and also take out finished products. Product to be crushed is offloaded into three silos that hold 100 tons each.

An adjacent bay is used for gravity-loading trucks from four, 30-ton storage tanks. A 50-ton tank is dedicated to cob flour.

Trailers are loaded in about 15 minutes. Each storage tank is equipped with a vibrator to keep the product loose and expedite the loading process. Expediting the loading process is one way the company enhances its relationship with the carriers by seeing that drivers aren't kept waiting.

Carrier relationship

“Our customers are the product end-user,” Greek says. “But, our relationship with our carriers is essential because their drivers are the faces our customer sees.”

Although the company typically uses for-hire carriers, when it can't find enough carriers, Hill and Griffith occasionally leases tractors and dry bulk trailers and puts them into service. For several years, the company operated a bulker division, but decided to concentrate on product processing and leave the trucking to outside carriers.

Greek says that product cost is relatively inexpensive for the company while transportation costs are high. In addition, customers require just-in-time deliveries, all of which increases the importance of the company's relationship with carriers.

“We think of our carriers as partners,” Greek says. “We try to anticipate their concerns, as well. But, we are having a hard time finding carriers who can respond immediately.”

With new hours-of-service rules in place, Hill and Griffith accommodate carriers by preloading bulkers so that drivers avoid extended wait times.

“We have carriers that monitor several customers' tanks, and that improves efficiency,” Greek says.

Hill and Griffith transloads product from the Cincinnati facility and ships it throughout the United States and into Canada and Mexico, but about 95% of shipments are hauled within 250 miles of Cincinnati.

Typically, coal comes from West Virginia. About 150-200 tons of coal and 200 tons of clay are processed in the crushing and mixing system per day. Stedman Machine Co cage mills grind coal at a rate of 16 tons per hour. A Fike Corp system is used for protection against dust explosion. The company uses Gardner Denver DuroFlow and Tuthill Corp blowers to transfer product in the processing operation.

An in-house computer program in conjunction with software from Wonderwear, a division of Invensys plc, automatically controls the crushing and blending process, as well as handling customer accounts, Rodenberg says.

“With this system, one person controls three-fourths of the process,” he adds.

In addition to processing and shipping product via rail and truck, Hill and Griffith offers warehouse services. The warehouse stores product in intermediate bulk containers, small and large standard sacks, as well as Super Sacks from BAG Corp that have capacities from 2,000 to 3,000 pounds.

Hill and Griffith also provides testing and technical services, having laboratories on site for quality control checks and sample analyzing. “We provide documented results and assist our customers in achieving optimum performance for their product,” Greek says.

At the liquid blending facility in Indianapolis, products include lubricants, releases, refractory washes, pastes, glues, slurries, and paints.

“We have packaging capabilities from bulk on down to quart containers,” Greek says.

Future plans

As for the future, Hill and Griffith plans to diversify while continuing to serve its current customers as it has for more than 100 years.

“We are looking into businesses that fit into what we do well,” Greek says. “The construction industry fits our niche, and products for soil stabilization also are a possibility. We envision our future as continuing to provide specialized services. Not one of our customers today requires exactly the same blending process, and we pride ourselves on meeting their specifications. That has prepared us for customers that we acquire in the future.

“We are constantly researching technological advancements, mineral resources, and environmental concerns for product development and production.

“As a whole, our industries continue to experience healthy growth, and we are well-positioned to handle this trend.”

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