Slay Industries Pursues Growth In Liquid, Dry Bulk Storage Sector

May 1, 2001
LIQUID bulk storage has helped Slay Industries become a key logistics player in the St Louis, Missouri, chemical market. It is part of a total package

LIQUID bulk storage has helped Slay Industries become a key logistics player in the St Louis, Missouri, chemical market. It is part of a total package of services that generate in excess of $100 million in yearly revenues for the company.

With facilities on the Missouri and Illinois sides of the Mississippi River, Slay Industries has assembled what is one of the largest storage terminal operations in the St Louis area. Total liquid capacity is more than 15 million gallons. The company also has warehousing and rail transloading.

“We're an asset-based transportation, distribution, and logistics operation,” says Gary Slay, president of St Louis-based Slay Industries. “We provide solutions to address customer needs. That's how we've grown over the years.

“In some cases, we're putting our own people into customer plants and headquarters locations to coordinate distribution. We serve both domestic and export markets. We continue to develop new services for our storage and warehousing operations.”

Family Operation

Established in the 1920s as Slay Drayage, the company remains a family operation. Founder John R Slay was joined in the early 1950s by his son, Eugene P Slay, who now serves as chairman of the board. The third generation of the Slay family (Gary and his brother Glen) joined the company in the 1980s.

They preside over a very diversified operation. Storage terminaling is divided into two units — Slay Bulk Terminals in St Louis and Cahokia Marine Service in Sauget, Illinois. The storage operations were established in 1970, and the company is a long-time member of the Independent Liquid Terminals Association.

Slay Bulk Terminals is a full-service liquid storage and distribution facility capable of handing more than 10 million gallons of chemicals in six aboveground tanks. Products include caustic soda, fertilizers, herbicides, acids, caustic potash, benzene, and chlorobenzenes.

A new enclosed section of Slay Bulk Terminals was opened in February 1999 to handle herbicides. Product is held in ten 50,000-gallon stainless steel tanks that are housed in an insulated steel building.

“Enclosed storage was designed to protect the product from freezing,” says Glen Slay, vice-president of Slay Industries. “We installed a series of smaller tanks, instead of one or two large ones, to provide lot segregation and insure product integrity.”

The terminal has full intermodal capability for transferring chemicals to and from truck, rail, and barge. Fifty car spots are available for railcars at the fully lighted and fenced facility. A vapor recovery system can handle benzene and other related products.

At the Cahokia Marine Service terminal are five storage tanks that can hold up to five million gallons of chemicals. Some tanks are double-walled for an added measure of environmental safety. Warehousing capabilities include a drumming operation for chlorobenzenes. “We handle around 20 million pounds of chlorobenzenes a year,” Glen Slay says.

Other capabilities for the 84-acre Cahokia terminal include a bulk inbound system for coal, fertilizers, ore, and ore concentrates. The facility has 32,000 feet of rail track and six locomotives of its own. Rail service is provided by BNSF, CSX, Gateway Western/KCS, and Union Pacific. Barge shipments also are handled.

South of St Louis is Slay Industries' Gateway Intermodal Distribution Center. The 400,000-sq-ft warehouse handles a variety of products, including chemicals, in drums and intermediate bulk containers (IBCs). Twelve track spots are available for rail cars.

Additional storage is available at two S I Warehousing Inc locations in Houston, Texas, and Westwego, Louisiana. The 200,000-sq-ft Houston warehouse provides packaging, drumming, and distribution for international shipments of plastics, food supplements, and chemicals. Covering 75,000 square feet, the Westwego facility specializes in packaged herbicide products.

Slay Transportation, the corporation's tank truck arm, operates a fleet of more than 1,500 tractors and tank and dry bulk trailers. Archway Fleeting and Harbor Service provides fleeting services and bare boat chartering to barge lines throughout the inland waterways.

“All of this gives us the ability to meet just about any chemical shippers' needs, especially in the St Louis area,” says Gary Slay. “Most importantly, we stress high-quality service, and we do it in the safest possible manner.”

Driving Force

The company motto states the objective clearly: “Quality is our Driving Force.” “We stress that customer service and satisfaction are key elements of everyone's job, and that employee attitude can make or break our reputation,” Glen Slay says. “We've worked very hard to integrate our quality and safety processes into all our operations. This is a commitment from the top on down in this organization.”

Quality training is very important. Every member of the Slay organization — production personnel, supervisors, office workers — receive quality training when they are hired, and regular updates are provided throughout their employment.

A key component of the quality process is rapid response to service deficiencies. Problems are investigated immediately; root causes are identified; and corrective action is taken. Quality personnel verify that service has, in fact, improved.

Quality measurement is crucial to the process. “If you can't measure it, you can't improve it,” Glen Slay says. “We start out by determining customer expectations, and what the customers believe should be monitored. These usually are factors such as complying with loading and unloading requirements, and on-time performance.”

Data is collected by the quality staff, and charts and graphs are generated by computer. Copies of the charts and graphs are supplied to every Slay Industries location, and the data is reviewed regularly.

Risk Management

The company's risk management program focuses on three key elements: risk identification, loss control, and risk finance.

Risk identification includes recognizing the areas in the company's operations where assets are at risk of loss and areas where exposures exist to third-party liabilities. On the risk finance side, company management makes sure that insurance coverage is adequate.

Considerable effort has gone into creating a safe work environment. Lockout procedures are in place at all of the terminals and warehouses. Loading ramps and other areas have safety railings. Workers are supplied with all necessary protective clothing.

“We have a lot of heavy machinery, such as cranes and conveyor systems,” says Edward O Hanks, Slay Industries director of safety and risk management services. “We have comprehensive inspection and preventive maintenance schedules for all of this equipment.”

Safety Training

Safety training and awareness are ongoing programs for every employee, especially those working in the terminals and warehouses. Training is conducted by on-site safety managers and covers confined space entry, slips and falls, protective equipment use, right to know, and hazard communications.

“We hold monthly safety meetings for each shift, and we have weekly toolbox meetings,” Hanks says. “We focus on behavior-based training to prevent injuries. We also review previous incidents.”

Working with their insurance carrier, Slay Industries developed a program called Partners in Safety to control injuries and the resulting worker compensation claims.

Each Slay Industries facility participates in the program, and the objective is to avoid OSHA 200 injuries and claims. Award categories are Grand (losses below $100,000), Honor (losses below $140,000), and Merit (losses under $180,000).

A Grand award brings a $500 bonus for all of the workers at the facility. The Honor award garners $300, and Merit winners receive $200.

The program has helped make a difference. “Our worker comp incurred loss for the last half of 2000 was $12,000,” Hanks says. “We believe that is outstanding for a company our size. Our total for all of 2000 was $161,000.”

Programs such as Partners in Safety help ensure that Slay Industries can provide customers with top quality service and that the company will be able to continue providing that level of service in the future. Management has worked hard to position Slay Industries as a key logistics player for many years to come.