Cimentos Liz managers have always believed it was important to control transportation operations in-house. Recently, they reorganized the system to improve cement distribution productivity and reduce redundant job functions.
Over-the-road trucking, rail, and mine fleet activities were merged into a single division, Gestil Transporte. The division controls 35 tractors, nine flatbed trucks, 94 trailers, a couple hundred rail hopper cars, and numerous dump trucks used in limestone mining operations.
"We believe the reorganization and consolidation will make it easier to manage the transport operations," says Alfredo Henrique Machado, operations manager of Gestil Transporte. "It will help ensure that we continue to provide our customers with the most effective and efficient distribution options.
"We have our own trucking operation because we have greater control over the quality of the service. We believe it is a competitive advantage."
Cement Center Started in 1975, the truck fleet is based at the Cimentos Liz plant in Vespasiano, Minas Gerais. With a population of approximately 61,000, Vespasiano is a suburb of Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais, Brazil's fifth largest state. Cement production is a major industry in the state.
The Gestil Transporte truck fleet hauls bagged and bulk cement to customers in Minas Gerais and the adjoining states of Bahia, Espirto Santo, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Goics. Trips average 500 kilometers (300 miles), and the tractors run 8,000 kilometers (4,900 miles) per month.
While the mileages are relatively low by US standards, the tractors get a hard workout. Modern expressways are being built, but road conditions vary greatly throughout Brazil. In addition, some construction sites are offroad.
Scania trucks and tractors have performed best for the fleet under the various operating conditions. Gestil Transporte started with Scania trucks in 1975 and has now standardized on them.
"Scania trucks have been available in Brazil for many years, and they have proved that they are very durable," Machado says. "Scania engineers are very good at providing technical support. We benefit by standardizing on the Scania product."
New Model The fleet recently began testing a new Scania Series 4 conventional equipped with a 14-liter engine rated at 420 horsepower and six-speed transmission. The electronic engine comes with cruise control. In addition, the tractor has a programmable transmission brake.
Gestil Transporte is testing the two-axle tractor with an air suspension and antilock braking. Machado points out that ABS is not yet required in Brazil but could be mandated in the next few years.
Cabovers currently predominate, and all of them are two-axle power units. A majority have 360-hp engines. A handful of power units in the fleet were specified with 320-hp engines. All of the tractors carry blowers or compressors for product handling. Gestil Transporte started with oil-cooled Hoos compressors but is now testing Drum blowers on nine tractors.
"We like the small size of the Drum blower," Machado says. "Beside being compact, it is versatile. Unloading is much faster with the Drum blower."
Forty-four of the trailers are dry bulkers, all of them single-hopper units built by Randon. The carbon-steel trailers have a 27-cubic-meter (953-cubic-foot) capacity. Inside is a cloth air slide system that speeds unloading. "We can empty one of these trailers in 20 minutes," Machado says.
Life Cycle Gestil Transporte has no set replacement cycle for its vehicles. "We run the tractors as long as they can perform reliably for us," says Pericles de Freitas Abreu, maintenance manager at Gestil Transporte. "The dry bulk trailers can last 20 years or more, and we don't anticipate any changes in capacity that would prompt early replacement."
Appearance is important, though. Tractors and trailers are hosed off after each load and are washed every 15,000 kilometers (9,300 miles) to prevent product buildup. Dry bulk trailers are repainted at four-year intervals with polyurethane paint.
Preventive maintenance also helps keep the equipment looking and performing like new. Body damage is repaired promptly. Truck engine oil changes are done according to manufacturer specifications, and the guidelines are followed precisely. The rest of the tractor maintenance program is built around routine service every 15,000 kilometers.
Items checked during the 15,000-kilometer service include the cylinder heads. Engine overhauls are performed at about 400,000 kilometers (248,500 miles).
Rough roads take a toll on the equipment, and broken springs are replaced as soon as possible. Tractors are realigned every three to 31/2 months.
Trailer Inspections On the dry bulk trailers, mechanics inspect the relief valves, discharge valves, and domelid gaskets after every two loads. Trailer brake pads are changed at 15,000 to 45,000 kilometers (9,300 to 27,900 miles). At that time, mechanics check everything on the trailer, including piping, brake lines, and running gear. They also look over the air-slide system inside the trailer that is used to fluidize the cement during unloading.
Tires receive a lot of attention in the Gestil Transporte maintenance program. Tire life for the fleet is in the 250,000-kilometer (158,000-mile) range. The average for the trucking industry in Brazil is 200,000 kilometers (124,000 miles).
"Good tire care means lower operating costs," Freitas Abreu says. "We start with very good-quality tires-Michelin and Pirelli. We monitor tire pressure on a regular schedule, and we retread when the amount of wear shows that it is time. We expect two retreads out of each carcass."
Vehicle maintenance is just one of the ways the Gestil Transporte management team works to ensure that Cimentos Liz customers receive the best possible delivery service. Cement is delivered on time, where it is needed.