Telsmith paves the way

Rock-crushing technology has come a long way since Telsmith Inc. was founded in 1906, but the company’s goal remains the same— build equipment to help mining companies reduce the size of any type of rock in the field.

Telsmith, a subsidiary of Chattanooga, Tenn.-based asphalt, aggregate and rock company Astec Industries Inc., has 300 employees. Most of them are based at its Mequon manufacturing facility, but the company has a global sales presence.
Richard Patek has been president of Telsmith and vice president of the Aggregate & Mining Group of Astec Industries since 2001. He started in the shop in 1976.

“We’re basically doing almost the same thing our company was doing back when it was founded, just in a different way,” Patek said.

Since he has joined the company, the size of a cone crusher has increased from 36 inches to 68 inches and quarries have escalated production from 250 tons per hour to up to 2,000 tons per hour, Patek said.

Telsmith makes standard cone crushers, jaw crushers, impact crushers and vibrating screens in addition to custom equipment in both stationary and mobile formats at its 235,000-square-foot Mequon facility. The building sits on a 40-acre plot.

Jaw crushers are used for primary size reduction, while cone crushers are used to further refine rocks that are still too large. Impact crushers may also be used for initial crushing of rocks with different hardness.

“After every stage, you need to sift through the materials,” Patek said. That’s where vibrating screens, or grizzlies, come in to sort the rock and feed the next crusher.

Most of Telsmith’s products are used at quarries as rock is drilled from the ground. The massive equipment often crushes rocks for use as road paving aggregate, or the stone that is mixed with tar or cement. The average piece of Telsmith equipment takes between four and eight weeks to manufacture.

The company runs three shifts per day, six days per week. Its workforce increased by 25 percent in 2011.

Telsmith takes a consultative approach to new orders, with 30 staff engineers designing each custom product. Currently, the company is working on building an entire $7 million facility for a Kentucky customer that will be used to neutralize coal emissions from coal plants.

About 60 percent of its business volume is overseas, mainly for infrastructure development in Latin America, Patek said. Total business volume was up 45 percent in 2011 over the prior year.

Telsmith was significantly impacted by the Great Recession and resulting decline in construction projects. While the construction aggregates market in the United States is still down about 40 percent since 2007, international business has remained stable.
“Part of our strength is that we have been international for a great period of time” and have developed sales relationships, Patek said.

Since most of Telsmith’s clients are in mining, the company’s project pipeline is heavily affected by prevailing commodity prices, he said.

“It means having a pretty long term view of stuff,” Patek said.

The company hopes to expand further into the mining market in the next five years.

Telsmith recently invested in $2 million of new manufacturing equipment and plans to spend $4 million on equipment in 2012.
Annual revenue is about $100 million. The company saw 45 percent growth in 2011 following a 30 percent drop in 2008 and 2009 and a flat 2010. Patek projects 12 percent growth in 2012.

Telsmith Inc.
10910 N. Industrial Dr., Mequon
Industry: Mining equipment
Employees: 300

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