VIDEO: Iowa Aggregate Firm Fuels Growth Through Relationships

Wed February 01, 2023
Road Machinery & Supplies Co.

In a commodity-based industry, all companies work to provide customers with quality materials at a low price. What makes a company stand out in the industry, however, is identifying areas that can provide added value for their customers and mastering them. That's what has made Wendling Quarries Inc. a leader in the industry.

"It's easy to focus on the product and price, but we don't want to stop there," said Kaleb DiRico, vice president of operations. "We believe that if we look out for our customers' best interests, that is going to help them be more successful. If they are more successful, they are going to do more business. That, in turn, helps us be more successful. It's what we call the outward mindset."

That philosophy has fueled Wendling Quarries' growth since it was purchased by Manatt's Inc. in 1987. The company currently includes 50 quarry locations throughout Iowa and Illinois that produce an average of four to six million tons of material annually for road construction projects, including both concrete and asphalt paving, county road maintenance, driveways and rip rap.

Wendling Quarries knows that its continued growth will be defined by not only strengthening relationships with its customers, but also its employees. To do this, it has implemented a values-based leadership model — an outward-focused management concept — to help retain the employees who have been a vital part of the company's rise and attract talented people to help continue its trajectory.

DiRico, who joined Wendling Quarries in 2021, is one of the early success stories of the philosophy change.

"The values-based leadership model was a huge factor in my recruitment here," he said. "It's more than some fancy words — we are really implementing and exhibiting the values of family, excellence and human potential."

DiRico added, "We want our employees to know that they are valued and have a great experience at work. If they are happy, that shows up in their interactions with our customers, it makes their family lives more enjoyable, and makes for a much better experience all around."

True Partner

Another area where Wendling Quarries values relationships is with its sales and service providers. That's why it turns to Road Machinery & Supplies Co. (RMS) for Komatsu equipment and fleet maintenance. With approximately 25 pieces of Komatsu equipment in its fleet, there is a great deal of familiarity between the two companies.

"Just like we want our customers to see the added value we provide, we are looking for partners that do the same for us," said DiRico. "Working with Road Machinery & Supplies Co. is great because we know we can rely on them to go above and beyond for us."

This year provided a perfect example of that relationship. Wendling Quarries ordered an equipment package that included three Komatsu WA480 wheel loaders. The preexisting relationship between RMS, Komatsu and Wendling Quarries laid the groundwork for the order. When unforeseen circumstances caused a delay in delivery of some of the package, RMS was able to step up — reinforcing Wendling Quarries' decision to go with RMS in the first place.

"One of the major reasons we went with RMS and Komatsu was the ability to deliver in 2022," said DiRico. "However, the WA480s were delayed. It wasn't RMS' fault, but we weren't going to get them when expected. RMS came to us with a rental solution to help fill the gaps until delivery. Being without those machines would have really had a negative impact on our bottom line, but RMS helped us reach our production goals."

DiRico said that was just one of many examples of RMS going the extra mile.

"Anytime we need something, we know we can turn to our territory manager, Jeff White," said DiRico. "Recently, we had some questions on the crushing side of operation. We don't have much crushing equipment from RMS, but RMS really stepped up to get us what we needed. Aggregate Sales Specialist John Miller and his team were fantastic to work with."

DiRico added, "On top of that, the service is great. It also helps that their brand-new Cedar Rapids shop is only a couple miles from our largest quarry, CR South. It's extremely convenient. Through the years, RMS has delivered, and we feel like they are there for us."

Comfort, Performance

Many things go into the decision to purchase equipment, with productivity being at the top of the list. Wendling Quarries' most recent equipment package included a Komatsu WA600 pit loader and two Komatsu HD405 rigid frame haul trucks in addition to the three WA480 wheel loaders.

"We are very happy with the Komatsu equipment," said DiRico. "The WA600 matches perfectly with the HD405s as it can fill them to capacity in three passes. It has the breakout power to dig into some tight shots and get to the material. The HD405s are efficient and have the power and braking ability to handle the inclines at our quarries."

"The 405 is user-friendly, that's for sure," said Shawn Walsh, haul truck driver. "It's got great power, and the braking is smoother. It's just an overall better truck, honestly."

Production numbers are a great reflection of the equipment's value, but DiRico said that another metric has also solidified the purchase as a success — operator comfort.

"The best thing about it is that it's quiet," said Zak Smith, haul truck driver. "The cab is great, and it rides really smooth."

"The cab keeps all the dust out," said Walsh. "The air conditioner and heated seats are nice."

"I get in the WA480 before 7 a.m., and I'm in it until 5 p.m.," said Keith Knight, resident loader operator. "The ride is amazing. It's very stable with the wide tires and base. It's extremely easy to operate."

"Our operators spend their whole day in the cabs of those machines, and we want them to be comfortable," said DiRico. "It goes to the people-first mindset. We want our operators to be happy and be able to go home and enjoy their time with family."

Transition, Growth

Wendling Quarries truly is in a state of transition. In addition to implementing the values-based leadership model, there also is a management transition occurring as Tony Manatt is moving to the role of CEO, and Rob Manatt is filling Tony's former role of president. The company believes these moves will position it for continued growth.

Another aspect of the transition is to continue to identify areas that Wendling Quarries can add value for its customers. To accomplish that, the focus will be on incorporating technology.

"We want to use technology to make our customers' lives easier," said DiRico. "We have a portal that shows how many tons are delivered and how much is still coming. We will continue to look for ways to expand our use of technology to help our customers be more efficient. There are a lot of exciting opportunities in that area."

(This story was reprinted with permission of Road Machinery & Supplies Co.)