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Reliable equipment for the refractory service industry – Part 1

World Cement,

Downtime – it’s an ugly word. Regardless of the business type, downtime is one of the most detrimental and negative things a company can experience. Whether it is unexpected downtime due to equipment failure or labour shortage, or planned downtime for routine practices such as equipment maintenance and repair, the key to minimising the damaging effects of downtime is simple – limit it as much as possible.

Perhaps no one understands this concept better than Kirby Sternfels. As the owner of K&G Industrial Services, Sternfels’ and his company’s mission is getting others back in business. Located just outside Mobile, AL, in the small US town of Theodore, K&G provides refractory demolition and installation to a variety of industries.

Refractory, which is high-temperature, heat-resistant material such as fire-brick, shotcrete or gunite, is essential for operation in facilities including cement production plants, paper mills and chemical plants. Refractory material is used as a lining in furnaces, incinerators, kilns and reactors, and is a necessary component for structures that are exposed to environments above 1000 °F. It is applied to the interior of the surface using a high-pressure pumping machine that sprays on the material. Depending on how much production a plant experiences and how hard its equipment has been worked, clients typically require K&G’s services 1 – 3 times a year.

K&G is a fairly large company, employing anywhere from 45 to 200 people at a time, depending on how many jobs are ongoing at once. It services clients in 20 states, from as far southwest as Texas, up to the New York area. Although the company was only recently formed in October of 2008, K&G has made quite a name for itself in the industry – much of the success stemming from the fact that Sternfels is an experienced veteran in the refractory industry. Prior to starting his own company, he worked for nearly ten years at a company that provides similar services as K&G. Before that, he was employed by a refractory equipment manufacturer.

K&G has managed to grow and keep current clients coming back with knowledge, professionalism and quality work. But most importantly, what really matters to these companies is urgency. Regardless of the type of facility it is servicing, K&G knows efficiency is the name of the game for all its clients. When Sternfels and his crew are performing their services, they are stopping that plant’s work – and moneymaking opportunity. Again, Sternfels’ industry experience is priceless, as he understands the importance of getting these companies back up and running as quickly as possible, and he makes that his number one priority.

“Even though most plants typically only require maintenance to be performed once or twice a year, any amount of downtime is hampering to their productivity and profitability,” Sternfels said. “These companies, they can’t afford to be held up a long time, waiting for us to finish. After all, time is money!"

Sternfels says reliable, productive equipment is key to his company’s success, as customers depend on K&G to work as quickly and efficiently as possible.

For this reason, it is crucial for K&G to be able to get in, perform its service quickly and effectively, and get out. This seems like a simple enough philosophy, but Sternfels needs more than values and a hard-working team to ensure the work gets done quickly. He has found that a major key to the success of his company is the equipment his crew utilises on each job.

Refractory installation equipment is not something sold off the shelf in a local big box retailer. It is very technologically advanced, sophisticated and powerful equipment. It needs to do just one job, but must do it exceptionally well. So when he first started his company, Sternfels wanted to work with an equipment manufacturer that had reliable, quality equipment and also provided top-notch service and support. In order for his crew to help its customers minimise downtime, his company would need to avoid it altogether – equipment failure was not an option.

“I had previously worked with a manufacturer out of Anniston [Alabama] called Blastcrete Equipment Company,” Sternfels said. The company, which manufactures a variety of shotcrete and gunite mixers and pumps, was already familiar to Sternfels, as was its reputation for providing remarkable service and support. Top that off with the fact Blastcrete is located just a few hours away from K&G’s headquarters in Theodore, and Sternfels was sold.

He also recognised the value of working with a company that specialises in refractory installation equipment and has plenty of experience close to the industry. Blastcrete was previously a division of Southeast Refractories until 1999, when Southeast was sold and Blastcrete became a stand-alone company. With years of manufacturing knowledge under its belt, Blastcrete had developed a variety of refractory equipment including high-pressure mixer/pumps and dry gunite machines. Beyond refractory, the company offers mixers and pumps for a variety of other industries, including commercial and residential construction, masonry, mining, underground and building systems such as ICF and SCIP.

Tripp Farrell, Sales Manager for Blastcrete, was eager to help out and pleased to be working with Sternfels again. “We already had a great relationship with Kirby [Sternfels], working with him at his previous company, and I knew we’d be able to provide the right equipment and the support he’d need,” he said. “Because we’re very in tune with the refractory industry, we know how crucial time and efficiency is to K&G’s clients. We do everything we can to give them, not just the equipment they need, but the service and support as well.”

And as far as the equipment goes, it is among the most technologically advanced in the industry. Thanks to years of research, development and simply listening to customers’ requests, Blastcrete evolved its machines to be technologically advanced, yet easy to operate and maintain. “The machines offer high performance, but also user-friendly features to enhance operation and reduce cleaning and maintenance efforts,” Sternfels said.

Part Two of this article is available here.

Adapted from press release by

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