Lorie Greenspan reports on Elliott Machine Works, a leader in providing solutions in the form of mobile tool shops, lube centers, water and fuel trucks to mining and construction applications across the United States.
For as long as people have been mining and constructing houses and homes, there’s been a need to have the necessary tools to aid them in their work. The problem is slogging around those tools, in addition to all the other equipment necessary to do the job. In addition, someone whose core business is extracting coal probably isn’t going to have the time – or personnel – to perform maintenance on his vehicles. And yet maintenance is the key to keeping the job site going. Mobility, in fact, is the key.
Since 1948 Elliott Machine Works has been a leading manufacturer of mobile service equipment, supplying hundreds of units for export to the military and industry. The company combines the latest engineering technology with 50 years’ experience to ensure the equipment meets specific needs in field service. Attention to detail ensures that Elliott mobile service units are the foundation of a company’s preventive maintenance program.
Elliott manages all aspects of a company’s equipment needs. From technical evaluation of truck chassis, transportation regulations concerning cargo tanks and related systems are applied to every unit. Its portfolio includes field service mobile shops, utility bodies and trailers, special equipment, and in-plant hydrostatic drive trucks, general purpose lubricants, pump lubricating oils, weapon lubricating oils, lens preparation fluids, tempering oils, and quenching oils.
The company was founded by Hursel Ekin, who came from Illinois to Galion, Ohio, and took a job at Hercules Industries, a hydraulic cylinder dump body manufacturer. Ekin, who had some experience in mobile machine shops, hoped he could talk the company’s owners into branching out its product line but Hercules wanted to stick to what it was already producing well. Ekin stayed with the company for 10 years.
“In Galion at the time a lot of entrepreneurs were spinning off into companies so he started a company called CEMCO, and started building mobile machine shops for the military, which were exported to developing countries overseas. Then he started making lube service units and specialty field trailers, skids and bodies,” says Brad Ekin, one of two sons working in the business. “I started on weekends working in the summer,” he recalls. While he serves as vice president, his younger brother, Richard, serves in operations. Hursel Ekin is still the company’s president.
In its current configuration, Elliott no longer makes mobile machine shops since demand for these has dropped off. Instead, its bread and butter have been the construction and mining markets, with plants on wheels or lube trucks – or combination fuel, lube and water trucks for operations that involve multi needs. Still in Galion, the company, in 2005, built a new shop and in 2006, a new fabrication plant. New offices were constructed in 2007. In addition, the company’s first plant, built in the 1950s, is still in use. Altogether, these facilities measure 100,000 square feet with 72 employees
From the 1950s through the 1970s military contracts for lubrication skid units, water tanks and water trailers comprised the bulk of the business. In the early 1990s, with the Gulf War, the company manufactured 230 mobile tool units for reconstruction in Kuwait and Iraq.
Lube to go
Today, lube trucks are the company’s primary products, offering a “service station on wheels,” Ekin says, “which takes the garage and mechanic to the job site as a support line to construction and mining. These allow equipment to be serviced on site – our whole niche is predicated on that.” In fact, Elliott has become known throughout the industry for its expertise in the design of hydraulic-powered mobile service centers. Using only one master electrical power switch, the Elliott-designed dispensing system relies on a load-sensing, pressure-compensated, hydraulic system to dispense oil products at 9-12 GPM. Available hydraulic-powered air compressors and fuel pumps complete the service truck package.
Elliott also offers complete water tank systems designed to reduce dust or flush debris from roadways. Its large lube, fuel and water combination can be customized to fit a specific application. “We do a lot of customization,” notes Ekin. For example, he points out, in mining, large dozers are used, requiring large quantities of oil. “What you supply to a mining operation won’t fit with a road construction operation – with mining there’s no road restructuring or DOT travel restrictions – it has to do with weight distribution and the size of the truck.” For mining, most of Elliott’s trucks are going to West Virginia and Kentucky for use in coal operations. Recently, Elliott received a contract to supply a company in North Dakota involved in open strip mining. In strip mining, earth and rock are removed to expose a coal seam or coal bed. Excavators either dispose of the overburden or store the waste material for replacement after the coal has been extracted. During the process, the excavation vehicles must be serviced often because of the rugged operating conditions.
Elliott offers many features in its lube platforms, including:
• Platform: two-inch by four-inch tubular steel rubrails; three-inch by two-inch by two-inch steel crossmembers spaced 16: OC; three-inch by eight-inch tubular steel longitudinals; longitudinals gusseted to each crossmember; 3/16-inch steel treadplate floor;
• Drop Deck: separate construction from platform; tubular steel construction; full cross-bracing;
• Reel Stands: structural steel construction; full-width drip pan;
• Enclosed Reel Cabinet: 12 ga. HRS construction; roll-up aluminum door; double structural frame for stacked reels; 12 VDC interior dome lights;
• Fuel Tanks: elliptical style minimum. 8 ga. HRS construction; flanged heads and baffles; full-length flashing. Rectangle style minimum. 8 ga. HRS construction; flanged heads and baffles; roll-over protection;
• Product Tanks: exclusive design; 8 ga. HRS construction; vented fill lids;
• Body Accessories: Tubular steel bumper; side access step; 12 VDC flood lights; lighting DOT FMVSS-108; exclusive spring mount tie down assembly; HD steel storage and tool cabinets;
• Prep & Paint: fabricated components pre-washed and painted with epoxy primer and two coats baked finish enamel.
To be as durable as possible, lube trucks are built on an articulated chassis, making these better suited to the harsh work environment. An articulated truck is most commonly used in construction work, to haul heavy loads, sometimes over difficult terrain, and sometimes resembles a type of tractor-trailer unit. These are specifically useful in mining operations. Ekin notes, “because of the size of the surface operation; a traditional truck won’t be large enough to go around the mine.”
Elliott’s water trucks are used for dust control measures or to prepare the substructure of a base for paving. Its skids and trailers are marketed mostly for contractors who don’t need to dedicate an entire truck for an operation; he generally has smaller equipment, Ekin says. The company also supplies specialized lube trailers, water tanks and fuel tanks to municipal, city and federal governments.
All of the company’s innovations have enabled it to post sales of $14 million in 2007, which reflects continuous growth over the last five years from $8 million. This increase has come from broadening its sales team and pushing into new regions and from capturing more government business.
“We build long term relationships; we become a part of their management team,” Ekin says. ‘Our primary concern is to help them solve problems revolving around mobile maintenance.”