About an hour outside of Birmingham, Alabama, lies one of the largest deposits of marble in the world! That’s right, the WORLD! Sylacauga, Alabama, which is also known as “Marble City", has been mining the pure white metamorphic rock for over 150 years. Gantts Quarry, which was discovered in 1830 by Dr. Edward Gantt, has the unique distinction of having some of its marble in multiple, iconic Washington DC locations, including The Washington Monument, The Lincoln Memorial, as well as the Capital building of the United States, due to its pure white color.
While it is an honor to have these significant landmarks on your resume, the vast majority of the marble mined out of this quarry has a less “glamorous” destination. Today, nearly all of the marble taken out of this natural depository is processed and turned into calcium carbonate, which is found in many consumer products that we all use each day. To mention a few, these carbonates are found in plastics, paints and coatings, filtrations systems, ceramics, renewable energy, paper & board materials, and even the food and diaper industries. Whether you know it or not, calcium carbonate is a huge business.
At the Sylacauga quarry, Imerys is one of the companies that have the unique challenge of turning the mountain of marble into usable consumer products. Imerys mines and processes over a million and a half pounds of marble each year, so you can imagine there is quite a logistical challenge facing them as it pertains to keeping their plant efficient and productive. One facet of their business that faces a daunting challenge is the processing and shipping departments. In addition to the numerous railcars used to haul away the finished wet product (slurry), nearly 80 semi-trucks show up to haul the finished dry products to their next destination each day. As you might imagine, consistency and timeliness are of great importance.
“We cannot afford to have our forklifts down. Not only are forklifts used in the traditional shipping warehouse, but they are also an integral part of the manufacturing process by taking products off their respective processing lines as they are finished," says Brian Shuler of Imerys. “Any delay in the production process is just not acceptable!”
“In the past, there were some issues with our previous forklifts”, states Calvin Cook, Mining Supervisor. “We needed to find a more reliable lift truck. However, that was not our main concern. Here at Imerys, safety is number one, and the forklifts that our employees use need to be the safest possible!” Due to the inherent danger of their business, Imerys turned to The Lilly Company and Toyota Forklifts to help solve these problems. Lilly-Toyota Territory Manager Alan Bethune indicates, “After we first met with Imerys, we knew that we needed to provide them (Imerys) with not only the most reliable forklifts in the business but the safest ones as well! We included some additional safety items on each forklift in addition to the already industry-leading SAS system, to ensure that.”
Martez McDuffie, Packaging and Shipping Manager, states, “We couldn’t be happier with our Toyota forklifts and our service provider, The Lilly Company! They are so responsive, and their tech, Smokey, does a great job servicing forklifts for us! We put our forklifts through a lot based on our environment, so when we need to have a forklift repaired, he is always right there when we need him!”
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