Mobile, efficient, and effective, the portable drum-mixer plant is becoming the tool of choice in the war against asphalt as concrete producers stake out their territories, create marketing opportunities, and increase their operating margins, as shown by Mark McKenzie of Erie Haven Inc. near Fort Wayne, Ind.

President Larry Gerig's commitment to customer service convinced him to add a portable tilt-mixer concrete plant to the company's existing seven stationary and two portable plants.

The new plant's purchase was an element in the producer's strategy to establish a beachhead in a new market: midsize paving projects. Due to new federal and state contract regulations, Erie Haven sales managers are anticipating greater competition and a series of smaller paving jobs in the near future. These new projects are often too small for a mainline paving contractor to economically justify moving in a new plant.

A tilt mixer can produce large volumes of a high-quality product without draining resources from a producer's core ready-mix business. Gerig's team selected a trailer-mounted plant whose setup doesn't require a foundation or crane for installation. The plant is also modular in that its low profile allows Erie Haven employees to position its charging hopper under all the company's plants.

With the new mixer, Gerig anticipates that Erie Haven will be able to service virtually any contractor's need in his company's market area. "We have made a major investment with the new mobile mixer, standardized computer batching, and enhanced our quality-control program, but we anticipate success with better service for our customers and high-quality products," he says.

Erie Haven and Brooks Construction Co. Inc., Fort Wayne, used value engineering, included a 5-year warranty, and completed a 14.48-mile section of I-69 in 75% of the anticipated construction time. The project received the Gold Level Winner Award, sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.