Continuous Improvement: Testing New Ideas

Some of the best ideas come from our team and those ideas can change the way we do things entirely.

At every asphalt plant, organic asphalt solvent chemicals are used as extraction fluids for washing quality control asphalt samples. The samples are placed in trays resembling strainers and the solvent is poured over the asphalt mix. The solvent essentially melts away the liquid asphalt from the aggregates, allowing gradation testing to be done.

Traditionally, the solvent has only been used once before being captured and disposed of. Overhearing a conversation about how this could be done better, John Whipple, the loader/plant operator at Plant 10, added his thoughts and asked if a parts washer would work for this process.

A parts washer uses a wash basin with a reservoir and a recirculating pump. Rather than pouring the solvent through a strainer, the solvent would be pumped through the asphalt mix, collected, filtered, then recirculated. The team thought John’s idea had merit and decided to test the theory with an inexpensive parts washer.

Preliminary tests showed that the idea worked and the QC team could get five washings from the same amount of fluid currently being used for just one washing. Since then, a higher quality parts washer has been purchased and is being tested at Plant 6. If the tests continue to show similar results, John’s idea could result in an 80 percent savings on our solvent costs.

We are always looking for ways to improve our safety and business practices and value the input from our team. Employees no longer need to wait to discuss their ideas with leadership. Ideas like John’s can be submitted to any time to

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