Family traditions in the Peace River
How a third-generation Canadian quarry keeps their commitment to quality through changing seasons
The Peace River region of northeastern British Columbia is often associated with rich soils and moderate temperatures, making it an ideal agricultural environment. But there is also plenty of money to be made just below the surface through the land’s natural resources. An aggregates producer recognized this in the mid-1960s and decided to take action.
Quarry Family History
In 1966, Nels Ostero established a sand and gravel operation in the Peace River Region – Nels Ostero Ltd. Since then, the company has grown significantly, but has always remained humble and family oriented. Nels Ostero’s son Tom Ostero took over the plant in 1982, and in 2007, his grandson Nilson Ostero assumed the manager position — where he remains today.
The plant, which resides on a half a mile (130 hectares) of land, supplies sand and gravel for residential and commercial needs in the Peace River Regional District. The company’s products are used in concrete applications, asphalt plants, oil fields and highways. With a capacity of more than 1 million tons per year, the equipment onsite plays a huge role in the plant’s success.
Finding the Right Fit
To keep up with the demand of sand and gravel products, the quarry requires top-performing machinery. There are 11 vibrating screens, two crushers and dozens of loaders, trucks and excavators on-site, all of which need to be performing efficiently.
One equipment provider, Haver & Boecker Niagara, has been delivering dependable equipment to Nels Ostero Ltd. for decades. In fact, the Canadian-based screening company has been their go-to since the quarry’s first years of establishment, back when the manufacturer was known as W.S. Tyler.
“My father chose the company because of the reliability of the equipment,” Nilson Ostero said. “I have tried some different equipment and screen media brands over the years, but nothing compares to Haver & Boecker Niagara.”
The first piece of Haver & Boecker Niagara equipment the company purchased was a Ty-Rock (today known as an F-Class vibrating screen) installed in 1966. Since then, they have added a number of technologies from the manufacturer.
Most recently, Nilson Ostero replaced his two 7-foot-by-16-foot machines, which were situated at the finishing end of the operation. They were supplied by another manufacturer and had been running since the 1980s. The equipment was outdated, inefficient and required more maintenance than the value they offered. He turned to Haver & Boecker Niagara who evaluated his operation and recommended implementing two Niagara T-Class machines. The new machines have proven themselves a good fit, increasing capacity and requiring little to no maintenance.
“The T-Class machines are on their third season with us, and we haven’t had a single issue,” Nilson Ostero said. “They allow us 20% more capacity than our old screens, but more importantly they are stronger and more reliable.”
Haver & Boecker Niagara characterizes the T-Class machines as highly efficient and durable, which is important to the success of any screening business. This is especially true for this particular operation, which runs year-round and sees the effects that cold weather can have on material and screening equipment.
The British Columbia winter weather averages 39 F (4 C) but can dip down as low as -40 F (-40 C). While some screening plants shut down their whole operation in the winter, Nilson Ostero’s high-performing equipment allows him to perform crushing and screening year-round. When temperatures remain steadily below 27 F (-3 C), they pause aggregate washing. However, even with a portion of the operation’s process shut down, they are still able to produce more than an operation that has to completely shut down for several months.
“The colder it gets outside, the stickier the material becomes,” Nilson Ostero said. “The extra moisture can lead to blinding and pegging, resulting in downtime for maintenance to clear out the material. That doesn’t happen with the T-Class machines.”
He has practical evidence that an operation that runs smoothly plays a large part in hiring and retaining high-quality employees.
“At the end of the day, if the guys are working with good equipment, they are happier and perform better,” Nilson Ostero said. “Safety is obviously a big deal, but another thing is providing efficient, top-notch machines that don’t require unnecessary maintenance.”
Equipment is only one part of the equation, and he quickly found how impactful the screen media would be, especially when it comes to downtime and maintenance.
Maintenance is required on all jobsites, but unexpected maintenance and subsequent shutdowns can equate to a significant loss of money for any company. Scheduled maintenance activities are only possible with thorough analysis and planning as well as quality equipment and screen media. Nilson Ostero consistently found that any attempt to cut corners only resulted in lost profits. Each time he experimented with lower-cost screen media, he would watch as unexpected downtime and lost revenue skyrocketed.
“The cost-savings was attractive, but it was never worth it,” he said. “Cutting corners always meant a sacrifice of some kind, and it inevitably ended up costing me more money.”
Until the operation implemented the Haver & Boecker PROdeck method, the standard screen media required attention after every eight shifts, and a complete change-out every two weeks. PROdeck evaluates the screening process to effectively blend screen media for the highest production with the least amount of unscheduled downtime. Markus Kopper, general manager of Haver & Boecker Niagara Rocky Mountains, and Dave Warden, Haver & Boecker Niagara sales manager, worked with the company to determine the optimal screen media combination for the operation. This included a combination of Ty-Max, Ty-Wire and traditional woven wire, as well as Major’s Flex-Mat.
“Haver & Boecker Niagara partners with each customer and thoroughly evaluates an operation before making recommendations,” Kopper said. “For Nels Ostero Ltd., they were able to achieve a 70% increase in wear life with our PROdeck approach.”
Nilson Ostero also consulted with Haver & Boecker Niagara to determine if any additional upgrades for his vibrating screens could reduce the time required for maintenance and screen change-outs. He found a time saver in the company’s Ty-Rail quick-tensioning system. The new T-Class machines are equipped with this system, which combines the tension rail and all hardware together in one assembly. Ty-Rail simplifies the process, saving his team at least three hours each time a change-out is needed, as well as helping to eliminate losing nuts and bolts into the hoppers below.
“A complete screen change-out, on one screen, would have normally taken us five or six hours,” he said. “But with Ty-Rail, we can do it in as few as three hours. And guys aren’t dropping bolts every 15 seconds, so that’s an added bonus.”
The three-hour time savings, coupled with increased throughput, resulted in an overall production increase over the first year. On top of that, it saved an estimated eight to 10 days of downtime per season, which equates to an increase of thousands of dollars.
But, Ty-Rail wasn’t the only time-saving option Nilson Ostero discovered. After years of frequently replacing worn out cross beams, he opted to add Zip-Guard to his T-Class machines. The ½-inch-thick polyurethane liner is designed to reduce the impact of passing material by protecting the cross beams from wear. This results in increased equipment longevity and minimized downtime for maintenance.
All of the technologies on site are supported by an ongoing service program, which gives the company an added level of confidence in the products. Haver & Boecker Niagara begins every service visit with its signature Pulse vibration analysis. The advanced vibration analysis technology is designed to help customers, like Nilson Ostero, examine the health of their vibrating screen. Haver & Boecker Niagara technicians use the technology and analysis to help detect irregularities that could translate into diminished performance, decreased efficiency, increased operating costs and imminent breakdowns.
“Markus and his team used Pulse to help me spot issues that our team wouldn’t have normally been able to find,” Nilson Ostero said. “Haver & Boecker Niagara first ran it on my machines right after they installed them, and now they run it once a year. It has caught problems that may have cost me money down the road, including a twisted frame on one of my screens. We knew there was a problem with the unit, but with Pulse, Haver & Boecker Niagara’s service technician determined exactly what was wrong.”
Predicting the Future
Since the company’s inception, Nels Ostero Ltd. has now grown to one of the largest sand and gravel producers in the area — employing more than 30 people, several of whom have been with the company for more than 15 years. With a constant focus on relationships and quality, the Ostero family built a longstanding business on enduring whatever the economy throws at them, all while maintaining their reputation for consistently providing quality product that meets the demands of their customers.
Looking toward the future, Nilson Ostero hopes to continue to grow the business. He hopes to increase output year over year, continue retaining and adding employees, and – perhaps most importantly – keeping the business in the family and one day passing it on to his children to continue the family tradition.
About Nels Ostero Ltd.
Nels Ostero has been serving the aggregate, oil field and construction industries in and around Taylor, B.C. for more than a half a century. More information: 250-789-3508 or www.nelsosteroltd.ca.
About Haver & Boecker Niagara
Haver & Boecker Niagara is a leading provider in screening, pelletizing and mineral processing plants and systems. The company’s mission is to deliver the best of these technologies to customers in the mining, minerals, aggregates, cement, building products, fertilizer and salt industries. With deep roots and years of experience in these industries, Haver & Boecker Niagara uses its innovative and shared technologies to effectively meet the needs of customers around the world. For more information: email email@example.com; www.haverniagara.com; Facebook; LinkedIn; YouTube; and Instagram.