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A Trusted Partnership Leads to Success in the Iron Range

When Aggregate Systems got the job to build more than 55 custom conveyors for a new iron-making plant in Minnesota, there was no question who they would choose to partner with on the project and no question about the products they would use. Since the family-owned business opened its doors in 1996, they have worked with distributor Transmission & Fluid Equipment (TFE) and standardized on Baldor• Dodge® and Baldor• Reliance® products. With a strong history of support and product performance, Aggregate Systems was confident it had the right team to take on a project of this size and make it a success.

Based in Rome City, Indiana, Aggregate Systems specializes in fabricating custom material handling systems for the aggregate, asphalt and ready mix industries. Tim Sibert, Aggregate Systems project manager, says from the beginning, the company’s strategy was to build a solid reputation by providing superior quality to its customers.

“When my dad started this company, he decided from day one that we would use Baldor products,” says Sibert. “The Baldor-Reliance and Baldor-Dodge brand names are big in this industry; they stand for quality, and that’s what we have always used. We also chose to work exclusively with TFE, a strong Baldor distributor; they know exactly how to support us, and we have never had any reason to change.”

The custom conveyors for the Mesabi Nugget project would take Aggregate Systems to Hoyt Lakes, on the Mesabi Iron Range in the wilds of Northeastern Minnesota. Co-investors Steel Dynamics, Inc. (SDI) and Kobe Steel, Ltd., were building the first plant in the world to commercially produce iron nuggets using the revolutionary ITmk3® process, which stands for “iron-making technology mark three.” Developed by Kobe Steel, the groundbreaking iron making technology uses a rotary hearth furnace to turn iron ore, pulverized coal and limestone into iron nuggets that have 97% iron content. Most of the nuggets produced will be shipped by rail to SDI’s three Indiana steel mills.

While building the material handling equipment to convey resources from one area to the next was a big project with some sizeable conveyors, Sibert says his team focused on doing what they’ve always done with the products they have always used.

“The Baldor-Dodge TXT and the Torque-Arm II™ reducers are the standard in this industry,” says Sibert. “Then we match them up with Baldor-Reliance motors, Baldor• Dodge Mine Duty Extra pulleys, USAF and ISAF bearings. These are rugged products that have a proven history of success in this industry.”

Knowing exactly what products to use on the project, the next step was getting TFE involved to get the process started.

Turning to Another Trusted Partner

Like Aggregate Systems, TFE is also a family-owned and operated business that is very loyal to Baldor and all its products. Headquartered in Fort Wayne, Indiana, TFE has been a Baldor distributor since its doors opened in 1964. Chris Hughes, TFE president and co-owner, says quality is the reason Baldor products are their leading line.

“It’s not only about the quality of the products, it’s also the quality of the support we receive from Baldor,” says Hughes. “From corporate, to the plants, to the local Baldor• Dodge sales engineer calling on us, Baldor makes us feel like we are doing business together as one team, and that works really well for us.”

TFE has had an equally strong partnership with Aggregate Systems for the past 14 years, and the company trusts TFE to do the right thing. “That’s why, when they told us about the Mesabi Nugget project and the number of conveyors they were going to build, we immediately thought this would be an ideal project to quote through Baldor’s System-1™ group,” explains Miller. “We realized that by coordinating the project through System-1, we could relieve Aggregate Systems of a lot of the logistics details, plus help them with their installation and labor costs.”

Baldor’s System-1 group provides expertise in design and product selection, as well as quoting and ordering multiple products in one complete package. This was not the first time TFE had worked with System-1, but it was the first time they had worked together on a project of this size.

“Aggregate Systems would give us all the details, like tons per hour, belt width, belt length and so on,” explains Miller. “Then we worked directly with System-1 to help us do the engineering work, and then finally to help with selecting the correct products. We look at System-1 as sort of our own engineering firm, plus we get one part number and one invoice. It’s all so easy.”

Another way TFE simplified the process for Aggregate Systems was to have all the Baldor packages and other equipment shipped to its large warehouse. According to Jay Millard, TFE sales manager, since TFE is accustomed to receiving and shipping equipment, it made more sense for them to handle this part of the job.

“When the equipment came in, we sorted it by conveyor, labeled it, put it on a pallet and shipped it to either Rome City or Minnesota,” explains Millard. “We worked closely with Aggregate Systems to figure out which conveyors needed to be done first, and we worked the project that way, sending them what they needed, when they needed it. It worked because we have a close relationship with both Aggregate Systems and Baldor, and we have open communications with both companies.”

For his part, Sibert says the partnership he has with TFE and Baldor is strong. He welcomes the extra support from both and has complete trust that both companies will work in his best interest. Sibert calls the Mesabi Nugget project a huge success, but then again, that’s exactly what he expected with the team he had working with him.

“We choose to partner with Baldor and TFE because not only can I trust them while we are working on the job, I also know that both will stand behind the project when it’s done,” says Sibert. “Our company is in it for the long haul, and we live on our reputation. That’s why we only work with others that we can count on, and we only choose products that are dependable. That’s why we choose to partner with Baldor and TFE.”