A great piece about our business originally posted in 2005. It's a great read and an honor. Check it out!
by Kelly Gates
In 1987, when reserves were depleted Craig MIller left the sand and gravel quarry operations, opting for a fresh start in the materials wholesale business. His new company, Miller Sand and Landscape Supply, promptly acquired a property in DeArmanville, AL adjacent to a rail spur where it was very convenient for the company to receive shipments of sand and gravel via rail car.
“We started bringing in sand and gravel by rail and stockpiling it in our two, large holding yards,” said Craig Miller, owner of the company. “We also set up a separate division to handle transportation, leasing most of our trucks through outside sources.”
At the time, the company already had an abundance of customers that carried over from the previous quarry business and Miller Sand and Landscape Supply was quickly bringing in upwards of 300,000 tons of material annual.
The materials were sold to asphalt and cement companies within a 60 mile radius. Several years after entering the sand and gravel wholesale business, Miller Sand and Landscape Supply began taking in bark by-products from surrounding saw mills, screening the leftover wood pieces and turning them into viable mulch products.
An HM 35D2 Screen USA screening unit was brought in to process the bark by-products, reducing the material’s size to create virtually any-sized mulch requested by customers.
Like the sand and gravel, Miller Sand and Landscape Supply’s mulch is still trucked in bulk to various nurseries throughout the region. A portion of the material is stockpiled at the company’s second location in Anniston, AL, where the general public is also welcome to purchase products.
According to Miller, the majority of his company’s mulch product is made from hardwood and is sold to customers in an un-colored, natural state.
Over the years, Miller Sand and Landscape Supply’s customer list expanded and so did its list of products. After establishing a mulch operation, the company began bringing in soil and eventually, creating compost using the leaves collected from residential and commercial properties in nearby Anniston.
All of the company’s compost turning is done manually, incorporating just the right blend of leaves, sand, soil and micronutrients, said Miller.
“Most nurseries request a custom mix, so we make a lot of different composts, but the basic container mix we produce is 90 percent bark and 10 percent sand,” he said.
The soil that is used to make compost is collected from local grading contractors after ensuring that each delivery is free of foreign materials and other contaminants. On occasion, additional soil is ordered from other sources in order to fulfill the local demand for bulk soil and compost.
The company operates four loaders throughout its stockpiling and processing yards, including a Volvo L50C, a Komatsu WA250, a Coyote C9 and a Kubota 520. The two larger machines are used for loading mulch into the screener while the additional loaders move material into trucks and into stockpiles when necessary.
For a period of around four years, Miller Sand and Landscape Supply also processed fuel chips in partnership with the City of Anniston, which provided a wood chipper for the company. Miller Sand managed the processing, trucking and marketing of the product until the city ultimately decided to cease its recycling efforts.
With a breadth of experience creating numerous products, Miller Sand is currently capable of making custom soil mixtures, compost and mulch for its array of customers. Not long ago, the company welcomed a professor from the University of Auburn who helped the company set up planting mixtures that are more suitable for unique applications such as golf courses, baseball fields and soccer fields.
“We supplied material for the University of Auburn’s women’s ball fiels and a number of in-field mixes in Atlanta during the Olympics a few years ago, said Miller.
In all , the company sells fill dirt, screened topsoil, plant bed mixes, pine bark, mini nuggets, cypress mulch, pine straw, wheat straw, cross ties, woven nylon ground cover, sod staples, mortar mix and polyflex. Other materials include limestone, slag, various types of rock, sand and gravel, mound clay and specially-blended container mixes.
To run such an elaborate and precise operation with a vast number of products, Miller Sand and Landscape Supply uses sophisticated integrated management software (IMS) system. According to Miller, the software is so advanced that employees need only enter each truck’s identification number and an electronic weighing system automatically sends each truck’s load data to the company computer system.
“It tracks trucking for us so we can pay our truckers, it handles data regarding multiple companies and we have the option of having virtually any type of report created for us,” said Miller. “It prints tickets for drivers in less than five seconds, flags overweight trucks and runs credit checks on each company before allowing material to leave the yard.”
Miller uses the software to print daily tonnage reports, keep track of employee schedules and even for cutting employee and contractor paychecks any day of the week.
Any outstanding sales leads are routinely noted by the system and job quotes are automatically rolled into sales orders.
“It can even handle our 1099’s and multiple bank accounts and we use it for our preventative maintenance program,” he said. “The equipment maintenance module allows us to keep up with all aspects of our equipment, ordering screens, filters and other parts before they are worn out beyond repair.”
From top to bottom, Miller Sand and Landscape Supply is a fully-integrated materials supply company, one that has come a long way from its wholesale sand and gravel beginnings just a few decades ago.
And, while the company currently sells a wide variety of materials, including wood taht is sold to customers during the winter months and even several types of honey, Miller plans to add multi-colored granite to its product list in the near future. The product will likely be brought in by railcar and the company will use screening equipment to produce various sizes of stone for sale to its customers.
For further information regarding Miller Sand and Landscape Supply, please call 256-237-5352 or e-mail email@example.com.