About 36 million tons of recycled asphalt product, or RAP, is stockpiled annually in the United States. Ryan Smith believes using that product is a smart business move, and his Columbus startup, RAP Management, is on its way to proving it.
RAP Management uses a high percentage of recycled product in its mixes and incorporates proprietary chemical additives to extend durability.
While the industry has long recycled, RAP is used in small quantities in most batches produced in the U.S. Smith wanted to use dramatically more, but he couldn’t find the equipment he needed. “No one in the United States was recycling to the degree I wanted to,” he said. Eventually he found Ammann Group, a Swiss company whose asphalt plants can handle a large ratio of RAP. Recycling is common in Switzerland, which has an aging infrastructure and limited natural resources.
Smith brought the first Ammann asphalt plant to North America and produced his first batches near the end of 2017.
For 2018, RAP Management produced more than 130,000 tons of asphalt with an average of 60 percent recycled material, three times more RAP than the average nationally. The production total is double what the company had forecast, and revenues are also beyond projections.
Smith credits several factors for RAP Management’s early success. The most important factor is the quality of the asphalt products the company produces. The company uses a proprietary chemical formula to overcome one of the problems with using a higher percentage of recycled RAP binders. “Over time, asphalt deteriorates on the road. It gets stiffer or more brittle,” Smith explained. “You need to incorporate chemistry to counteract that.” RAP Management’s formula expands the usable temperature range for asphalt performance.
Because it uses recycled material, the manufacturing process is more cost efficient, a savings Smith passes on to customers.
RAP Management also carefully chose the target market for its first season and concentrated on selling to commercial paving contractors. “Our customers like that we’re making a product designed specifically for their customers’ applications,” Smith said. Unlike RAP Management, most of the industry is geared toward big highway contractors and it’s difficult to get many asphalt plants to switch recipes, he added.
Having the right equipment has also been instrumental in producing quality asphalt. In addition to the Ammann asphalt plant, one of the most important pieces of equipment has been a KPI-JCI and Astec Mobile Screens Prosizer 3600 crushing and screening plant.
“Good crushing and screening equipment is essential to control the recipes we sell,” Smith noted. “The challenge is to separate and liberate the asphalt.” Because the stones and aggregate in RAP are already the right size, the impactor simply has to help separate them.
The Prosizer’s high-frequency screen helps separate out the fine materials that are needed in the mix. While the leased Prosizer worked well, the company recently purchased a KPI-JCI and Astec Mobile Screens crushing/ screening plant with similar components (see above), but it will have a larger screening deck and three decks, rather than two, so the company can process three kinds of materials.
“The Columbus Equipment Company team has been essential to our success,” Smith said. “We are really innovating with how we operate our business, and we are pushing the limits of technology. Without the support of Columbus Equipment to train us on the equipment and give us advice, we wouldn’t have been as successful. We are exclusively working with Columbus Equipment for all our equipment needs, and Josh (Lovett) and Bob (Stewart) have been amazing to work with.”
Through 2018, RAP Management operated in limited space, because part of their site was leased out through the end of the year. With little storage space, equipment had to be up and running to process RAP when asphalt was being made. “I’m really impressed with the talent of Columbus Equipment’s guys in the field who have been helping us maintain our equipment. That’s really the reason the partnership works out,” Smith said.
The company expects to reach full capacity in 2019, producing 25 percent more asphalt than it did last year. Looking forward, Smith plans to open another facility and to continue to push the envelope on using RAP.
Smith’s hunch about RAP looks accurate. Recycled asphalt is a green solution for all involved. It helps the environment, cuts costs for paving projects, and brings profitability to innovative businesses like RAP Management.