Family-owned Bradley Concrete and Lambcon Ready-Mix are using a fleet of Volvo wheel loaders to grow a business, focused on producing the highest quality concrete at the lowest possible price.
Nestled in the southeast corner of Tennessee, the small town of Cleveland is known for its stunning mountaintop views, rich history as the home to the Cherokee Nation and abundance of farmers’ markets stocked with local produce. The region is also the birthplace of family-owned Bradley Concrete and Lambcon Ready-Mix.
“Our entire family has always been in the rock business, starting with my great-grandfather, who was one of the original Lambert Brothers,” relates Kirk Lambert, owner of Lambcon Ready-Mix. “They were probably the largest quarrying outfit in the country when they sold to Vulcan Materials in 1958. That was when my grandfather, George Lambert, made the bold decision to crush on his own.”
Following in his father’s footsteps, Kirk’s father, Steve Lambert left his post at a concrete plant in Dayton, Tennessee and set out to make his dream of hauling concrete from Chattanooga to Knoxville a reality. With just three trucks, Steve started Bradley Concrete in Cleveland, Tennessee in 1978. He ran the company on his own until his two sons Kirk and Adam graduated from college and were ready to become part of the family business.
In 1997, the Lamberts decided to concentrate efforts on growing the ready-mix business, but it wasn’t until 1999 that things started to take off. “I dove right into this wheel loader market and tried all of them,” says Kirk. “It became obvious that Volvo machines were definitely the best choice in every way.”
The Lamberts settled on a used L120D with 3,000 hours on it. “It had a rusted bucket, but we didn’t have the budget for a new loader,” says Kirk. “I loved the tractor, so our Volvo representative added a new bucket for us with new pins. It runs to this day, now with over 20,000 hours on it.”
Speaking with pride, Kirk continues: “This is the one loader I would choose to run as my preference over all others. By itself, it just loaded all the materials for a two million square foot Amazon distribution center and a 400,000 cubic yard poly-silicon chemical plant, supplying all the concrete from the ground up.”
In addition to the L120D wheel loader, the Lamberts use seven Volvo loaders (L90E up to 120G with 3.5 to 5-yard buckets) every day from six in the morning until seven or eight at night at an average volume of 1,000 to 1,500 tonnes per day.
Almost two decades since its inception, Lambcon Ready-Mix boasts six plants employing about 25 employees each and over a hundred trucks. With locations in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Athens, Cleveland, Lenoir City and Ooltewah, the Lamberts service small residential jobs all the way up to huge manufacturing plants and even bridges. “These are perfect machines for our applications,” says Kirk.
Volvo wheel loaders have a reputation for durability, but that’s only the beginning. They are highly fuel-efficient and simplify maintenance, thereby reducing overall operational costs and optimizing machine uptime. Compared to similar sized machines, just one Volvo wheel loader saves fifty gallons a week in fuel. “Add that up over a year and that’s a lot of money,” remarks Kirk. “We’ve never had a problem greater than a belt or general maintenance.” He then adds with assurance, “Keep a Volvo greased and serviced and they last forever.”
Another key factor when considering new equipment is visibility from the cab and ease of operation. “Loaders are big machines and can be dangerous, so having a full range of vision is important,” says Kirk. “Safety-wise, the cameras and monitors are indispensable, but overall visibility at all pivot points is hugely beneficial.” In addition to visibility, comfort is critical. “Operators are in the cab twelve hours a day, so it needs to be comfortable. Plus, the levers and controls are where they should be,” Kirk adds.
Before the Lamberts purchased their first Volvo, they were using competitor loaders leftover from the rock business, which were slow. “That’s what I really like about Volvo – they’re nimble,” Kirk says. “Quickness comes in very handy when feeding a plant that puts out lots of volume, and you have to load different types of materials.”
Volvo machines are incredibly powerful through purposeful design. Volvo loaders get their power from the curl of the bucket, while other machines get power from the arm. At Volvo, this consideration is crucial because the success of each job depends on where the appropriate amount of power is sent.
Kirk speaks with the confidence of an expert. “A ready mix concrete plant is a simple process. Making concrete is easy, but it’s complicated to get right. Everything is done by weight, which is tough because we sell in volume. The computers calculate the amount and load the trucks through automation,” he says. Lambcon uses natural sand and crushed limestone sand to tailor each ready-mix concrete depending on the application. Because Lambcon plants are what are known as dry-batch plants, the customized concrete is mixed in the truck drum on its way to the job location.
Committed to quality and customer satisfaction, the Lamberts’ family values are foundational to running a successful business and maintaining a competitive edge. “We stay away from the central batch system, meaning that when you order from one of the big guys, in, say, Knoxville, you may be getting concrete from Ohio,” he adds. According to the Lamberts, big national operations are difficult to deal with, and their products may not be up to the quality standards of a family-run company. Plus, says Kirk, “when you call Lambcon, you talk to a person.”
The Lambert family understands that a local, personal touch is important to customers. This ethos finds its way all the way down to taking pride in how clean their trucks and machines look to outsiders. Widening his smile, Kirk continues, “When our trucks drive by, you know it.”
So what’s on the horizon for the Lamberts? “We don’t want to be the biggest. We just want to be the best! Volvo has helped us achieve that goal,” declares Kirk.
Caption 1: The used Volvo L120D wheel loader, purchased in 1999, is still in operation and loads an average volume of 1,000 to 1,500 tonnes per day.
Caption 2: The Volvo L120G works harder and faster thanks to the durably-designed engine, transmission, axles, hydraulics and steering, developed as one unit to provide optimized performance.
Caption 3: Combining powerful breakout and lifting forces with superb visibility and ease of operation, the Volvo wheel loader delivers unmatched performance.
Caption 4: Lambcon Ready-Mix operates six dry-batch plants.