CONSTRUCTION EQUIPMENT North America

Delivering Quality in Every Load

There is a time that comes in the history of every successful company, when fortune takes a noticeable turn for the best. For Bradley Concrete and Lambcon Ready-Mix, that time came in 1999 with the purchase of their first Volvo wheel loader.

quality in every load

There is a time that comes in the history of every successful company, when fortune takes a noticeable turn for the best. For Bradley Concrete and Lambcon Ready-Mix, that time came in 1999 with the purchase of their first Volvo wheel loader.

According to Kirk Lambert, owner of Lambcon Ready-Mix (sister company of Bradley Concrete, the company his father, Steve, started in 1978), "It was our first step toward growing the business."

Steve Lambert had been running a concrete plant in Dayton, TN and realized he enjoyed making concrete. So in 1978 he went out on his own and started Bradley Concrete in Cleveland, TN. 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. "I started with three trucks but always had a vision of hauling concrete from Chattanooga to Knoxville," says Steve Lambert, president. "It took me 36 years to do that and I couldn’t have done it without my two sons."

Bradley Concrete and Lambcon Ready-Mix are the very definition of a family business. "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. "They were one of, if not the largest, quarrying outfits in the country when sold to Vulcan Materials in 1958. That is when my grandfather, George Lambert, made the bold decision to crush on his own."

It was in 1997 when the Lamberts decided to concentrate efforts on growing the ready-mix business, but it wasn’t until 1999 that things really stared to take off. "I dove right into this wheel loader market and tried all of them," says Kirk. "The wheel loader is the key to the whole deal." The search for the best wheel loader required numerous product demos. "Companies brought demos to our plant and I was flown to proving grounds to try out other machines from other manufacturers," Kirk tells us. "It became obvious that Volvo machines were definitely the best choice in every way."

Today, Lambcon Ready-Mix boasts six plants, with about twenty-five employees at each plant, and over a hundred trucks. With locations in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Athens, Cleveland, Lenoir City and Ooltewah, the Lambert family now serves customers large and small. "For us, no job is too small or too big. Our customer range is huge," says Kirk. "We service everyone from small residential jobs all the way up to huge manufacturing plants and even bridges."

That first Volvo wheel loader, the one the Lambert’s purchased in 1999, was a used L120D with three thousand hours on it. Kirk tells us, "It had a rusted bucket but we didn’t have budget for new loader. I loved the tractor, so our Volvo representative, Dave Parker, added a new bucket for us with new pins. It runs to this day, now with over 20,000 hours on it."

Kirk speaks with pride. "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 2,000,000 square foot Amazon distribution center and a 400,000 cubic yard poly-silicon chemical plant, supplying all the concrete from the ground up." The Lamberts now run seven Volvo loaders (L90E up to 120G with 3.5 to 5 yard buckets) but still operate their original L120D every day from six in the morning until seven or eight at night at an average volume of 1000-1500 tons a day. Adds Kirk, "These are perfect machines for our applications."

Volvo wheel loaders have a reputation for durability, but that’s only the beginning. They’re highly fuel efficient and ergonomically designed for maximum operator comfort and safety. In fact, compared to similar sized machines, the Volvo saves fifty gallons a week in fuel. "Add that up over a year and that’s a lot of money," remarks Kirk. "And there’s very little need for maintenance. 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. "Loaders are big machines and can be dangerous." Kirk says. "Having full range of vision all the way around is important. You don’t want to run anyone over so having side glass that goes all the way to the floor is great. Safety-wise, the cameras and monitors are indispensable, but having overall visibility at all pivot points, that’s huge."

Ease of operation is another top consideration at Volvo. Kirk agrees. "The levers are where they should be. The controls are where they should be. Comfort is critical. Operators are in the cab twelve hours a day, so it needs to be comfortable. Volvo makes a loader operator look good because their machines compensate for every little thing."

Ease of operation is another top consideration at Volvo. Kirk agrees. "The levers are where they should be. The controls are where they should be. Comfort is critical. Operators are in the cab twelve hours a day, so it needs to be comfortable. Volvo makes a loader operator look good because their machines compensate for every little thing."

Volvo machines are incredibly powerful through purposeful design. Volvo loaders get their power from the curl of the bucket. 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. Volvo machines offer the best combo of arm power to bucket, and power to transmission and lifting apparatus. Kirk says, "We can put a larger bucket on a smaller Volvo tractor. They handle whatever you want to pick up without losing balance." He also notes, "We can run them in second gear without feeling like we’re taxing the transmission, and still have enough power to get the bucket to the hopper."

Volvo machines are as nimble as they are powerful. Back in 1999, before the Lamberts purchased their first Volvo, they were running Michigan and Kawasaki loaders leftover from the rock business. They needed a quicker machine. As Kirk puts it, "That’s what I really like about Volvo. Volvos are nimble. Quickness comes in very handy when feeding a plant that puts out lots of volume and you have to load different types of materials. The Volvo load suspension helps prevent bouncing at higher speeds. So an operator can work quickly without feeling like he’s hurting the machine."

Additionally, Volvo wheel loaders are designed to minimize tire slippage and tire wear by employing a power divider that locks the wheels in place. This feature helps save on fuel costs, as well.

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." Chemically, concrete must be durable. Lambcon uses natural sand and crushed limestone sand and customizes each mix depending on the application needed for a job. "Everything is done by weight, which is tough because we sell in volume. The computers calculate the amount and load the trucks through automation." Lambcon plants are what are known as dry-batch plants. In this case, the truck drum actually does the mixing on its way to the job location.

The Lamberts always smile when they talk about the pride they take in remaining a family business. "When you call Lambcon, you talk to a person," Kirk explains. "There aren’t too many mom and pop operations like ours anymore. The big guys have taken over the concrete business nationally." According to the Lamberts, big national operations are difficult to deal with and their products may not be up to the standard of quality a family-run company provides. "You’re not doing the customer a favor. They’re doing us a favor by calling us." That’s the philosophy of a family that truly cares. "We stay away from central batch systems, meaning that when you order from one of the big guys in, say, Knoxville, you may be getting concrete from Ohio," Kirk informs us.

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. "We keep our equipment clean for two reasons," says Kirk. "A clean machine will reveal possible problems more quickly if one arises. But to me, when a loader or a truck looks good, it makes a first impression that tells people Lambcon is a professional operation with its act together." He smiles wide and says, "When our trucks drive by, you know it."

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." Kirk is very matter-of-fact, adding, "Why update yard loaders when we are already running the best?" — October 2015

Lambcon Finds Right Mix with Volvo Loaders

How heavily does Lambcon Ready-Mix in Cleveland, Tennessee, rely on Volvo wheel loaders? Kirk Lambert explains how a single Volvo L120D loaded all materials for a 2 million square foot distribution center and how their five plants continue to provide the base for high profile projects across southeastern Tennessee and northern Georgia.