Hailing from Moore, Oklahoma, Silver Star Construction provides essential commercial services as one of the largest paving contractors in the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Area. This company’s diverse range of skill sets has been recognized with multiple awards, and it continues to fine-tune operations to be even better. We spoke with its Executive Vice President Tim Caudle and President Craig Parker to learn more.
Back in 1980, Steve Shawn started the company as a small dump truck, box blade, and dirt-moving operation. The company then added soil stabilization and other dirt work services. Craig Parker joined the company in 1992, the partners expanded into asphalt operations, and the company expanded from thirty-six employees at that time to approximately 250 employees.
The company continues to grow and presently has the main asphalt plant, three asphalt crews, four concrete crews, three mass dirt crews, and nine stabilization and fine grade crews. It performs public works and street work for the City of Moore and the City of Mustang and is the backup emergency department for two local cities.
“As part of that function, as you know, in this area of the country it is tornado alley. When tornados come through this area, as part of our street department operations, we are responsible for emergency response, opening up the streets for police, fire, and ambulances to get in and respond to the tornados and then doing the clean up behind them as a part of our street work, public works department,” says Craig.
Currently, Silver Star has 250 employees and a satellite office in Ardmore, Oklahoma where it has another asphalt plant, shared with a company in that part of the state. It is the marketing agent for cement kiln dust, a by-product of making cement, at the Holcim plant in Ada, Oklahoma. This Cement Kiln Dust is primarily used for soil stabilization.
Silver Star has other subsidiary companies that include a bridge division called R&H Construction with three bridge and drainage crews. It is also a majority stockholder in a survey division called Accurate Points Surveying, an in-house survey company that operates three survey crews from the Silver Star plant.
The company’s community involvement initiative began ten years ago when Silver Star developed projects that support community and employees, charitable events, and volunteering. Steve spearheaded that operation.
“We put that program in place, and in a way that our employees could run and manage it. As the manager and president of the company, we have oversight of it. We don’t let them do anything we wouldn’t be proud of, but they do an extraordinary job conducting five to six events a year throughout the community,” says Craig.
About ten employees meet once a month to go over their goals for the year. They typically raise upwards of $10,000 through various events, and all the money goes back into the community. Those funds help charitable organizations in Norman like local fire departments, the Women’s Resource Center, St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and Bridges which helps high school students who find themselves in situations that affect their ability to get through school.
“We all gain a lot of joy out of these efforts. It’s good to participate and give back to the community we are in. Corporate-wide, we see that as being important. It acts as a morale booster to give back,” says Craig.
Silver Star serves the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Turnpike Authority to help build and maintain state highways and turnpikes. It also operates two departments to repair streets for surrounding municipalities including Oklahoma City, Norman, and the City of Moore.
“We have the municipal market where we do the big box stores, shopping centers, and occasionally small commercial. We don’t really compete heavily in the small commercial area, but do compete in the subdivision market frequently,” says Tim.
Silver Star is incorporating new software from XBE into its operations to manage both its company trucks but independent trucks. “They are doing an excellent job in rolling that out and getting something in place that can make us much more efficient. We have done a soft start on it, and that went well. The live roll-out received positive reviews as well from the asphalt division,” says Tim.
The company will now have the ability to communicate with, manage, schedule, and track those trucks to make rapid decisions for day-to-day trucking. This software will not only set up the immediate upcoming week or two but will be able to establish preliminary plans for weeks, if not months, ahead. This makes it easy for the team to plan, and Tim and Craig are optimistic that the results will reduce overall costs.
The costs for trucking is the largest risk to the company overall. It has to take into consideration how much the trucks cost per hour when leased and managing this is vital to achieving maximum efficiency.
“We like to keep everybody on the same page, from the dispatcher to the foreman and project manager, to the truckers and broker. One broker may have five to ten trucks out, and the mass communication is all happening at the same time if there is an incident or a change to be made. Everything is happening in real-time,” says Craig.
Silver Star also has a strong relationship with the software company that handles most of the software the company uses for bidding, site management, safety, fuel distribution, and equipment for dispatching. This has been key for keeping up with technology and keeping the construction company ahead of the game.
A new process is being applied to improve operations in the warehouse, and so far, it has worked well. Total Process Reliability (TPR) increases efficiency and safety in the shop. A consultant has been hired to help with the transition as this is a rather lengthy process and takes several years to be fully realized.
“We are implementing it into our warehouse, which has been gutted and rebuilt to incorporate climate control. Everything, including parts and equipment, was taken out, and we found items that had not been seen in two years, for equipment we no longer have,” says Tim.
To become more efficient and help control costs, items that can be ordered and arrive on a day’s notice will no longer be stocked, whereas items with a longer lead time will be. A barcode system has also been added. Everything will have a code, and Silver Star will always be aware of the inventory it has. “We’ve never had anything like that. We had an educated guess, but now will have an accurate measurement of dollars in the warehouse daily,” says Tim.
As part of the TPR process, consultants interviewed mechanics and others in the warehouse to get a general idea of what they feel, assess how well they work together, and how they communicate. One thing that came out of those interviews and surveys was that everyone felt that more training was needed. Silver Star has reached out to many manufacturers and has begun training programs with its mechanics, operators, leadership, and foremen.
“The TPR process has helped us identify and get those aspects up and running. We are starting a lot of initiatives in 2020. It’s exciting for us and our people. We have a lot of momentum going with a lot of people out in the field, leading the charge,” says Craig.
Another part of the process putting teams and groups together that, before this, have only occasionally seen each other out in the field. Now they meet for an hour a week to talk about equipment maintenance and have built an operator care manual for various pieces of equipment.
“There is a communications team and operator care team, a job task analysis team, and a planning/scheduling team. The fun part is that just like a community team, putting the various teams together, there is very little overlap,” says Tim.
It has been money well spent, giving everybody a say in the direction of the company and in how improvements are going to be made. The culture change has also affected maintenance and how equipment is handled, leading to pride in the equipment and changes in the shop.
“Every mechanic’s station looks just like the one next to it, where everything has a place and is in its place. One mechanic will be in a bay, and four bays over, it will look the same and function in the same way,” says Craig.