High-End Materials, Superior Services

Silvi Materials
Written by Nate Hendley

Silvi Materials supplies high-end concrete, sand, stone, cement, and slag for building and offers a breadth of ancillary services. Based in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania, this rapidly growing, family-run firm is particularly proud of its ready-mix concrete, which boasts superior strength, durability, and versatility.

“Probably the biggest influencer [on concrete] is the quality of the cement,” notes Larry Silvi, II, Co-president and son of the company’s founder.

To this end, the company is meticulous when it comes to sourcing its sand and cement, two key components of concrete. It uses cement that is naturally low in alkalis and has been blended and ground according to precise specifications. The company also owns a sand plant and sorts the sand it sells based on cleanliness and particle size.

Silvi Materials sells concrete to concrete contractors and salt to everyone from government agencies to landscapers. Cement is primarily supplied to firms making concrete or concrete products, while sand, stone, asphalt, and slag are sold to contractors, concrete suppliers, and other clients. The company also maintains a rock quarry and sells stone products for flooring, construction, and landscaping. Slag—a byproduct of steel manufacturing with high binding properties that enhances concrete in an eco-friendly fashion—is another popular product.

The company has over two dozen facilities throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, plus a barge terminal Bay for shipping sand. While primarily serving the East Coast, it will extend its reach upon demand. “We ship rock and sand into New York,” says Larry. “We move cement as far south as South Carolina, and we’re moving cement by rail into the Midwest.”

Silvi’s materials have been used in a number of substantial construction projects, including the widening of the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, for which the company supplied thousands of tons of sand and stone. In 2019, the team transported 185,000 tons of stone and sand to an onsite concrete plant doing runway work at JFK Airport in New York City. For this project, it hauled truckloads of sand and stone into midtown Manhattan in the middle of the night. This proved to be a “logistics challenge,” according to Larry, but the company successfully completed the work.

In addition to products, Silvi Materials offers an array of services including bulk material loading/unloading, bulk delivery, commercial real estate, outdoor and warehouse storage, barge and ocean transport, and even snow plowing. “We’re the largest snow plow contractor on the Jersey Turnpike,” Larry says. “In a major storm, we’ll have over 250 pieces of equipment. We put plows on the front of our mixers.”

Family values
For such an established business, the company’s origins are completely different from where it is now. In 1947, Larry’s father, fresh from naval service in World War II, had a job as a butcher in his family’s general store in small-town Pennsylvania. An indebted customer handed over ownership of a cement block factory to the family in lieu of payment.

Larry Sr., aka Laurence I, took charge of the new business, which became known as the Silvi Group. A few years later, in another stroke of luck, he rented an apartment in a farmhouse he owned to a purchasing agent for real estate developer William J. Levitt. In the late 1950s, the Silvi Group provided ready-mix concrete to build a few homes in Levittown, Pennsylvania, the second planned community built by developer Levitt which bore his name (the first was in New York state). Levitt went on to hire the Silvi Group for ever-larger concrete contracts on subsequent building projects in the 1960s.

Besides landing lucrative assignments, the business grew by buying other companies, a strategy it continues to follow today. Larry estimates that the firm has “probably done twenty acquisitions,” since the early 1980s. The company name was changed to Silvi Materials in 2021.

Silvi Materials is currently owned by Larry and his older brother John. Larry’s son, Laurence III, handles salt and concrete sales and leads the company’s marketing, digital, and social media efforts. “I think a family ownership structure has some benefits. Number one, the decision making process is more streamlined… a lot of times, we make decisions in the hallway,” Larry reflects.

In keeping with this family focus, Silvi Materials is a strong supporter of charitable and community initiatives, providing donations for local fire and police services, sponsoring sports teams, and hosting fundraisers.

Investing in quality
Silvi Materials invests heavily in new equipment, software, machinery, and its workforce. It has 700 employees at present, up by roughly 50 from last year at this time. Employees frequently attend training courses hosted by the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, and the company also runs a leadership development program and a mentoring initiative.

This emphasis on internal improvement benefits the company and its customers alike. “Part of hiring us is, you get some behind-the-scenes elements that you might not get with other suppliers,” Larry shares, such as “the depth of our safety department and the depth of our quality control department—we have an in-house lab.” The safety department consists of several individuals who conduct regular inspections at company facilities.

Silvi Materials’ cement has been approved for use in Department of Transportation projects in New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, evidence of the quality of the company’s work.

When COVID became a crisis in March 2020, Silvi Materials introduced masks, hand sanitizer, and health and safety protocols to protect employees. A rotating schedule was implemented whereby half the office staff worked from home at any time. The pandemic did not hurt the company’s bottom line, however. “We had some of our best years during COVID, as far as financial results,” Larry states.

COVID also proved the value of a pioneering e-ticketing initiative the company launched on a trial basis at one of its facilities in late 2019. The idea was to digitize some of the paperwork handled by company drivers, and the pilot project was not initially a hit with contractors, inspectors, and transportation officials, who demanded old-fashioned paper documents.

This defiance quickly vanished, “once COVID hit and you weren’t allowed to come near the driver, and you couldn’t touch paper because it might be transmitted. Now, nobody wanted to touch a piece of paper. E-ticketing went from being something that was rejected to something accepted near overnight,” Larry explains.

This e-ticketing episode highlighted the company’s technology-savvy approach. The team has invested significant resources into “beefing up our IT department,” and “pushed software vendors to bring our industry into the 21st century,” he says. The firm is also in the process of updating its operations with enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) software programs.

“We expect to bring in the whole system in the next six to nine months,” Larry says. “We’ve hired additional employees to work with our implementation partners. Especially with AI [artificial intelligence] being front of the news in the last six months, we feel that by implementing this new software we’ll be able to have the data in our system to utilize AI going forward.”

A sustainable future
Silvi Materials is also a strong advocate of sustainability. The company uses solar power and electric and natural-gas powered vehicles, and promotes the use of slag as a carbon-reducing replacement for cement. Other green building materials it provides include ground recycled glass.

“As everybody knows, our landfills are filling up faster than we would like. A lot of glass goes into landfills… You can grind the glass up, and it will become a cementitious type of product. We have two jobs right now where we’re utilizing glass,” says Larry.

Earlier this year, a new venture called Silvi Construction was launched, but remains a niche business by choice. Its mission is to transform asphalt-covered surfaces into concrete-covered ones. “We are not competing on floors, walls, or any vertical construction; we don’t do that [through that division],” Larry emphasizes. “Our singular focus is to go in and flip a job from asphalt to concrete.”

While the plan is to keep Silvi Construction small, it is a different story when it comes to Silvi Materials. “I’m going to say, five years from today, we’ll have more locations,” says Larry. “We’ll have more trucks, more manpower, and be perhaps 150 percent bigger than we are today.”

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