Combining the Old and the New at Duff Quarry

by Diana Barnum

Ever wonder how the independent guys compete with the bigger guys today? Check out Duff’s Quarry, founded in 1955.
C.E. Duff and Son, Inc. may not represent a lion’s share of the quarry industry in Ohio, but their operations with 75 employees in Hunstville, Zanesfield, Bellefontaine and Lewistown are sure kicking up and digging out the profits.
Duff’s headquarters in Huntsville lies on State Route 117. Its four separate companies stretch across both sides of the highway.
There is Duff Quarry, owned by James E. Duff (Jim), a full-service operation offering crushed limestone products and washed sand and gravel.
Neighboring the quarry is one of Duff’s four Ohio Ready Mix, Inc. plants, and an Ohio Lumber plant owned by sons Scott and J. David (Dave) Duff. And across the street is a company owned by Dave called, Mr. Concrete Builders Supply, a masonry, brick and block center built on an old, abandoned quarry.
“We’re known for one-stop-shopping,” said Jim Duff. “Bricks and lumber are shipped in to service our quarry clients.”
The Old
In addition to the one-stop-shopping feature, Duff’s has another secret to success.
The company combines fixtures and equipment from the past with the latest in technology. For instance, forget about conveyors. Jim Duff prefers the discontinued 1974 Koehring model 100 haul rigs with GMC diesels and Alison automatic transmission. Two of these trucks move 300 tons per hour.
“They built these trucks to last for years,” said Duff. “They have double steering wheels, accelerators and controls. Koehring went out of business, but I purchased used ones to keep for parts. There’s no need for conveyors with these quick guys.”

Other “old” items include the arches from the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The giant arches carry the Duff Quarry sign, clearly identifying the quarry. Cameras mounted atop the arches provide a full 360–degree view for security and to locate personnel. Orange swivel stools from one of the earliest McDonald’s restaurants offer customers at Mr. Concrete Builder Supply a comfortable place to relax and enjoy refreshments.
One of the quarry’s more peculiar “antiques” was eight Native American Indian skeletons uncovered in the quarry’s overburden. The section where the skeletons were found was sealed off for two weeks allowing historians and scientists time to carefully study the site and to extricate the remains, which they shipped to local museums.
And the New
Duff employs modern equipment where it makes economical sense.
Duff’s quarry is 410-feet deep. They crush 300 tons per hour with a Cedar Rapids 3042 primary jaw plant with vibrating grizzly feeder on a two-axle chassis. Oversized rock goes into windrows, then gets hit with a hydraulic hammer. A Cedar Rapids portable grizzly screens out fines.
The water table feeds into a system of French drains that feed into a manmade lake where it is pumped out for quarry use.
Jim Duff prefers the Cat 966G with Cat scales for loading. He remembers checking out a load at another quarry that was off by just a few pounds. The site operators made him dump the entire load and then reload and be reweighed to be sure the weights were accurate. So Duff’s operators use Cat scales to accurately weigh the material while it’s being loaded.
Using the latest computer hardware and software, Scott Duff manages both the Huntsville and Bellefontaine operations from his office in Huntsville “You can weigh loads and print tickets from an unmanned station miles away,” said Scott Duff. “You can even make adjustments like add water to the (concrete) mix, by pushing buttons from here.”
This remote system keeps them competitive by reducing payroll for other locations.
Operating remotely demands excellent communication. Scott’s office houses an excellent communications system – Data Mate (DM) 1000 series MDT (Mobile Data Terminal) from Wireless Data Solutions/Dinet Inc.
“Our mobile data terminals interface with already established 2-way radio systems,” said Bob Chase, president of Dinet.Inc. “Duff’s uses our DOS software to provide text messages of up to 244 characters to one mobile unit or a group of mobile units.”
With the DM 1000, each truck automatically acknowledges receipt of messages. And all information is time stamped for accuracy. Management can construct reports out of the data, reaping cost benefits for companies. Expenses are reduced with driver accountability and vehicle status reports. And operations are improved, providing a competitive advantage.
“We offer Fleet Vantage Gold software for automatic status reporting,” added Chase. “It’s a level above what Duff’s uses. Information is automatically passed and 70% of the keys are eliminated.”
Duff recognizes it cannot do it all.
Unable to keep up with the latest in blasting technology, Duff opted to forego drilling and blasting operations over the past year.
“Precision is the key to good blasting,” said Duff. He now subcontracts with Northern Ohio Explosives and Stoepfel Drilling Company, relying on their expertise and top-notch equipment.
Technology is not the only “new” element in the Duff mix.
Family operations have recently expanded with another generation. Jim’s 21-year-old grandson Jason added a new dimension to the family business – ComStor Outdoor Advertising (leasing billboard space) and Community Storage and Properties, Ltd. storage and realty).
Staying with what works, but incorporating technology when it makes sense is fundamental to Duff Quarry’s success. Combine that with their determination to meet customer needs by providing a full range of products and services and it is easy to see why they have risen to the top as an independently operated quarry.
For more information about Duff Quarry and all the Duff ancillary businesses, contact Jim Duff at P.O. Box 305, 9016 S.R. 117, Huntsville, OH 43324. Call: (937) 686-3112; or fax inquiries to: (937) 686-5125.