Concrete Automation in the Aloha State

Hawaii is home to a fully automated Quikrete manufacturing and bagging facility.

Caleb Olson, marketing editor

May 23, 2024

4 Min Read
digital weight indicators
Rice Lake’s digital weight indicators monitor and control flow in the bagging and bin area of Bonded Materials. Rice Lake Weighing Systems

Bonded Materials is located on the scenic island of Oahu, the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands. This industrial plant is made unique not only by its Hawaiian-themed scale house, but also by its immaculate grounds and 100% automation thanks to Rice Lake Weighing Systems’ programmable indicators and quality control scale. With an output of 150 tons of materials per day distributed locally to Hawaii, Bonded Materials has established itself as a premier manufacturer, distributor, and retailer of concrete restoration and tile-setting materials.

Hawaii is ripe with a year-round tropical climate and boundless opportunities to explore both land and sea. The price of paradise, however, comes steep. It costs almost twice as much to live in Hawaii than the rest of the US, and the average price of consumer goods is significantly higher than the national average. Several contributing factors include limited land resources, a 4% general excise tax (GET), high real estate competition, and the reliance on ocean and air freight for groceries, clothing, construction materials and equipment.

Due to the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act, all goods transported by water between U.S. ports must be constructed, owned, and carried by US citizens or permanent residents. This created monopolies of the shipping market from the mainland to US ports. However, by automating their entire process, Bonded Materials is able to provide high-quality construction materials at lower costs directly to the island population, free of additional ocean or air freight fees.

Empty Bags

For example, an 80-lb bag of Quikrete at a large home improvement store in the midwestern US costs $6.99. That same 80-lb bag in Honolulu costs $16.99. If the $6.99 bag were transported to Hawaii, the cost of shipping and handling such a heavy product would raise the final price even more.

Value Through Improved Productivity

One of Bonded Materials’ corporate commitments is to give their customers value through improved productivity. That drive for continuous improvement and customer satisfaction is changing the face of industrial automation, not only in Hawaii but throughout the entire US. By supplying high-quality, in-demand building materials, Bonded Materials is setting a precedent for manufacturing and distribution in support of a more economically sustainable Hawaii.

To accomplish this, Bonded Materials had been chasing higher efficiency for decades. In 1987, Bonded Materials merged with Quikrete of Hawaii Inc. The original manufacturing facility was deteriorating, and the mixing, drying, and bagging process was tedious and time-consuming. The original dryers had to be started five hours ahead of the scheduled 8 a.m. run-time, and dryer crews filled the silos during off-hours just to be able to process during business hours.

In 2008, Bonded Materials sought a more efficient process by hiring Astec Inc. and PASCO Systems to completely renovate and automate the facility. A focus on continuous improvement led the company to Young Scale in Honolulu, who recommended replacing their system with Rice Lake equipment. Bonded Materials can now produce three times more material with the same number of employees in a five-day workweek.

Its PLC-controlled batch plant is able to drive aggregates so efficiently due to 17 Rice Lake programmable indicators and one IQ plus 590-DC quality control scale. At the heart of this operation is the Hawaiian-themed scale house—complete with grass skirt and surfboard—where every process is monitored and managed. Eight 920i controllers, stacked in groups of four, communicate with a custom PLC program to automate and accurately fill Quikrete bags to a target weight, while nine 820i indicators are in the bagging and bin area to monitor and control flow.

Operations are displayed on a large monitor and can interface with management’s smartphones, providing visual oversight of the entire plant. Whenever an issue arises, the operations manager can see the problem either in the scale house or on his phone, and immediately respond. With multiple processes running simultaneously, each is often a precise result of another.

Hawaiian Success Story

This Hawaiian success story is rooted in hard work, progressive thinking, and continuous improvement. Bonded Materials knew its process wasn’t as efficient as it could be. They knew there was a better way to live up to their mission and provide high-quality construction materials to the local market. They needed to evaluate and improve their processes and utilize the best equipment in automation and process control. By hiring Astec Inc. and PASCO Systems, and working with Young Scale, the company now has a system that would impress even the largest manufacturing facility, on the Hawaiian Islands or abroad.

Caleb Olson is marketing editor, Rice Lake Weighing Systems (Rice Lake, WI). For more information, call 715-234-9171 or visit

About the Author(s)

Caleb Olson

marketing editor, Rice Lake Weighing Systems

Caleb Olson is marketing editor, Rice Lake Weighing Systems

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