JDM’s employee empowerment culture helps foster new business opportunities
The success of any long-standing, family-owned company is largely dependent on strong business practices, quality management that spans generations, and sound guiding principles that inspire employee loyalty and commitment.
The nearly 100-year-old James D. Morrissey Inc. (JDM) and its sister company, Eureka Stone Quarry, Inc., is one such operation. The multigeneration organization embraces a boots-on-the-ground business philosophy where company owners and management spend the majority of their time out of the office and in the field, talking with the men and women who drive the company’s success, encouraging communication and innovation.
It’s that active interaction along with some clear business savvy that has kept the Morrissey family of companies in business and growing in the Philadelphia area and beyond—and helped shape a rock-solid foundation for the company’s newest endeavor.
Established in the early 1900s, James D. Morrissey Inc. was founded by James D. Morrissey Sr. as a construction firm building infrastructure in Philadelphia. Under his leadership, the company grew from a truck with a winch to one of the leading regional heavy highway firms in the U.S., helping shape the landscape of Eastern Pennsylvania.
In 1951, the senior Morrissey purchased his first quarry in Chalfont, Pennsylvania, as a material source for aggregate, asphalt, rock and stone to support his construction operations. From this early investment, Eureka Stone Quarry, Inc. (Eureka Stone) was born. By 1954, Eureka Stone began selling commercial ready-mixed concrete through its JDM Materials Co. division to outside customers. Since those early days, Eureka Stone has expanded to include eight hard rock quarries, seven asphalt plants, three sand and gravel operations and 12 ready mixed concrete plants.
Morrissey Sr.’s son, James (Jim) D. Morrissey Jr. (who worked for his dad since he was a young boy), took over as President and CEO of James D. Morrissey Inc. and Eureka Stone in 1981, following the passing of his father. Today, James D. Morrissey Inc., the cornerstone of the Morrissey family of companies, and Eureka Stone, combine to form one of the leading family-owned-and-operated, vertically integrated construction and construction material supply companies in the U.S.
Nearly two decades later, a strategic investment and an astute project management team would open some unexpected doors for expansion.
Fit and Form
In 2000, JDM Materials Co. purchased four sets of the newly invented Redi-Rock forms to create architectural-grade, precast concrete blocks from “returned” concrete (leftover material from customers purchasing concrete). The initial Redi-Rock sets began with the serial number 15 and may arguably be the first sets of forms that the Manthei family (inventor of Redi-Rock) sold to an outside company. Within a few years, JDM Materials Co. added another 63 forms to its portfolio—and all 12 of its ready-mix concrete plants began manufacturing Redi-Rock blocks for commercial distribution.
Fifteen years later, James D. Morrissey Inc. landed a large commercial construction project that required over 21,000 square feet of retaining wall. The project management team from James D. Morrissey Inc. recommended that the client consider Redi-Rock instead of the then-specified segmented retaining wall system that would require considerably more time and labor.
The client agreed and Redi-Rock of Southeastern Pennsylvania, a precast division of JDM Materials Co., was founded. That same year, the executive team, including James D. (Jim) Morrissey III and Joseph Morrissey, the third generation of the Morrissey family to join the company, moved all Redi-Rock forms to a single location in Telford, Pennsylvania. They believed that the Telford site’s new concrete plant and large garage space would be ideal for a Redi-Rock-focused production facility—and the company tagged one of their own, Ray Beaver, to lead the new endeavor.
One Plant, Many Blocks
Beaver, now Vice President of Eureka Stone, joined James D. Morrissey Inc.in 2012 as a construction superintendent responsible for management of site work operations. At the time, he had over 25 years of experience in project management. By 2013, he transitioned to Eureka Stone Quarry as general manager of the upstate Pennsylvania mining locations. In 2015, Jim Morrissey III asked Beaver to initiate the startup operation of the Telford-based Redi-Rock operations.
“Everything happened rather quickly in that year,” recalls Beaver. “We won the contract to build the retaining wall, combined our Redi-Rock capabilities in Telford and built the production building all in the same year. For the production building, we basically started with a shell. We started demo and construction in mid-2015 and by September, we had new garage doors, a heating system, insulation, ceiling, lighting, ventilation and an overhead crane system to lift and move the forms and the Redi-Rock blocks.”
In 2015, the Redi-Rock operation, led by Beaver, his plant manager Craig Herrmann (formerly with JDM Materials Co.) and four plant personnel, were producing 67 blocks per day.
The concrete plant and the manufacturing facility are all National Precast Society Association certified. In addition, all concrete used in the manufacturing of the blocks is designed by the quality control department of JDM Materials Co.—and exceeds standard design and durability requirements. The production facility has the ability to produce several different concrete mixes with accelerators and chemicals, depending on the face required and/or the Redi-Rock product to be manufactured.
Redi to Roll
This year, the Redi-Rock team expanded the production facility by 40 percent and added a second overhead crane as well as adding several more forms. Today, with a slightly larger team (five plant personnel and three full-time delivery drivers), the facility produces well over 100 units per day.
“It’s hard to believe how fast we’ve grown in terms of production in just four years,” Beaver says. “With the expansion, we will now be able to double cast all of our existing forms every day and take advantage of both overhead crane systems.”
Since inception, Redi-Rock of Southeastern Pennsylvania has become one of the leading manufacturers of Redi-Rock retaining wall blocks in the U.S. and continues to outpace expectations. Earlier this year, the production facility produced and delivered a record 288 blocks in a single day. Although the majority of their blocks are delivered in Pennsylvania, the company has shipped blocks into New Jersey, Delaware and even as far as Maryland.
“Our goal is to pour as many of the highest quality blocks as we can every single day and inventory as many blocks as possible,” confirms Beaver. “We have four tractors with about seven trailers dedicated to Redi-Rock. The extra trailers let us pre-load while the others are being utilized, delivering blocks to customers.”
With capacity to meet nearly any project scope and scale, Redi-Rock of Southeastern Pennsylvania has become the go-to resource for owners and contractors alike.
“It’s hard to believe how fast we’ve grown in terms of production in just four years. With the expansion, we will now be able to double cast all of our existing forms every day.” Ray Beaver, Vice President, Eureka Stone Quarry, Inc.
In 2018, Redi-Rock of Southeastern Pennsylvania was the first company in the state of Pennsylvania to become approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) for retaining walls.
“We’re extraordinarily proud of this accomplishment,” Beaver says. “PennDOT has some of the most stringent quality control requirements when it comes to concrete mixes and manufacturing process.”
Beaver believes that the potential of Redi-Rock of Southeastern Pennsylvania is just beginning. Already engineers, municipalities, transportation agencies and contractors are inquiring about the product and specifying it for jobs. Yet, even as the company’s capabilities and brand increase, Beaver remains steadfast in maintaining the Morrissey management culture that he’s learned over the last six years with the company.
When asked what he likes most about the company culture, Beaver says he enjoys the dynamics of the family-owned business and the flat hierarchy that makes everyone feel like they’re contributing to the success of the company.
“This isn’t an easy business,” he says. “We have to get up early, work hard all day, get home late, recharge and do it all over again tomorrow. The boots-on-the-ground approach where we’re all active in day-to-day activities at our sites works. I know from experience that some of our greatest ideas came from the quietest person on the crew. We have a short chain of command, resolve issues quickly and every one of us is empowered to make a difference, and that’s why we’re so successful.”