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Roland Russell - Equipment Innovator & Founder of ELRUS Aggregate Systems

Roland Russell was an innovator, whose equipment revolutionized the aggregate and crushing industry as we know it today. His unique ideas became the industry standard.

Starting in equipment sales at the age of 21, Roland had endless energy and was driven to succeed. By age 30 he was the president of Pioneer Equipment, which was one of the largest equipment companies in Canada at the time. He built strong relationships with contractors and associations across the country, some of whom were trying to convince him he should venture out on his own as a contractor.

He eventually took their advice and started his own aggregate company. After several years in the industry, working contracts all over Western Canada, Roland was frustrated with the challenges of mobile process operations, including lengthy and difficult equipment setup and takedown. He believed he could build better designs and manufacture more efficient equipment.

Roland tackled the feeder first, with many design improvements, and contracted a local fabricator to build it. He was pleased with the results and showed a couple of his friends who were also contractors. They loved the new feeder, and one friend made an offer too good to refuse. So, Russell sold the feeder, then went back and had another fabricated to sell to the other friend. He saw the opportunity and ELRUS Aggregate Systems was established in 1975. Soon Roland had developed a full product line covering all aspects of the portable crushing process and was selling equipment across the country.

ELRUS, under Roland’s leadership, was focused on solving customer problems through continuous equipment improvement. After making improvements to the feeder, Roland turned his focus to developing the inclined screen concept in multiple screen plants, a heavy-duty jaw, and then introduced the control tower and centralized power, which is now standard in the industry. Previously, equipment was operated by several people throughout the crushing spread. With the control tower, the operator was up in the air to see the whole spread and control operations of all plants, helping you do more with less people. Plus, operators were protected in a pressurized cabin with clean air.

In addition to product innovation, Roland also introduced process improvements to the crushing & aggregate industry through the interface between the plants, with on-board conveyors, “common level design”, self-levelling plants, and ultimately, plug & play modular design. An old school portable crushing spread can take 5 to 6 days to set up and take apart with a full crew. With ELRUS mobile crushing equipment, setup and takedown takes less than a day for a high-production spread. With plug & play modular design, contractors could easily add equipment to their spread over time. With normal aggregate production at about $1000 per hour, the saved setup & takedown time put more money in the contractor’s pockets and kept customers coming back to ELRUS.

Once other aggregate equipment manufacturers saw ELRUS’ improvements they started to become standard, but Roland wasn’t worried about copycats. He was focused on solving customer problems and continuously improving his designs. In Roland’s words, “If we focus on continuous improvement, they will always be playing catch up.”

While making massive improvements to smaller portable crushing operations, Roland established portable operations could manage high production volumes easily. He then set his sight on improving giant quarry sites with his mobile equipment designs. Traditionally these quarries would have a stationary processing plant separate from the ever-receding quarry face and would transport rock back to a processing plant for aggregates processing. With ELRUS mobile equipment, you simply moved the processing to the quarry face to save time, fuel, equipment capital, and R&M costs. This eventually redefined how many quarries operate.

Throughout all his success, Roland built relationships on trust, transparency, and the power of a handshake. This resulted in a ton of loyal customers, suppliers, employees, colleagues, and friends. One of the best of these friends was Dave Ritchie, the co-founder and driving force behind Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers. Roland loved the auctions and served as a “silent salesman” for Dave for decades, pointing him in the direction of customers with equipment to sell.

On behalf of Ritchie Bros. and the aggregate & crushing industry…Thank you, Roland!