“Our operators prefer Komatsu loaders because they have the lifting capacity to get the job done”
This year marks the 90th anniversary for Kuert Concrete, Inc., and while its core business remains ready-mix concrete supply and delivery, there have been significant changes during its history. One of those came approximately 33 years ago when John Fidler purchased the South Bend, Ind., firm.
At the time, the Fidler name was already well-known in north central and northeast Indiana. John and his father, Lewie, owned and operated Fidler Inc. in Goshen, Lewie founded that ready-mix company in the 1940s.
“Dad saw a good opportunity when Kuert decided to sell,” said his son Steve, President of Kuert Concrete. “He worked for both companies for a few years until they sold Fidler Inc. I came on board full time in 1991 and took over as President in 2000, around the time Dad retired.”
Fidler heads an executive team that includes Vice President of Operations Greg Towner, Vice President of Sales Tim Miller and Controller Ron Ericson. They oversee a company that has grown beyond simply supplying ready-mix concrete. Additional businesses under the Kuert umbrella include Kuert Supply Center and Kuert Outdoor Living. The former is located in South Bend and the latter in Goshen.
The products that Kuert Supply Center and Kuert Outdoor Living provide are extensive. Between the two, private individuals and contractors alike can access concrete construction tools; decorative concrete, stone, sand and aggregates; grills and related accessories; mulch and topsoil; pavers and retaining-wall blocks; outdoor fire features; power tools such as chop saws, walk-behind power saws and plate compactors; precast concrete block; and other landscaping supplies.
“I would say those entities make up roughly 15 percent of Kuert Concrete’s business combined,” said Fidler. “The other 85 percent is what the company has always been known for – quality ready-mix concrete products delivered in a timely fashion.”
With a total of 43 trucks, Kuert Concrete covers north central Indiana and a portion of southwestern Michigan from plants in South Bend, Goshen, Rochester and Warsaw. Each delivers within roughly an hour’s drive of its respective location.
“Our customers run the gamut from private homeowners wanting a yard or two for a sidewalk panel or driveway to large contractors and developers looking for thousands of yards of high-strength concrete,” explained Fidler. “The South Bend plant supplies a mostly urban area, while our other facilities tend to cater to a more rural base, which includes the agricultural market.”
The ag market is an indicator of Kuert Concrete’s ability to supply innovative items for customers’ specific needs. Its proprietary Agricrete product is designed to hold up better in areas such as barnyards and livestock buildings where acid from animal waste is an issue. Another proprietary product, eKo Choice, is a performance-mix designed to be more energy-efficient, durable and sustainable. Kuert Concrete also supplies specialized Durafreeze, which can be poured at temperatures as low as 20 degrees without freezing or delayed setting times.
“We have standard, everyday products, but we also have the flexibility to customize mixes,” said Fidler. “Our abilities include making concrete that’s extremely flowable without adding water or deteriorating the quality. We can add materials to make it dry or get rid of moisture, faster. You name it, we can most likely do it.”
Fidler credits a hardworking staff of nearly 80 people for Kuert Concrete’s ability to produce and deliver products on time. Throughout the years, they have had a hand in building some notable projects in the area. Among them was supplying hundreds of thousands of yards of materials for the Indiana Toll Road.
Others include concrete for several projects at the University of Notre Dame as well as the Capital Avenue Bridge in South Bend. Recently, it was part of the city’s Smart Streets initiative in the downtown area.
“We’ve always tried to emphasize that we do more than supply concrete; Kuert helps develop and build our communities,” Fidler said. “The staff takes this to heart and ensures that every batch of concrete counts and makes a difference to each individual, company or public entity that it goes to. It’s our belief that taking this viewpoint leads to better products and customer service as well as repeat business from our clientele.”
Loyal to Komatsu, Brandeis
For many years Kuert Concrete has used Komatsu wheel loaders at each of its plants, working with Brandeis Machinery Sales Rep Doug Fox to acquire the machines. A WA470-7 moves material at the South Bend location, while WA380-8s do the same at Goshen and Warsaw. Kuert relies on a Komatsu WA320-8 wheel loader at its Rochester facility.
“We chose each loader based on the size of the yard,” said Fidler. “South Bend is the largest, so it has the Komatsu WA470-7 wheel loader. Every Komatsu loader we’ve had has performed well. Our operators’ opinions matter, and from time to time we have tried competitive brands. Across the board, our operators prefer Komatsu loaders because they have the lifting capacity to get the job done. They are easy to operate and have comfortable cabs.”
In the past couple of years, Kuert Concrete took action to better track maintenance and repair of its loaders. It turns to KOMTRAX, Komatsu’s telematics system for information such as idle time and hours.
“We can pull up KOMTRAX on a computer or other devices, and Brandeis sends us an overall monthly report because they are tracking our machines, too,” said Fidler. “The idea is for us to identify items or potential issues more proactively. It’s a great tool, and we believe Komatsu further enhanced its value-added proposition with the Komatsu CARE program.”
Komatsu CARE provides complimentary scheduled service for the first three years or 2,000 hours on its Tier 4 machines. To minimize downtime, Brandeis Machinery technicians perform the work at Kuert Concrete at a convenient time.
“From a price standpoint, Komatsu and Brandeis have always been fair and reasonable,” said Fidler. “The equipment and service are outstanding. Put it all together and it’s easy to see why we remain loyal to them.”
Kuert Concrete believes in being involved in and supporting the communities it serves. “Our families live and work in the cities, towns and areas that use our products, and we want to give back in any way possible,” noted Fidler. “We are tied to them.”
Fidler noted that plans are in motion for another member of the family to lead the business one day. His nephew, Brad Webb, joined Kuert Concrete full time about five years ago and is learning every aspect of how the business works.
“He will run day-to-day operations at some point,” said Fidler. “We believe the future is bright. Like many companies, we took a hit during the last recession, but business has almost returned to the level it was before and continues to show improvement. We must focus on what we can always control – making quality products and providing good customer service. Those have been the hallmarks of Kuert Concrete for 90 years and will continue to be going forward.”