Every day in countries all over the world, manufacturing and production facilities of all types and sizes rely on EZG Refractory Mud Hogs to dependably do the jobs other mixers can’t do. Few other industries face the tough challenges and extreme volatility of steel producers. The intensive maintenance that steel mills require generally necessitate regularly scheduled shutdowns. EZG delivers value-added service to both outside contractors who provide periodic maintenance services during a shutdown, and plants that employ their own in-house maintenance departments. A brief look back at the market forces that created EZG Mud Hog mixers reveals why they continue to be transformative today.
Building on a Legend
When Damian Lang began the long and difficult process of developing the original Mud Hog, he did so enthusiastically, but also with another necessary trait—stubbornness. He stubbornly held to his belief that people would pay a bit more for a quality mixer. He stubbornly refused to believe that just because some things had been done a certain way for decades didn’t mean it was the right way. He stubbornly remained true to his conviction that better, was, well, better.
After nearly a decade of going back to the drawing board again and again and again, his effort paid off. He had developed a mixer as damn near as stubborn as he was. So stubborn, in fact, that most of the original EZG Mud Hogs are still mixing away to this day.
Fast-forward fifteen years… EZG was approached by several professionals who identified a shortcoming in the refractory industry. Mixers generally didn’t provide enough torque for refractory mixing, were constantly being bogged down and frequently suffered catastrophic failure. Also attributing to the creation of a Refractory Mud Hog was overlap between bricklayers in the refractory industry and traditional bricklayers who worked in residential masonry. They saw the capabilities and potential and asked for a mixer that would do for refractory mixing what the Mud Hog and done for masonry. “If you can do that,” many of them said, “you’ll have our business.”
Matt Mastsuzaka, EZG Precast Refractory Sales Manager, recalls that a major issue was that few manufacturers were interested in producing refractory mixers. “Those that did some manufacturing treated it as more of a niché or boutique industry without real commitment. They were reluctant to commit the resources and capital necessary for R&D and product development,” he said. Occasional orders to build a custom or one-off mixer were filled, but continuous manufacturing was missing from the equation. Without that, mixers were not made in sufficient quantity to make them affordable for end users or profitable for the manufacturers.
By then, the EZG Mud Hog was as common on construction sites as hardhats. It dramatically reduced downtime, minimized backbreaking labor, and boosted profitability and efficiency. Word-of-mouth support from contractors and installers had long since sent sales into overdrive and put into motion the innovative, can-do spirit EZG is now known for.
The EZG team hit the ground running, gathering valuable input from refractory veterans who knew exactly what they needed in a mixer. They were also guided by the longstanding EZG “Hog” principles of simplicity in design, no-nonsense ruggedness, and not cutting corners. EZG engineers worked with stakeholders and laborers to identify the unique needs of a refractory mixer worthy of wearing the Mud Hog name. On the list was a more torque-intensive engine and a drum capable of enduring the constant abuse such a machine would face. Once again, the investment in innovation paid off.
“We built these mixers to a standard of quality and not to the constraints of budget,” Matt said. “We built it as best as we could, not as cheaply as we could. “These things run forever.”
Controls, such as the forward and reverse paddles, are very basic, but this is no place for gimmicks or frills that would provide little upside or likely result in much more downtime and needlessly costly repairs. Tried-and-true electric motors and hydraulic pumps keep maintenance to an absolute minimum. Even common-wear items that are expected to be replaced are made with a very abrasion-resistant rubber that delivers the longest life possible. Bolt-in liners prevent premature wear on the drums and when the liner is worn, it can be easily replaced.
Steel producers have embraced the Refractory Mud Hog because it’s one of the few brands that are tough enough to endure the brutal abuse the industry throws at it. Steel mills often schedule shutdowns according to fiscal years, or popular holidays that coincide with major holidays when large blocks of employees generally take time off. Christmas and Independence Day are two of the most common times for scheduled shutdowns. EZG plans accordingly by ramping up its parts inventory and focusing on lead times.
Major costs associated with a shutdown include capital equipment installation, inspections, equipment assessment and preventive maintenance scheduling. Even the most exhaustively planned plant shutdown is still very expensive. According to EZG, the cost of a shutdown can be somewhat offset by installing more productive equipment. Even many long-term customers aren’t fully aware of the levels of customization EZG can provide.
Taking Customization to a Whole New Level
“We don’t just sell mixers,” Mastsuzaka said. “We partner with our customers to help solve their problems. We ask questions, we get to know their floorplans, and we help identify areas that could be more productive or efficient.”
Areas taken into consideration include how the Mud Hog should dump, the length of its legs, where it should discharge, how it will be accessed, the requirements of the space it occupies and where chutes should be placed.
The levels of customization EZG can provide with the Refractory Mud Hogs can improve efficiency, maximize safety and increase productivity—often with reduced manpower. The trifecta of customization, proven reliability and extensive service and support have completely redefined the expectations that many industry professionals have.
The range of EZG Refractory Mud Hogs are scaled to the weight of the dry goods, which are either in bags or super sacks. They include a 300 lb. mixer, the smallest, up to the largest unit 3,000+ lbs. Refractory Mug Hogs feature reversible mixing paddles to prevent clogging, bolt-in, hardened steel drum liners, and adjustable load heights to optimize ergonomic operation.
EZG engineers have in-depth, onsite conversations with their customers to bring value-added customization that exceeds any expectations they might have had. For example, bringing a fresh, outside perspective means they can identify potential inefficiencies that would otherwise go unnoticed. From the drawing board, EZG engineers can customize the width and height of a mixer based on its location and end-use. They can also provide portable work platforms and different options for discharges and levels of portability. They take into consideration how often the mixer will be used, the size of the space it will occupy, and other modifications that can greatly improve productivity and safety. Custom colors, badging, and other details are also available.
Refurbished, not Replaced
The lifespan of the units are so long, they generally don’t require replacing. Most sales either come from the growth or expansion of existing customers, or new customers altogether. Indeed, most of the very first Refractory Mud Hogs remain in operation today.
The EZG refurbishment program speaks loudly to the enduring performance of the Refractory Mud Hogs. They generally aren’t replaced, even after a lifetime of very hard use. Typically, a unit can run for up to eight years or more before it requires full maintenance. EZG approaches refurbishment in much the same way it approaches manufacturing—with an all-in commitment to quality and detail. “We do a thorough breakdown of the unit,” Matt said. “We test all systems and components, replace many maintenance wear items that require it, reassemble it and send it along for another entire lifecycle.”
Setting the Industry Standard
Today, the EZG Refractory Mud Hog has gained worldwide acceptable as the gold standard for refractory mixers. A particularly strong presence in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and South America as well as continued growth in China, Australia and Europe have cemented its position as a global leader. More importantly to EZG than growth, however, is how the Refractory Mud Hog has once again improved the productivity, success, and safety of an entire industry.