Written in Concrete – 140 Years of Success

Bryan Materials Group
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

For any company to stay in business for decades is an achievement, but being successful for 140 years and counting is nothing less than remarkable.

One of America’s best-known suppliers of concrete, aggregate, and precast, Bryan Materials Group (BMG) has been part of some of the most notable construction projects in the history of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from the Jenkins Arcade Building in 1915 to the current terminal modernization of the Pittsburgh International Airport.

Bryan Materials Group is proud of the outstanding products and services the company has provided contractors big and small over the years. “I think our biggest contribution to Pittsburgh has been our consistency in providing products and services that our customers can rely on,” says Justin Bryan, who—along with Josh Bryan and Caleb Bryan—represents the fifth generation of this family-owned business.

“We’re not the biggest, but we continually strive to improve our products and services to meet the needs of our customers,” he says. “We have attempted to advance the ready mix concrete industry by focusing on what we do and doing it to the best of our ability.”

Hard work works
Almost a century and a half after its creation, Bryan Materials Group continues building on the success of its founder.

Back in the 1880s, Pittsburgh was booming, thanks largely to the iron and steel industry. Seeing opportunity, Frank Bryan started his own excavation company with a horse, a cart, and a shovel. According to the company, Frank “moved earth, one shovelful at a time, for foundations and roadways. His stock in trade was hard work and value.”

As a respected Western Pennsylvania construction materials supplier, the business continued finding success from one generation to the next, all the while maintaining Frank’s values: honesty, hard work, and relationships. The fourth generation was spearheaded by David Bryan, Matt Bryan, and Thomas Bryan III.

Before his passing in 1998, Thomas (Tink) Bryan served as a bridge between the third and fourth generations. A true leader and visionary, he led the business on an even greater growth trajectory and helped lay the foundation for Bryan Materials’ future success. According to the company, “The values and work ethic he embodied will be passed down to future generations.”

Family values
Although the world has changed immensely since Bryan Materials Group was founded, the company’s mission and values have remained consistent. All customers, vendors, and staff members are treated with respect. Providing professional services and valuable products for so many years, Bryan Materials Group is—literally—part of the foundation of Pittsburgh’s past, present, and future.

To keep up with customer demand, BMG has developed into a multi-disciplinary business, involved in concrete manufacturing, distribution, and construction. As specialists in many areas—including concrete, aggregate, precast, and marine transportation—the company’s entities include Frank Bryan Inc., BMG Marine, Georgetown Sand & Gravel, Neville Aggregates Company Inc., Concrete Concepts Inc., Riverside Concrete, Tri-State River Products, Quality Concrete Inc., and others. Including its concrete, precast, aggregate, and marine operations, BMG is now at 10 locations.

Amidst such growth, the family is quick to credit its dedicated staff for much of the success of the Bryan Materials Group of companies.

“Our biggest strength is the people who work for us, they’re all family,” says Justin. “Without their time and dedication, we would not be here today. This core value has transcended all of the previous generations of family members who have been involved in the business. Our company mission statement is to value equally our employees, our vendors, and our customers. It’s a three-legged stool,” he says. “Without one of those components, we could not achieve anything.”

At BMG, every employee has a specialty, including drivers, technicians, accounts, mechanics, and plant maintenance workers. “It’s our job to provide them with the things they need to do their job to the best of their ability,” says Justin. “We strive to empower all of our people to make decisions on their own and to support them in reaching our common goal of being a very good service and product supplier.”

Sustainability matters
While “green” and “sustainable” have become buzzwords in myriad businesses today, they lose their meaning unless backed up by action. At Bryan Materials Group, sustainability and corporate responsibility have been integral to the company for many years; in fact, the company has an entire section on its website dedicated to ‘Responsibility.’

Taking environmental action is never a one-step solution, and at BMG, the view of sustainability is a broad one, encompassing recycling, reuse, methods of production, and logistics—how and where materials are sourced and how they are transported. The future of the planet is something to be taken seriously, and BMG is known and respected for its environmental leadership while providing the core products our society relies on.

“Our key focus related to sustainability is in the use and reuse of post-industrial and consumer products,” says Justin. “A lot of our concrete contains at least 35 percent post-industry by-products as part of the design. We also recycle our by-products into other materials that can be used in construction. Our aggregate yards routinely blend materials to be reused in commercial applications, still meeting the rigorous requirements outlined in commercial building standards.”

Many projects require unique concrete mixes for unique applications. An emergency repair to the deck of the Fort Pitt Bridge, for example, necessitated 4000 psi in 12 hours, while the Allegheny County Jail needed 14,000 psi columns. Others, like the UPMC Mercy Hospital, saw 10,000 yards of 10,000 psi structural concrete, while PNC Towers needed 13,000 cubic yards of 113pcf Lightweight Concrete pumped 40 floors (more than 500 vertical feet).

All materials are sourced from within 500 miles of its facility, and concrete mixes from Frank Bryan Inc. usually contain a minimum of 20 percent recycled content. This is achieved by using “Pozzolans—fly ash, ground granulated blast furnace cement (GGBFS), and silica fume in place of portland cement,” according to the company. “This can replace up to 65 percent of the total quantity of cement used.”

Additionally, recovered surplus concrete is separated into its constituent components and reused, and water from surplus concrete is reclaimed, minimizing waste.

Along with product manufacturing, another key area for reducing carbon emissions is product delivery. BMG has strategically located facilities on inland rivers and transports most of the aggregates to these facilities on barges. “River barged materials use a fiftieth of the fuel that over-the-road trucked materials use,” Justin explains. “This is somewhat unique to our business model in this region… Reinvesting in our delivery fleet and marine division is costly, but it provides us with the most up-to-date fuel-efficient modes of transportation available.”

In addition, the company bids on and supplies projects close to its manufacturing hubs. “We avoid supplying projects that are not regional to our hubs. Maximizing the number of yards of concrete we can supply ‘per hour of delivery truck time’ is a key metric in our attempt to become a ‘greener,’ more efficient supplier,” says Justin.

Time to celebrate
To acknowledge its anniversary, the team at BMG designed a special 140th logo and is making t-shirts and sweatshirts. “We’ve seen them out and around the city and it’s been exciting to see all the engagement,” says Justin.

Despite its decades of success, he adds, there is still plenty of work to do today, and in the years to come.

“Someday in the not-too-distant future, they’ll be reading about Bryan Materials Group celebrating our 150th and 175th anniversaries. If we and future generations stick to our core values of honesty, hard work, and dedication, it will happen.”

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