Your browser is not supported anymore.

We suggest changing from Internet Explorer to another option. The Internet Explorer browser is no longer supported by Microsoft. Please install or upgrade one of the browsers below.


Leading with innovation turns out to be a rock-solid approach for Luck Stone.

The magic of technology

March 5, 2024

The future is now with technology-enabled rigs, and the proof is in the granite. At the Luck Stone Spotsylvania quarry, the Epiroc SmartROC D60, equipped with the GPS-enabled Hole Navigation System (HNS), shows that it can stand up to the toughest rock, while improving safety, efficiency, and profits.

Blasting Manager George Feild checks under the exterior panel of the Epiroc SmartROC D60 drill rig, equipped with the GPS-enabled Hole Navigation System (HNS), before starting the day.

It’s 7:30 A.M. on the United States’s East Coast and the sky is still a dark, inky gray with a dense haze of fog permeating the air. Headlights appear in the distance, moving slowly but steadily in and out of the plant. The sound of an automated drill hums, greeting the quarry’s occupants. But this automated drill is no ordinary drill. It’s an Epiroc SmartROC D60 equipped with the GPS-enabled Hole Navigation System (HNS), which has been proving its worth, almost magically, when pitted against the challenging geology at Luck Stone’s Spotsylvania, Virginia quarry.

Luck Stone has always been an early adopter of technology. Founded in Virginia in 1923, they were one of the first aggregate companies to convert their crushers from steam to electric power and had the first automated plants dating back to the late 1970s. “We love technology,” says Bryan Smith, Mine Development and Blasting Manager, who has been with the familyowned and operated company for 43 years. “We try to be smart about it – how we’re going to deploy it, what we’re going to use it on – and think it through; but we love what technology can do. ”Long-standing supportive partnerships with industry leaders is another of Luck Stone’s fortes.

While Luck Stone was familiar with Epiroc, it was their dealer, James River Equipment (with their own nearly 100-year history) that made the introduction and provided top-notch servicing of the drills. Northern Virginia Drilling, a Luck Stone contractor for more than twentyfive years, also saw the value in the technology and embraced Epiroc drills for their own work both in- and outside of Luck Stone quarries. According to Smith, the gravitation to Epiroc was natural; having owned and operated a number of drills from other suppliers, Epiroc drills stood out from the competition. “When we compare Epiroc drills to other drills, is it as good or better than other drills? We feel, yes.”

"We love technology. We try to be smart about it – how we’re going to deploy it, what we’re going to use it on – and think it through; but we love what technology can do."

Bryan Smith ,Mine Development and Blasting Manager, Luck Stone

The GPS guided Hole Navigation System (HNS) provides drill accuracy to within +/– 50 millimeters, ensuring higher precision and increased safety.

Prior to using Epiroc’s smart drill rigs, of which Luck Stone now has ten, operations depended on human operators and driller perception. Countless hours could be lost hand-drawing complicated tight shots on paper, laying out tape and painting rocks, only to have weather erase the paint or an ill-placed tire shuffle rocks out of alignment. To test what these tech-enabled rigs were capable of, Luck Stone performed a trial of Epiroc’s HNS-Enabled Measure While Drilling (MWD) system, combined with 3GSM Shot Planning (a platform for 3D shot design) at their Rockville, Virginia plant between August 2022 and January 2023. MWD technology allows for both visual and numerical analysis on rock mass prior to blasting, resulting in safer and more accurate operations. The conditions at the Rockville plant are good – the metavolcanic shoots well compared to most. Over the five-month trial, drilling and blasting information was tracked, showing improvements that excited Luck Stone. 

Those results made them eager to experiment in their Spotsylvania quarry, an established quarry with multiple production lifts, and where the rock condition is much more challenging. Fragmentation is less than desired. Significant jointing with almost no voids or cavities presents blasting challenges and causes irregular faces, heavy burdens, uneven floor and oversize rock. There was no better way to test the technology than in this challenging geology.

Chris Branham, Pit Foreman with 11 years of service, cites an impressive array of improvements: improved drilling and blasting accuracy, reduced oversized material, better floor conditions, increased safety, reduced wear and tear on equipment and increased production. But it’s the numbers that are pure magic. The SmartROC D60 with HNS decreased load time by 21 seconds, totaling 2.5 hours per week; the black belt time went from 18% to 13% in the pit, and the overall tons per hour run increased by 14%.

"The system makes the job easier by giving the blaster quite a bit of confidence."

George Feild ,Blasting Manager, Luck Stone

Joe Palmer, Senior Blasting Technician, Luck Stone.

Luck Stone


- Founded: 1923; celebrating its 100th year as a family-owned/operated business 
- Operates 30 plants/yards/corporate offices across four states: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia
- 900 associates

- 20 million short tons of aggregateproduced annually


At the Spotsylvania Quarry, the Epiroc SmartROC D60 drills high-quality blast holes via an advanced Rig Control System on a touch screen in the cabin.

Compared to manual methods, Joe Palmer, Senior Blasting Technician, with 17 years of service at Luck Stone, says the rig provides more accurate measurements on the face, in designing shots, and while drilling to hit the precise azimuth needed. Between the use of drones, digital photos, computer-planning and GPS guided drilling, the whole process has been transformed to fit on a thumb drive. George Feild, Blasting Manager, with 24 years of service, says the system “makes the job easier by giving the blaster quite a bit of confidence” thanks to the precision in lining up the shot. David Harper, Pit Lead, also with 24 years of service, adds that the HNS helps execute accurate burdens on the face. Roger Stewart, Drill Operator with Northern Virginia Drilling, puts it simply: “Other rigs just don’t compare.” The Epiroc SmartROC D60 has a trickle-down effect for the entire operation. Griffin Lober, Pit Loader Operator, reports that he has seen significantly more consistent diggability, less oversize material, reduced cycle times, better truck flow, higher production, smoother treatment on equipment, and an easier and more productive day overall.


As the market marches toward more automated, autonomous and smart equipment, Scott and Shawn Miller, brothers and co-owners of Northern Virginia Drilling, double down on the need for technology, not just in quarries and mines, but across public and private construction. Thanks to the Spotsylvania results, the Epiroc SmartROC drills with HNS are now capturing valuable measure-while-drilling (MWD) data that will enable Luck Stone to do further analysis and continuously improve their drilling and blasting processes. In fact, Luck Stone is already making plans for taking Epiroc-powered machines into more hazardous high-wall conditions and difficult blast zones thanks to the MWD data, which includes multiple readings in every drilled hole, capturing the penetration rate of the drill bit, feed pressure, rotation pressure, flushing air pressure, and calculated rock hardness. When 4 p.m. arrives, the hum of the drill slows and then stops. Stewart powers off the Rig Control System, performs his safety checks and climbs out of the climate-controlled cab (one of his favorite features, he added laughingly). The magic winds down, ready to rest and start again the next day.

Spotsylvania Plant


- Serves City of Fredericksburg and counties of Spotsylvania and Louisa
- 29 employees
- 1.7 million short tons of aggregate produced annually

- Rock: Igneous and metamorphic. Locally referred to as granite, gneiss and schist


Chris Branham, Pit Foreman, Luck Stone.

Luck Stone and Epiroc

James River Equipment , a premier Epiroc dealer and top performer across the U.S. year after year, instigated the partnership between Luck Stone and Epiroc. Northern Virginia Drilling had developed a relationship with Epiroc which, combined with Luck Stone’s influence, sealed their investment. Now, all four work in tandem as supplier, servicer, contractor and operator.

Five keys to success

1. Technology
It’s where the market already is. If you want to grow your operations and keep up with the future and not get left behind, it’s time to embrace technology that will create a safer and more productive operation.


2. Innovation
Daring to think new in operations can feel challenging, but with topdown leadership and support from Epiroc, supporting your associates and upgrading equipment and technology will be easier than you think.

3. Partnerships
The synergy between Epiroc, James River Equipment, Luck Stone, and Northern Virginia Drilling is ideal because everyone works as one team to increase safety accuracy, and production. This alignment is where magic happens.

4. Equipment
Know your challenges, what you need to overcome, and invest in the equipment that is proven. Luck Stone and Northern Virginia Drilling have said “yes” to Epiroc equipment and have seen results even in challenging geology.

5. People
Invest in your people. It may be an additional cost up front, but it will produce cost savings in the long run. They will benefit from training and job opportunities as technology that increases retention is introduced.



SmartROC D60 International 2024 Surface drill rigs Customer story America

Related stories