Crawford Grading & Pipeline

LUTHERSVILLE, GA., FIRM SPECIALIZES IN SEWER/WATER WORK AND SATISFIED CUSTOMERS

Jan 13, 2012

Longlasting Komatsu excavators

When Herbert Crawford first bought a used track loader a little more than 20 years ago, he initially just planned to do odd jobs here and there. At the time, he was working as a foreman for another contractor, but when things got slow one winter, Crawford was able to get some jobs that he could do all by himself. As one job led to another, it became clear that he could be successful with his own company, so in 1991, he left his other job and started Crawford Grading & Pipeline, Inc.

Today, the company still does grading, as well as demolition and excavation, but make no mistake — sewer and water work is Crawford Grading & Pipeline’s specialty. From its home base in Luthersville, Ga., about 60 miles south of Atlanta, Crawford Grading & Pipeline does large and small pipeline work throughout Georgia and much of Alabama.

“We lay sewer, water and storm-drain pipes and we build pump stations,” said Herbert. “Our goal, and I believe our reputation, is that we try to exceed the expectations of our customers in every respect. That means, the highest-quality work and topnotch service. Above all, we always live up to our word. When we say we’re going to do something, you can take that to the bank.”

“That’s something my dad has always emphasized,” said Herbert’s son, Matt Crawford, who oversees office and administrative duties for Crawford Grading & Pipeline. “I believe his honesty and integrity are the main reasons we’re still in business today. Obviously, it’s not the easiest time to be in construction. Much of the work we’ve done during the past few years is for repeat customers who’ve continued to come to us because they know they’re going to get a quality job and they know we’re going to treat them right.”

Crawford Grading & Pipeline will take on small, one-day residential jobs, as well as multimillion-dollar municipal or commercial jobs that may last for a year or more. “No job is too large or too small,” insisted Matt. “If you want us to take a look at something and give you a price, we’ll be happy to do it.”

Large jobs

Through the years, Crawford Grading & Pipeline has done many jobs at nearby Fort Benning. Recent large jobs also include installing sanitary sewer, domestic water and fire lines for a new Kraft Foods plant in Atlanta and a large distribution center in Bessemer, Ala.

“We’ve developed some good relationships with general contractors,” noted Herbert. “We work closely with them to deliver our portion of the job in the time frame they want. One of the frequent complaints about subs is that they’re not reliable. Well, we are. We show up when scheduled. We do quality work. We finish on time. And that’s why we have customers who regularly turn to us to do their sewer and water work.”

“When we’re working as a sub, we’re typically not going to be on the job from start to finish,” added Matt. “We adapt to the general contractor’s schedule. We get our part done, then clear out so he can do his thing. Then we come back to do another section and so on. We devote whatever manpower is necessary to get the job done in the time allotted. In Bessemer, we usually have two crews but if at some point we need three or four, that’s what we’ll send over.”

Productive, reliable work force

The nation’s economic downturn has impacted employment at Crawford Grading & Pipeline. In 2006 and 2007, the company employed about 70 people. Today, it employs about 40.

In addition to Herbert and Matt Crawford, management personnel include Field Superintendents (and brothers) Harris and Stuart Stokes, and Estimator Eric Farabaugh. “Our lead guys bring plenty of experience to their jobs,” reported Herbert. “They’ve been with us a long time and we rely on them to help us keep everything running smoothly.”

Crawford Grading & Pipeline currently runs six pipe crews (three or four men per crew) and a dress-up crew. The company also has three truck drivers and two shop mechanics.

“We believe all of our people — operators, laborers, drivers and mechanics — are among the best in the area,” acknowledged Matt. “Most of them have been with us for 10 to 16 years and they share our work ethic. They truly are a large factor in our success.”

Longlasting excavators

When it comes to hydraulic excavators, which are primary machines for Crawford Grading & Pipeline, the company turns largely to Komatsu units from Tractor & Equipment Company in Forest Park.

“I bought my first Komatsu in 1996, and today we probably have 15 or so Komatsu excavators,” reported Herbert. “I’ve run just about everything that’s out there and, in my opinion, Komatsu excavators are the best. My favorite thing about them is that they’re really well-made and seem to outlast all the other brands. We usually get 8,000 to 10,000 hours from an undercarriage, which I consider to be outstanding.”

To help improve versatility, Crawford Grading & Pipeline has added two Komatsu PC228 tight-tail-swing excavators to its fleet.

“We get in some tight spaces, such as working on the shoulder of a road,” Herbert explained. “The PC228s are great because we don’t need to worry about swinging out into traffic. All our operators like them because in addition to being able to work in close quarters, they’re also powerful, stable machines. We really like them.”

“We used a PC228 on a job at the Atlanta Regional Airport (formerly Falcon Field) in Peachtree City,” added Matt. “We were putting in 3,100 feet of 20-inch, ductile, iron pipe in very close quarters. The tight-tail-swing Komatsu worked great for us there.”

In addition to the excavators themselves, Herbert Crawford says he appreciates the support he gets from Tractor & Equipment Company.

“Our TEC Sales Rep, Mack Brice, takes good care of us and is a good friend as well. We have our own mechanics, so we try to do most of the machine maintenance and repairs ourselves, but when we need TEC, they respond very well. For example, we recently took a cylinder to them to repack, and they had it back to us in half a day, which is outstanding.”

Optimistic about the future

From its founding in 1991 until about 2008, Crawford Grading & Pipeline had experienced consistent growth.

“We grew steadily until the recession hit in 2008,” Herbert related. “We’ve scaled back a bit since then, but we’re still in business and we’re still doing OK.”

“Herbert deserves much of the credit for that,” said Superintendent Harris Stokes. “Years ago, he had the foresight to get us into the industrial and public-works markets, along with the subdivisions and private commercial work we were already doing. Then, when the private work went away, we were already set up to do the municipal and bonded work that’s carried us the last few years.”

“When the economy picks back up again, our intention is to resume our previous growth pattern,” commented Herbert. “But I don’t see us adding many services. We’ll stick primarily with pipe work because that’s what we know best.”

Matt Crawford says he’s optimistic about the future.

“One thing my dad has always stressed is to do good work and treat people right — and if we do that consistently, we’ll have clients who come back to us job after job. Being in business 20 years says a great deal about the work we do and the relationships we’ve established.

“We certainly want to, and plan to, keep the business going,” Matt continued. “We like this line of work. We like our customers. It’s just a matter of getting the economy jump-started. When that happens, we think there will be plenty of work from pent-up demand, and we believe the history we have with our customers will put us in position to get our share of that work.”