Utah Pacific

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA UTILITY CONTRACTOR BUILDS SUCCESS BY TACKLING TOUGH JOBS

Feb 15, 2011

Komatsu stands out both in production and technology

Ever since Utah Pacific Construction Owner/ President Craig Young and a partner founded the company in 1988, he’s been concerned about growing and expanding the company too quickly.

“The opportunities to grow the business substantially have always been here,” said Young, who has taken over full ownership of the Murrieta, Calif.-based Utah Pacific. “The key has been controlled growth. Growing too big can cause a lot of headaches, and I never wanted to get in too deep.”

But “getting in deep” is the company’s specialty, especially in the last several years as Utah Pacific transitioned almost exclusively into deep excavation as it installs underground utilities for governmental and municipal agencies. Utah Pacific’s resume includes some of the deepest water, sanitary and storm-sewer installations in the Los Angeles and San Diego metro areas.

Among them were two simultaneous contracts for the Los Angeles County Sanitation Department that ran between the 710 Freeway and the Los Angeles River in Long Beach. Utah Pacific installed about 8,000 feet of 72- and 84-inch lines at depths from 25 to 30 feet.

“It’s the largest sewer structure ever built in Los Angeles County,” noted Young, who estimated the two contracts totaled about $32 million. “Being that deep and that close to the river, there were some issues with keeping the channel walls intact and keeping water out of the trench, so we did a lot of shoring. It was tight too, so we couldn’t bench down.”

Projects such as these have become the norm for Utah Pacific as it transitioned from doing private to governmental work during the 1990s. Along the way, the company added installation of lift and pumping stations. Recently, it completed a design-build job to replace old 15-inch clay sewer with 21-inch pipe for the city of Temecula.

“Similar to many jobs we do, it took a lot of preplanning before we ever started digging,” said Vice President Brian Keeline, who’s been with the company more than a decade and oversees estimating and project management. “It was extremely wet, so we had to first dewater the site and set up a temporary bypass before we could start the actual installation of the new lines. It’s not unusual for us to have those types of challenges.”

Komatsu from the start

Nearly all of the company’s projects are done with Komatsu machinery, which Utah Pacific has used since Young founded the company His first pieces were two PC300 excavators and a WA320 wheel loader. He still has one of the original excavators and the wheel loader.

“We demo’d other brands, but the Komatsu really stood out both in production and technology that I believe makes them superior machines,” said Young. “That’s held true over the years, and we’ve also been very pleased with Komatsu reliability. Obviously, still having and using some of our original pieces says a lot.”

Utah Pacific’s fleet now includes 10 Komatsu excavators, ranging in size from the compact, tight-tail-swing PC78MR-6 to a PC1000. It also uses WA320, WA380, WA450 and WA470 wheel loaders for backfilling and carrying pipe, as well as an SK1020 skid steer for general work.

“Having a range of excavators allows us a wide span of digging depths, and the PC78 is great when space is at a premium,” Young pointed out. “We’ve found that in all size classes, Komatsu has good power, and excellent digging and lifting capacity. That’s important to us because we’re not only digging with them, but lifting and setting some large, heavy pipe.”

Young believes in a strong maintenance program, including using genuine Komatsu parts, and believes that’s another key factor in his equipment’s longevity. For warranty work and more technical issues, Utah Pacific turns to Road Machinery LLC’s Perris branch.

“Road Machinery takes very good care of us, from our Account Manager Matt Brast and Product Support Representative Brian Swoboda to the guys in the service department,” affirmed Young. “They’ve been a key part of ensuring we have the right equipment and support to keep our downtime to a minimum.”

Young says that’s especially important for a business such as Utah Pacific. “Because our focus is governmental bid work, there are deadlines associated with that. It’s important to avoid delays in any form. That’s never been an issue with our Komatsu equipment.”

Staff deserves a lot of credit

While a good fleet of equipment is necessary, Young acknowledges that it’s Utah Pacific’s staff that ensures success. The company currently employs about 30 people.

“What we do can be very challenging, and having a staff that works hard and is conscientious about quality is essential,” said Young. “There’s no way this business would be where it is today without their input. They deserve a lot of credit.”

Keeline notes that the staff’s experience helps the company stay competitive. “We don’t shy away from tough jobs because we know with our experience, we can get it done. Utah Pacific has carved out a particular niche with deep installation, and that’s really an advantage for us.”