Komatsu’s GD655-3 Motor Graders cutting edge technology meets the demands of contractors and operators alike
Phoenix, Arizona. While most of the country is seeing a down turn in the housing market, construction on the commercial side is still going strong. This is especially true for areas like Phoenix, Arizona, whose infrastructure is still catching up to accommodate more than a decade of housing expansion in one of the countries fastest growing cities.
Ken Swenson, of Young, Swenson and Cross Paving, is working on several strip mall projects and says “we are the first ones at a new construction site and we rely on Komatsu graders to get the job done.” He adds “we have a reputation for quality work and doing what you promised.”
Tim Hulbert, owner of Hulbert Grading, agrees and stresses the importance of meeting customer’s schedules. He says “I think it’s a combination of the quality of our work and the speed at which we can get the work done. We are always trying to stay ahead of the pavers and we don’t want to be the ones responsible for delays.” He adds “truthfully, everybody looks at the money aspect and the quicker you can finish the job the better the savings for our customers and in the end the better the savings for us.”
Both contractors and their operators use Komatsu’s GD655-3 motor graders to accomplish their business goals and feel it’s definitely the right machine in terms of price, performance and durability.
A site foreman for Young Swenson and Cross has operated various brands of graders throughout his 20 years in construction and he feels the Komatsu graders are by far a superior machine to others he has operated. He especially likes the lock-up torque converter on the Komatsu grader which gives the operator the ability to shift from direct-drive mode to torque converter mode depending on the job at hand.
Glenn Leighton, Sales Representative for Road Machinery, Arizona (Komatsu’s Arizona Distributor), had recently attended a training class on the GD655 and asked the instructor if he would come to Phoenix to ensure his customers were maximizing the graders’ functions. Leighton says “I was impressed with the instructors’ knowledge of the machine and I knew he could increase my customer’s productivity so I arranged for him to visit our customers’ worksite and give the operators some hands-on training.”
The operators’ response to the training was well-received. One person commented “the training really helped me out a lot. Even though I have been an operator for a long time the instructor showed me how to properly use the direct drive and torque converter; now I love showing it to the new operators.” One foreman commented he immediately noticed an increase in his operators’ productivity and the quality of their finished-grade skills.
Other comments were “the ability to switch from one transmission mode to another has really helped not only our productivity, but in preventing damage to the machine and to the site. Another operator commented “the sub grade we are working in right now is situated in a really rocky area. By switching to the torque converter mode, I know if we hit some hard rock the machine will deliver the right amount of power to move the material and I don’t have to worry about it plowing through and taking out a curb or hydrant.”
Tim Hulbert feels the power and versatility of the machine sets it apart from the competition. He says “our current job is a 66-Acre site for a future industrial park and warehouses and this machine meets all our needs.” He adds “we have to get into tight areas like parking bays for cars and deal with existing hydrants, manholes and curbs, along with stairs and ramps leading into the buildings and it’s great for those applications. But this machine also has plenty of power and it’s big enough for the large open roadways.”
Hulbert also likes the ability to switch from torque converter to direct drive and feels it helps operators with both their speed and fine grading. He says “if the trucks are hauling in sub-grade material the guys will normally run the machine in direct drive just knocking the grade down and moving it around with long passes. But, when you get down to finishing you can simply switch to the torque converter mode and the machine has such fine control you can get into and maneuver around tight areas.” He adds “because you don’t have to use the clutch, you eliminate a lot of jerking motions every time you stop and start and the result is a lot smoother product or finished grade. We definitely don’t have to go over our grades again and again.”
Hulbert points out “we encounter some extremely hard surfaces out here to the point where we found it necessary to bring in a dozer and put the ripper down. But, with the Komatsu, we put the big shanks on the ripper and go in a slow mode, which again is a great time to switch over to the automatic transmission, and it will pull through some hard material.” He goes on to say “we get a lot of cemented cobble and a lot of caliche deposits and we can go through a set of teeth in a day. However, the Komatsu grader saves us the cost of bringing in a dozer; the power of this machine will truly surprise you.”
Hulbert and his operators like the overall design of the GD655 and they all agree the machine’s visibility is unsurpassed. They especially like the view the lower front widows provide and how the widows open up allowing the operator to clearly see the moldboard. Hulbert says “I think the blade visibility is the best in this machine class for seeing your blade and the ability to see the blue-tops.” He also likes the positioning range of the console saying “by getting the console down into your lap I can operate without leaning forward which makes it easier on my back.”
When asked what they consider in choosing a motor grader both agree price is important but it should not be the deciding factor. As Hulbert is quick to point out “I think the main part of any business goal is the productivity and reliability you will get from your machine. If you have a major breakdown and you lose a day of work that in turn has a ‘domino effect’ on the whole job and you never want to be the contractor who stalls the project.”
Hulbert recalls “when I traded in my first Komatsu Grader it had over 9,000 hours and it was only down once for a major repair. He adds that would be impressive for a machine anywhere but more so for a machine here in Phoenix when we are working in temperatures exceeding 114 degrees Fahrenheit for weeks at a time; the Komatsu graders have always performed flawlessly.”
Young, Swenson & Cross’ team agrees as one foreman says “I’m interested in the longevity of any machine. I always ask myself is this unit sturdy enough to handle the job and are we going to get our money out it and with Komatsu’s motor graders I know the reliability and productivity will always be there. For example, I recently used this GD655 unit on an 80-Acre site where I put down 3,500 tons of ABC Grade in about 5 hours. He adds “it would normally take 2 or maybe 3 days to put down that much material but with the Komatsu Grader we did it in just over half a day.”
Both companies enjoy the relationship, service and response they receive from Road Machinery’s sales and service staff. One foreman mentioned how the specialized motor grader training they received from Komatsu was initiated by Glenn and it is a perfect example of how Road Machinery always goes the extra mile. Another remarked how Glenn took it upon himself to organize the training at no charge to their company, adding “both my self and my operators have greatly benefited.”
Hulbert says “I think it would be hard for anyone to match the service and response time we receive from Road Machinery and their staff.” He recalls “I remember one time having a carrier bearing for my fan belt go out and while there is never a good time for this to happen the timing couldn’t be worse.” He explains “we were doing the final grade on a paving job and we were ‘just’ staying ahead of the pavers. I thought we were going to have to shut down the job and eat about 800 ton of asphalt at $66.00 per ton.”
Hulbert says “I called Road Machinery and they immediately dispatched a service tech with the part and we were up and running within the hour. Because of Road Machinery’s immediate response we didn’t have to absorb the cost of the asphalt nor did we have to send about 20 workers (my crew and the asphalt crew) home. It goes back to what I said about how falling behind on one part of the job can have a domino effect.”
“When it comes to sales and service I wouldn’t want to work with anyone other than Komatsu and Road Machinery,” say Hulbert. He is quick to add “when I walk into Road Machinery and tell them what I want or need they will do whatever it takes to suit my job regardless of the size or scope. Even if I just need to rent a piece of equipment for a day they treat me the same as if I were making a major purchase.”
Hulbert adds “I have been dealing with these guys since 1995 when I purchased my first motor grader and over the years I have built a personal relationship with them. Road Machinery has been as good as gold to me and I’m just a little guy compared to a lot of the construction companies and contractors in this town. If they treat me the way they do I can’t see them treating the big guys any better; I have really good luck with them.”