When Jeff Bronze and Paul Frazier started Bronze Construction five years ago, it was a way for them to do their own site work for their development company. While Bronze Construction still does plenty of that, it also operates as a full-service earthwork contractor for outside customers as well.
The Memphis, Tenn., company does everything from negotiated clearing, grubbing and site preparation to final grading, paving and landscaping for residential, commercial and industrial clients. It also serves as a hard-bid general contractor on a variety of state and municipal work throughout western Tennessee, northern Mississippi and eastern Arkansas.
“We’ve always preferred to do everything possible on a project ourselves so we can control the schedule,” said Project Manager Don Fletcher. “Our customers appreciate it because they only deal with one contractor, and they know from past experience that we’ll do a quality job on-time and on-budget. But we’re not locked into doing everything. We have multiple crews, so we can split out services and do only a paving, dirt or utility job.”
Such is the case for Bronze Construction as it works to complete a $1.2 million utility project for the city of Trenton, Tenn. Plans call for the company to install nearly four miles of varying sizes of sanitary sewer pipe from a recently constructed holding pond to the city’s treatment plant. Several bores had to be made, but the vast majority of work called for open-cut trenches. Bronze Construction began work in the summer of 2007 and is slated to finish this spring, with the city bringing the new system on line in May.
“We’ve had several challenges, especially with wet conditions,” Fletcher acknowledged. “In some places, we’re working right next to the Deer Fork River, so the water table is fairly high. We’ve had to do quite a bit of pumping. In addition, we’re going down to 18 feet in spots, which means double trench boxes.”
Wider footprint offers increased stability
To pull the trench shields and dig down to the depths required, Bronze Construction uses its new Komatsu PC400LC-8 excavator equipped with the optional Variable Track Gauge (VTG) that, for added stability, gives the machine a wider footprint than the standard PC400 — about four inches on each side. It also adds about 3,500 pounds more to the Dash-8 machine, which weighs 98,564 to 100,636 pounds without VTG. Overall width of the VTG complies with many local transportation regulations.
“The Trenton utility project required a machine that offered the versatility of moving the trench boxes and digging deep without losing power or increasing cycle times,” said Fletcher, who is actively involved in all equipment purchases. “The PC400 VTG offers that and more. Because the tracks are wider, it has more stability. That’s really important because the operator doesn’t have to constantly worry about tipping in hard or deep cuts, or when moving the trench boxes, which can often put a lot of stress on a machine. It gives us more lifting capacity, which speeds up productivity. Because of its power and stability, we don’t have to move it as much as we have to move other excavators. We can steadily go about putting pipe in the ground without excess movement.”
Tier 3 engine boosts production with less fuel
Fletcher noted that fuel economy is a bonus to the productivity of the PC400LC-8 with VTG. Like other Komatsu Dash-8 excavator models, it’s powered by Komatsu’s ecot3 Tier 3 engine that offers more horsepower with less fuel and lower emissions than its predecessors.
“It’s been very fuel-efficient. We’re using less fuel with this compared to our other excavators. Coupled with increased productivity, that means our cost per yard to move dirt is less than before. We noticed that benefit right away when we purchased the machine last summer and used it on a mass-excavation job. We moved about 200,000 yards of dirt very quickly. That experience convinced us to make it our main piece of earthmoving equipment on this project, and it likely will be on most of our future ones as well. It’s a workhorse.”
Despite its power and workhorse-like disposition, the PC400LC-8 with VTG is very operator-friendly, according to Fletcher. He points out that the cab is roomy with all the creature comforts as well as an easy-to-read monitor that lets the operator choose among its five modes: Power, Economy, Lifting, Breaker and Attachment. It also alerts the operator to error codes and allows him to track hours and fuel usage. He can even view what’s behind him by switching on a rearview camera located at the top of the counterweight.
“Our operators love the smooth operation and everyone likes how quiet it is,” Fletcher said. “You can stand right next to it and have a conversation without even knowing the machine is running. The rearview camera is an added level of visibility. He can easily switch the camera on to see what’s behind him before making a move.”
KOMTRAX increases value
Bronze Construction ensures timely maintenance service on its equipment, thanks to Komatsu’s KOMTRAX machine-tracking system that comes standard on all of its new equipment. KOMTRAX monitors the machine and alerts the company’s distributor, Power Equipment Company in Memphis, when it’s time for routine service. It also identifies error codes and sends e-mails to both Bronze Construction and Power Equipment.
“It’s a very powerful tool because it ensures we keep up with routine services and maintenance,” said Fletcher. “Power Equipment handles all our service. KOMTRAX alerts them when the machine nears certain service-hour levels. They call us to say it’s due for service, then they schedule a convenient time and take care of it. I can see how using KOMTRAX can be helpful in extending the life of the machine.”
Fletcher said he expects the life of the machine to last well past the nearly 10,000 hours Bronze Construction had on its previous PC400 that the Dash-8 with VTG replaced.
“We got excellent results with our older PC400. It was still very productive when we replaced it with this machine. That was a big indicator of the quality of Komatsu excavators and that’s why we bought the Dash-8 model. Its new technology, fuel economy and increased productivity make it a powerful machine. We did look at other brands, but compared to machines in a similar size class, the PC400LC-8 with VTG was a better value.”