Dragon Quarry


Mar 27, 2008

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Thomaston, Maine. Since Dragon Quarry first began operations back in 1927 they have undergone numerous improvements in manufacturing, operators, technology and equipment. Komatsu America Corp. has become part of these advancements and since 2004 the Komatsu’s Rigid Trucks have been key to keeping this company’s current production output of 750,000 tons of concrete a year.

“As with any mining or quarry operation it’s all about productivity and cost per ton which means your digging and haulage cycle times and therefore the reliability of your equipment,” says Robert Barrett, Mobile Equipment Manager for Dragon’s Thomaston Locale. He adds “the biggest and the most crucial part of my job is to make sure the equipment is up and running when we need it and downtime for preventative maintenance is planned.”

“I take that responsibility very seriously,” says Barrett, “and I stress it to our employees as well. This place is going 24/7 and therefore every piece of equipment here at this plant needs to be running to sustain the entire operation. I don’t allow any piece of equipment to be run into the ground regardless of the machine’s age or the workload, it’s just a bad habit to get into.”

Barrett said his company became familiar with Komatsu equipment when they rented a PC200LC-6 for more than a year. He was impressed with the productivity and reliability of the unit so Dragon purchased a PC400LC-6 excavator with a hammer and put it to work in the quarry. Barrett says “we hammered with that machine every day for 5 years; we never had a single boom or stick crack or any type of structural damage to that excavator and we never put a pin or bushing in it either.”

When the time came for Dragon to update their fleet in 2004, it was the performance of Komatsu’s excavators that gave Barrett the confidence to consider using Komatsu’s larger construction and mining equipment.

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Barrett admits “I didn’t have a lot of experience with Komatsu’s larger equipment and with so much at stake I wanted to be sure their fleet was the proper fit. I talked it over with our sales rep at the time and he said he could arrange for us to look at some models in the workplace. Barrett agreed but “I stipulated I didn’t want to see or test new equipment. I wanted to visit working mines and quarries and see Komatsu machines that had accumulated some hours in the actual workplace.”

Barrett says “I traveled to a lot of mine and quarry sites throughout several states and I was able to see Komatsu’s equipment in action and talk to owners and operators. When I came back from that trip I was thoroughly convinced that Komatsu equipment could do the job for us; it has and it continues to do so.”

Barrett stresses the other reason for considering Komatsu’s larger equipment was the track record of R.C. Hazelton, Komatsu’s Northeast Distributor. “I knew Komatsu and R.C. Hazleton were committed to seeing their equipment all the way through its life cycle” says Barrett. “They didn’t just try to sell you a machine and then run; that may seem humorous and unthinkable but I assure you it has happened with other manufacturers and their dealers.”

Dragon made a six machine purchase including 3 Komatsu HD605-7 Rigid Trucks and Barrett says “they were and they remain well-received by everyone; the fleet of HD605 trucks are superior to the competition for so many reasons.” Barrett says “for example they are a lot faster in all terrain especially when hauling material out of the pit;” Barrett jokingly says “it got to the point we thought the Komatsu trucks were going to start pushing the competitor’s trucks to help them along.” He adds “but seriously, their speed is great and best of all their fuel consumption is better.”

When asked about Komatsu’s turning radius Barrett says “Komatsu always claims their trucks have a turning radius equal to that of the competitions next smaller model and their claim is 100% true.” He goes on to say “the Komatsu trucks come into the pit and pull around with one motion where the competition’s trucks have to come in and back up. These two features alone make for increased cycle times and production.”

Barrett feels the design of the inline six-cylinder engine on the Komatsu is far better than any of the competition. He says “the inline engine is easier to service with fewer parts than the competition. The only time I see the Komatsu Trucks in the shop are for their scheduled PM.”

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Barrett says if you study the Komatsu Truck you can see they put a lot of time and thought into the machine. He says “for example, if you look at the frame design the body sits lower as does the overall height. This gives you a lower center of gravity for a more stable and smoother ride.” He adds “from the ladders to the catwalks and handrails, everything is laid out for an operator to safely get into and out of the cab.”

When asked how the operators liked the HD605 trucks Barrett says “the operators were sold on the Komatsu trucks from the first time they used them.” Barrett adds “operator comfort is a big thing when you are sitting in a machine for 8-12 hours a day and the hydropneumatic shocks, radial tires and suspension seat on the Komatsu trucks all add up to a smoother ride.”

“We get the best or ‘worst’ of both seasons up here in terms of heat and cold” says Barrett, “and the cab heating and air conditioning units work great. Plus, the cabs are airtight as far as keeping dust out and the cab dampening system helps to keep noise levels to a minimum.”

“Our operators also like the commonality of the Komatsu machines and how the controls and the panels are laid out the same from one piece of Komatsu equipment to another,” says Barrett. “They can easily and more safely make the transition from one machine to another which is a huge benefit in training a new operator and getting them up to speed.”

Barrett points out “people here at Dragon wear more than one hat and perform more than one job; we don’t just have a truck operator and a wheel loader operator, they are capable of operating several pieces of equipment. Barrett goes on to say “we have two other plants and this one has fewer employees and yet we produce just as much or more material. Because of Komatsu’s equipment and our cross-training programs, our manpower costs are down and we are able to generate more profit.”

“I know Komatsu builds a lot of extras into their machines” says Barrett. “There is a substantial difference in the service intervals on the Komatsu Trucks and all Komatsu equipment over that of the competitor’s trucks.” He says “while one manufacturer claims you can run their trucks for 250 hours before servicing you can’t even get 200 hours; we have to do an oil change every 175 hours. Komatsu says we can get 500 hours between oil changes and we do without the oil breaking down. I know this because we have taken samples; as I said I don’t allow any piece of equipment to be run into the ground.” Barrett says “this amounts to more than a 2:1 ratio which is a great savings in scheduled downtime alone not to mention the cost of labor, oil and filters.”

As far as other service features on the HD605 Trucks Barrett says “once again Komatsu put some thought into their design because all the filters are centralized so you don’t have to keep switching sides to do all your PM’s and so forth.” He goes on to say “all the major components are easy to access and the greasing points are also grouped which reduces the chance of any port being missed.”

Barrett says “in my years of working at Dragon we only used one manufacturer’s equipment for a long time and I think we got into the mentality there was no-one else out there. He says “the competitor’s in turn felt they had a captive market and over time the parts and service support was not there.”

Barrett continues “now the other manufacturers have some competition staring them in the face and some good competition. As far as I’m concerned Komatsu is the only manufacturer who can go head-to-head with the competition and win!” Barrett knows “when a piece of equipment is down the immediate question asked of me by my superiors is not what happened or how it happened, but when do you expect the machine will up and running; R.C. Hazelton and Komatsu are able to provide those answers.”

Barrett adds “sure we have had some hiccups along the way and that is to be expected but overall the service and response we have received from R.C. Hazelton and Komatsu has been phenomenal. When I call R.C. Hazelton with a problem they don’t talk about whose fault it is or if the service call will be covered under warranty. First and foremost they are concerned about getting the unit back up and running.”

When asked his overall opinion of Komatsu Barrett says “remember this; here in the Northeast you are up here alone. When it comes to this industry not only do you need to have to have the right type of equipment or product to see you through, but you need the right kind of organization and people to run and support it. Komatsu and R.C. Hazelton fit into those roles perfectly. Komatsu has the right type of product and R.C. Hazleton definitely has the right business philosophy and the right people selling and more importantly backing up their product.”