Komatsu efficient equipment adds to productivity
For the third straight year, Grangaard
Construction’s work load covers every month
in the calendar. That was one goal Yancey and
Jeremiah Grangaard had when they founded the
bridge construction company eight years ago.
“We worked for someone else for quite a
while, and during the winter we’d be shut
down,” said Yancey, who’s President of
Watertown-based Grangaard Construction.
“We found that hard to deal with. Starting out,
we wanted to get established and build into
a company that works year-round. It’s better
for us and our employees who work hard to
support their families.”
Grangaard Construction now has 25
full-time employees, including Yancey’s wife
Kim, who’s Secretary/Treasurer. That’s about
a five-fold increase since the brothers founded
the business in 2002. During peak construction
times, the company’s current employment
numbers can nearly double.
Key individuals at Grangaard Construction
include Project Superintendent Darrell Barse,
Crane Operators Mike Smith and Daniel Barse,
Foremen Dan Starzl, Mike Moldenhauer
and Jeremy Moldenhauer and Equipment
Operators Jerry Grangaard and Doug Conklin.
These individuals represent the core of
Grangaard Construction and bring well over
200 years of bridge-building experience to the
“There are ups and downs depending on
work load, but we have a very solid core of
employees who have grown with us,” said
Jeremiah, Vice President of Construction.
“The majority of our staff are guys in their 30s
who have five or more years with Grangaard.
The experience they’ve gained, as well as the
experience many of our older employees bring
to the table, is invaluable. It’s helped us build
to this point, and bodes well for the future.”
Among the veteran bridge builders on
Grangaard’s staff is the boys’ father Jerry, who
owned a similar business in the Watertown
area for many years. It’s where Yancey and
Jeremiah cut their teeth and it gave them the
background to start their own company.
“Like a lot of contractors, we grew up in
the business and caught the bug to continue
working construction,” recalled Yancey. “We
worked for dad from the time we were about
12 or 13 until we got out of high school. I really
can’t imagine us doing anything else.”
Broad range of work
Being bridge builders, 100 percent of
Grangaard Construction’s work falls into
the public, hard-bid sector. Grangaard does
subcontract, but mostly they work as a general
contractor. Recent projects highlight their range
of capabilities in terms of size and scope.
Last April, Grangaard Construction started its
largest project ever, a $5.8 million phase of the
69th Street extension in Sioux Falls. Grangaard’s
work involved construction of a bridge over
railroad tracks with approaches on each side.
At its height, one approach measures nearly 30
feet above the tracks. To get there, about 40,000
square feet of concrete panels were placed as
walls on either side of the two-lane road.
In between, straps were placed to tie the
walls together and the entire approach was
filled with 100,000 tons of rock and sand to
ensure stability of the road bed. Dirt makes
up the bulk of the material for building the
approach on the other side.
“The first part of the project involved
building aggregate piers to stabilize the
area, which is basically a slough,” explained
Jeremiah. “We did much of the work early on,
which included placing that sand and rock.
We subbed out quite a bit of earthmoving
— 50,650 tons of select-fill embankment and
91,767 cubic yards of borrow dirt.”
During the same time, Grangaard
Construction worked on building a new
bridge and approaches on Highway 111 in
Lincoln County. At $350,000 for the entire
contract, it shows the other end of the
spectrum of Grangaard’s resumé.
“It’s the type of job we call a filler,” Yancey
noted. “It involves building a structure and
approach grading on either side. There’s a lot
of this type of work in South Dakota, which
involves replacing a lone 60- to 70-year-old
bridge in the middle of the country.”
A similar project, albeit larger, marked
Grangaard’s first job. The company built a $1.2
million box culvert, subbing the grading out.
Grangaard Construction does minor amounts
of dirt moving, typically 4,000 yards or less, on
projects such as the Highway 111 bridge, but
leaves bulk earthmoving to others.
“Our specialty is bridge construction, so we
leave major earthwork to subs or the general
contractor if we’re a sub,” said Jeremiah.
“We’ve developed good relationships with
several contractors, and often work with them
repeatedly. That was another goal of ours.”
Referral leads to DMI, Komatsu
A word-of-mouth referral from one of those
contractors led the Grangaards to DMI for
equipment purchases. The company worked
with Aberdeen-based Sales Representative
Darrel Serfling to purchase Komatsu
machinery: a PC300HD-7 excavator, a
WA380-6 wheel loader and a D31PX-22 dozer.
Grangaard Construction also has an older
WA300 wheel loader.
“DMI has certainly lived up to the referral
we got,” acknowledged Yancey. “We’re almost
exclusively working with Darrel and DMI for
equipment purchase, rental and service. We do
only routine service work, so we rely on DMI
to handle any larger issues on our Komatsus
and other brands. They’re good about
answering questions over the phone to avoid
a service call, but when we do need them to
come out, they get to us quickly.”
The Grangaards noted that with newer
Komatsu pieces, they rarely need to call DMI.
“When you’re working in remote areas like we
do, it’s important to have equipment you can
trust. We appreciate that Komatsu delivers on
that account,” said Jeremiah. “Our work often
involves moving materials on creek and river
beds, which are not the place to break down.
The PC300HD allows us to dig deep when we
need it. It also has the lifting capacity that’s
necessary in bridge building, including placing
riprap, which is common on our jobs. That
versatility is why we got it. Next to cranes, it’s
our most-used machine.”
“The D31 offers us versatility too,” added
Yancey. “The 69th Street project is a good
example. We had to place rock and grade around
the piers, and it did that easily, even up close to
the piers where a larger machine was too big. At
the same time, it allowed us to grade dirt in open
areas, and is perfect for grading approaches on
the smaller bridge projects we do.”
Grangaard Construction placed rock on the
69th Street project with its WA380 wheel loader.
“One of the greatest features is its traction,”
Jeremiah pointed out. “It allows us to work in
places where before we would get stuck because
of wet conditions. The technology in the WA380
makes it much more efficient as well.”
The Grangaards plan to be more efficient as
well; it’s another goal of theirs.
“Careful planning plays a big role in
whether a business is successful or not, and
that’s something we take into each project we
do,” said Yancey. “But there’s always room
for improvement, and we take that approach,
too. We’ve built a solid reputation through our
hard work and that of our employees, who
we’re very proud of.”
“We’re about the size we want to stay,”
added Jeremiah. “We typically have two or
three projects going at once. Doing those on
time and on budget is essential, and we want
to continue to deliver on that.”