GEMCO Construction


April 21, 2014

Production higher, costs lower with Komatsu

Not many companies can say they have more bid opportunities than they can handle, but for many years, this has been the case for Langley, British Columbia-based GEMCO Construction.

“I believe the reason we’re so in demand is two-fold,” said Doug Bloomfield, who became President and CFO of GEMCO about two years ago. “We have solid relationships with the developers we work for. Generally, consulting engineers have a list of contractors they recommend to their clients, or the clients have a list of contractors they rely on. Fortunately, we’re on most of those lists. Also, we’re willing to take on a wide range of project sizes, from $50,000 up to multimillion-dollar projects.”

Many of GEMCO’s relationships go back to 1986 when the company was founded as a land development and municipal infrastructure contractor. Still, 27 years later, that remains the focus, but now the emphasis is toward private sector work that includes residential subdivisions and multifamily housing, as well as business parks.

“Our list of services is extensive, starting with mass excavation and including cut and fill operations,” said Bloomfield. “We perform road building, pad construction, underground utility installation, sidewalks and other associated work. Customers appreciate that they can turn to one company to handle a large portion of their project, knowing that we’ll deliver on time and budget.

“They also appreciate our experience in dealing with varying soil conditions in the Lower Mainland,” he added. “We have worked in almost all the municipalities in metro Vancouver, the north shore and the Fraser Valley, and our staff can basically go anywhere within that range and tell you what types of soils they will encounter. That’s a huge advantage because we already know the best practices for efficiency and production before we ever bid on a project.”

Excellent staff mix

GEMCO Construction generally has six to eight projects in progress at any one time. During the past two years, the company has been working on a 179-lot subdivision development on Burke Mountain in Coquitlam. GEMCO provides stripping, cut-and-fill operations and utility installation.

“Working on the side of a mountain is challenging,” Bloomfield pointed out. “There are creeks running through the area and the soils are easily erodible. The area also gets a lot more rain than Langley or Surrey. To overcome these conditions requires a lot of erosion and sediment control work, such as siltation control ponds, rock-lined ditches and straw and poly on slopes and spoil piles.”

Because the site is so steep, it needed more than 6,000 square metres of retaining walls and a special drainage system in the boulevards. The system is a series of perforated drains and dams to better handle the rainwater so it doesn’t overload the storm sewer system.

On other projects, GEMCO recently removed contaminated soil and imported about 25,000 tonnes of gravel fill as part of a road for a new apartment complex, along with relocating more than 250 metres of 1,500 mm diameter storm sewer. It also completed about a kilometre-and-a-half of water and sanitary sewer for another subdivision, and it put in curbs, gutters, sidewalks, and utilities as part of redevelopment of Guildford Mall in Surrey.

To complete its projects on time and budget, GEMCO employs a base staff of about 50 people, but increases to near 75 during peak construction season. Key individuals include General Manager Chris Charlton, Chief Estimator Skip Singel, Estimators Bernie Hoyer and Dave Simpson, Dispatcher/Purchasing Robin Kirby and Superintendents Ray Amundson and George Hammerstein.

“Our staff ranges from people who have 30 or more years of experience to those with just a few years,” said Bloomfield. “We believe that’s an excellent mix because it sets GEMCO up for the future. The older staff members train the younger. That’s a cycle that’s perpetuated itself in the past and will continue in the future. All of our people take great pride in providing quality work, which in turn has led to a long list of repeat customers. Our employees deserve a great deal of credit for GEMCO’s success.”

Komatsu provides best value

Because GEMCO Construction’s work varies from massive earthmoving projects to small utility installations, the company has a diverse equipment fleet. Bloomfield estimates that about 80 percent of it is comprised of Komatsu pieces, the bulk of which are excavators used for everything from earthwork to utility trenching to sidewalk preparation. Recent acquisitions include Tier 4 Interim PC360LC-10 and PC490LC-10 excavators purchased with the help of SMS Sales Rep Dave LaRiviere.

“About 10 years ago, we purchased our first pieces of Komatsu equipment. We bought a package of excavators, including PC200, PC300 and PC400 sizes, which are our mainline machines,” said Lead Operator Pat Gibson. “We’ve since added several pieces, including tight tail swing models, which are great for working in areas with limited space. The smaller PC138 is used quite a lot for our sidewalk work.

“The Tier 4 Interim excavators upped the ante,” he added. “The cycle times are faster than the older models, so our production is higher. The engines are more efficient, so our fuel costs are lower. Factor in that routine service on the Tier 4 Interim machines is covered through Komatsu CARE for the first 2,000 hours, and our overall owning and operating costs are down.”

GEMCO Construction has various size dozers as well and an HM300 articulated haul truck. “We’ve found that Komatsu offers us the best value in terms of price, production, efficiency and reliability,” said Gibson. “Our history shows that we can put 10,000 hours on a Komatsu machine with minimal or no costs other than routine maintenance.”

Under the Komatsu CARE program, SMS Equipment provides complimentary service on the PC360LC-10 and PC490LC-10 excavators. SMS tracks the machines through KOMTRAX, contacts GEMCO and sets up the service at a convenient time.

“We were already impressed with the machinery and support Komatsu and SMS provide, but the Komatsu CARE program is added value,” said Bloomfield. “We’ve also found value in financing through Komatsu Financial. Komatsu, Dave and SMS believe in building long-term relationships, and they have always taken very good care of us.”

Plans for expansion

Bloomfield predicted that GEMCO’s bidding opportunities will remain strong, which could lead to growth for the company.

“Land development looks to be solid in this area for quite some time,” said Bloomfield. “We have long-range plans in place, and we are hopeful that during the next five years, the business will expand by 25 percent.”