John Stuart Sitework LTD.

KOMATSU'S FLEET AND SERVICING ENSURES CONTRACTORS SUCCESS

May 01, 2007

When John Stuart Sitework LTD. began serving customers in the San Antonio area, the types of jobs Stuart and his partner, Ricky Beach, could do were fairly limited.

“It was basically the two of us, two pickups and a few garden tools,” said Stuart, who along with Beach, struck out on his own 11 years ago after working for another company for nearly a decade. “We’d do about anything that anybody would let us do. We started buying some equipment, leasing some equipment, and, in some cases, borrowing equipment. Through a lot of hard work, we were able to build our business up over time.”

Their hard work has produced one of the largest and most comprehensive site-work companies in the San Antonio marketplace. John Stuart Sitework has grown from those humble beginnings into a 170-employee-strong business that offers customers a wide range of services. The company’s focus is currently on doing subdivision work for residential developers. Occasionally, John Stuart Sitework breaks out its services, but Stuart notes that’s a rare exception.

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“It’s our preference, and our customers’, to do a full site package that includes everything from clearing to paving,” said Stuart. “We do all the mass excavations, install wet and dry utilities, build the house pads and do some of our own paving. Residential developments have been our main area of concentration the past several years. Our customers have kept us so busy in that segment of the market, we haven’t had to look elsewhere.”

Stuart credits the company’s drive to provide quality customer service as the reason customers continue to call John Stuart Sitework when they need a job done right and on time. Stuart said the company often does value engineering designed to help customers save time and money.

“If we can work with customers to find a better way of doing something, it benefits us both,” he noted. “It’s a way for them to get their job done faster and at a lower cost. But it’s not a way to cut corners. We simply won’t do that. But if we can engineer a way to get a job done faster without risking safety or structural integrity, we’ll do it. Our ability to do that for customers, and finish with a quality job, has helped us gain a lot of repeat business.”

Deep Creek Materials begins operation

It also helps that Stuart and Beach continually look for ways to better serve their clientele. With that ideal in mind, they opened Deep Creek Materials, a 700-acre quarry operation located northwest of San Antonio, near Medina Lake. The quarry currently employs five people, including Manager Marcie Clute.

“We believed that to be a fully rounded company that could keep costs in line for our customers, we needed to provide as many of our own materials as possible,” Stuart explained. “We started developing the quarry a couple years ago, and began producing and selling materials about a year ago. We’re producing flexible base that we use for roadways, utility rock for our trench work and stabilized rock for construction entrances. Our plan is to expand our offerings and make clean aggregates as well.”

“Most of what we make goes to supply our own material needs on John Stuart Sitework projects, but we have built a good list of customers who are coming to us for their material needs,” Clute said. “Generally, they pick up the materials themselves, but we do deliver.”

Employees deliver customer satisfaction

Delivering a job on time and budget has been a hallmark of John Stuart Sitework since its inception, thanks in large part to an experienced, dedicated staff, according to Stuart. Employees are split among several utility, grading and staking crews, which help the company stay on top of the up to 25 projects the company has going at any one time.

“The company has my name on it, but our employees have had just as big a hand in its success as Rick or I have,” Stuart acknowledged. “Some have been with us since the beginning. They all have the attitude instilled in them that the customer’s the most important part of our business. As long as they continue to do that, our business will flourish. They all play a key role.”

New Komatsu equipment paying off

Also playing a key role in John Stuart Sitework is a top-of-line fleet of equipment, including nearly 40 new Komatsu excavators, wheel loaders, backhoe loaders, motor graders and a skid steer the company recently leased from WPI’s San Antonio branch with the help of Sales Representative Shorty Pena.

“We decided it was in our best interest to go with a newer fleet of equipment to save maintenance costs and ensure uptime, and our Komatsu equipment has proven the decision was a good one,” said Stuart. “We had several dealers put together a package of equipment, and at the end of the day, WPI stood out. Because of our long history with Shorty and WPI, we knew the support they promised would be there, and that’s a big factor in our equipment-buying decisions.”

The fact that Komatsu had long been a part of John Stuart Sitework’s equipment list played a key role as well, according to Equipment Manager Jack Schul. Schul noted that the new machines feature Komatsu’s KOMTRAX equipment monitoring system, which the company uses to track oil samples online.

“We sought input from our superintendents and foremen who work with the equipment every day,” said Schul, who also buys parts from WPI online. “They were very pleased with the Komatsu equipment we had in the past, especially its speed and reliability. They were very happy we chose Komatsu when we decided on the big package.”

Included in the package was a new WA500-6 wheel loader that the company uses at Deep Creek Materials for loading trucks and stockpiling materials. It features an ecot3, Tier 3 engine that gives it more power with less fuel consumption. “It’s fantastic to run,” said Operator Art Molina. “It has great power, and with the five-and-one-half-yard bucket, I can load a truck in a couple passes. It responds very well and is comfortable to ride in. I love everything about it.”

Other wheel loaders in John Stuart Sitework’s fleet include several 134-horsepower WA250-5s used for a variety of tasks. “They’re just the right size for us because we can use them for backfilling and carrying rock for trenches,” said Schul. “We put JRB quick couplers on them so we can switch to forks for carrying pipe. They offer us a lot of versatility.”

Versatility plays a role in the company’s digging machines as well. John Stuart’s recent equipment addition included a PC300LC-7 and four PC270LC-7 excavators, along with eight WB140-2 backhoe loaders. “We can use the excavators for mass excavations, digging trenches, setting pipe, hammering and clearing,” said Schul. “In all applications, we’ve found them to be powerful with good cycle times. The backhoe loaders give us some flexibility to do small hammering and utility jobs in places where a large machine isn’t feasible. The operators like them because they have excavator controls, which they’re used to. It makes for a smooth transition going from one machine to another.”

John Stuart Sitework added two GD655-3 motor graders, an SK1020-5 skid steer and several Bomag rollers to round out its equipment list. “Komatsu motor graders and skid steers are new for us, and we’ve been very pleased with how easy they are to operate,” Stuart said. “We’ve used Bomag rollers for years, so it was a natural to make them part of the package.”

Continued quality

Continuing to offer customers a large package of services is the goal of John Stuart Sitework, which has grown to the size Stuart wants it to be. Recent projects include the Silver Oaks subdivision, where crews moved nearly 50,000 yards of dirt and installed 20,000 feet of water and sewer pipe, among other improvements.

“That was a good-size project, but it’s not necessarily typical of what we do because there is not a typical job for us,” said Stuart. “We’re diversified from the standpoint that we work for several different developers and homebuilders who build homes in all different price ranges. Our projects go from $500,000 to $5 million, depending on how much needs to be done.

“We pride ourselves on being able to complete jobs in that size range with 100 percent satisfaction,” he further emphasized. “We’ve built the company the right way, with slow and steady growth. If we continue to get bigger, though, we may not be able to meet our customers’ needs as well as we do, and I’m not about to let that happen.”