Brystar Contracting


Jun 15, 2009

Komatsu equipment keeps on rolling...

In one sense, Brystar Contracting has come full circle. When the company began one of its latest earthmoving projects for the city of Beaumont, it went back to one of the original jobs it did in 1993.

That year marked the founding of Brystar Contracting, an up-and-coming company at the time. One way it cut its teeth was subcontracting work for the construction of Cattail Marsh, the city’s 650-acre wetlands that act as a water-treatment filter for the community’s sewer treatment. At the time, Bryan Phelps ran the company along with a partner, who has since left the company, and one employee. With only three people, the size and scope of the work Brystar Contracting could do was limited.

That’s no longer the case. When Brystar began its latest project at Cattail Marsh, it took the lead as the general contractor responsible for regrading, new construction of levees, removing existing piping and installing new pipe, and building new concrete structures. In all, the three-year, $10 million project will see Brystar Contracting move hundreds of thousands of yards of dirt and install more than a half mile of 54-inch, reinforced concrete pipe while removing more than a mile of old pipe.

“Even though we have a three-year timetable, our sights are set on finishing the project in a considerably shorter timetable,” said Phelps, who is sole owner and President of Brystar Contracting. “During time periods when the weather is nice and dry, we’ll put quite a bit of our manpower and equipment resources on it and hammer it hard. There’s enough work here, though, that even if there’s wet weather, we can still work on parts of the project.”

Long list of services

Finishing projects ahead of time has been a hallmark of Brystar Contracting from the beginning when Phelps decided he’d had enough of working for other companies. Having spent several years in the construction industry moving around the country, he came back to his roots in Beaumont in 1992 with the idea of being in business for himself.

“I figured it was the best way for me to take control,” recalled Phelps. “In the beginning, a lot of the work came in the private sector, doing earthwork and utility installation for developers on subdivisions. We still do a fair amount of that, but we’ve grown into doing municipal and state projects with an emphasis on utility projects. We also do a limited amount of work for developers in the commercial and industrial market.”

The list of services Brystar Contracting performs is long and varied, including soil stabilization, drainage systems, concrete paving, dewatering, hydroexcavation, trenchless technology consulting, slip-lining, surveying, design-build and construction management.

“Diversity in several markets plays a big role in the company’s success,” observed Phelps. “The other factor in our favor is that we’re not locked into any particular niches. Brystar is well-rounded when it comes to earthmoving services. The Cattail Marsh project is a good example of that. It involved moving mass quantities of dirt, pipe installation and all the related work that goes along with it.”

Brystar Contracting has a long list of completed projects for the city of Beaumont that involve various aspects of its services, including improvements to Main Street, the aerated lagoon and Bunns Bluff Canal levee.

“Most of the work we do is right here at home or in the very near vicinity,” said Phelps. “By being diversified, we’re able to find enough projects in the immediate area that we don’t have to travel far to look for work. The employees like that because they’re home every night, which I believe is important. Because of that, I have little turnover and have built a very solid staff that’s experienced and dedicated to a job well done.

“The other benefit is that many of them have been with Brystar a long time,” he added. “Several of the group have worked their way up from laborer to a superintendent. With their help, I’ve been able to build up to six crews. For the most part, the crews are dedicated to a specific area, such as pipe work or excavation, but everyone on staff can perform nearly any type of work we do, if need be. They’re well-rounded, and an outstanding group.”

Included in the group of 70-plus employees are Phelps’ father Everett, who does estimating, his brother Daryl, who is General Superintendent and his uncle Chuck, who is a Superintendent.

Productive Komatsu equipment keeps rolling

While Phelps emphasizes that having outstanding people is the top reason for Brystar’s success, he also believes in giving them the proper equipment to boost production. For moving dirt, he said Komatsu excavators are the machines of choice. Brystar’s latest additions include two PC200LC-8s and a PC228USLC-3, all equipped with KOMTRAX. He also has several other excavators ranging in size from the compact PC15 to the PC400.

“Komatsu excavators are our main production machines, and have been for a long time, because they’re ready to go to work every day, just like us,” he said. “We don’t worry about downtime with them, and that’s why Komatsu is our excavator of choice. We use the larger excavators for everything from mass excavation to digging trenches and setting pipe and structures in utility work. The tight-tail-swing models can work in tight spaces without sacrificing production.

“I also believe having KOMTRAX on the new machines makes them more productive too,” he added. “I was a little reluctant about it at first because I really couldn’t see the benefit, but Komatsu contacted me by e-mail not long ago about an error code on one of the PC200s. I had a mechanic in the area where the machine was located and sent him over to check it out. The operator had just noticed the error code as well. I knew about it before the operator did. I’m convinced it’s a great tool for fleet management and tracking production and idle times. It’s something we’ll look for in all our new Komatsu machinery going forward.”

Because the excavators have proven so reliable, Brystar Contracting has added other Komatsu equipment to its fleet, including WA180 and WA250 wheel loaders, a WB140 backhoe loader and four D39PX dozers.

“We realized from our first purchases that Komatsu equipment was reliable and productive, and we’ve never been disappointed,” said Phelps. “They’re all workhorses. We especially like the D39PX models. In this area, the ground is often wet, and with the wider tracks we’re able to work in conditions that would normally slow or stop machines with narrow tracks.”

Brystar Excavating purchased all of its Komatsu machinery from WPI’s Beaumont branch with the help of District Manager Scott Smith. Brystar employs three full-time mechanics, but turns to WPI for occasional service help as needed.

“A strong dealership that stands behind the equipment it sells is essential to a business like ours. Scott and the staff at WPI have been tremendous to work with, and that’s a big reason why we’ve continued to buy Komatsu equipment,” said Phelps. “There are times when we need some extra help, and WPI responds quickly to any need we have. They firmly believe they’re a partner in our business, and that our success is theirs as well.”

Just the right size

Phelps has been successful in building Brystar Contracting into a multifaceted company that can work in several sectors depending on market conditions. It’s what he set out to do when he founded the company 16 years ago.

“It goes back to offering quality work and customer service,” said Phelps. “That’s what I’ve always focused on and stressed to my employees. It’s the reason we’ve continued to grow throughout the years. Now we’re at a point where growth isn’t a priority because Brystar is able to do several jobs at once without sacrificing quality. I don’t ever want to see that change.”