Kenneth Lamb Construction

CONROE NICHE CONTRACTOR MAINTAINS SUCCESS WITH SOLE FOCUS ON UNDERGROUND UTILITY WORK

Jun 25, 2012

Reliable, productive Komatsu equipment contributes to success

Last year marked another milestone for Kenneth Lamb Construction Company as it hit its 40th anniversary. Vice President Ronnie Lamb said there are two main reasons the Conroe-based company has maintained success.

“One is that we’re a strong family business, always have been,” said Lamb. “The other is that we have our niche, and we don’t really stray outside of that. By focusing on doing one thing and doing it right, we’ve gained expertise that helps us deliver projects on time and on budget, often ahead of time. Our customers appreciate that.”

Kenneth Lamb Construction Company’s niche is installing water, sanitary- and storm-sewer underground utilities, its sole focus for the past 20 years. It is often no small feat that the company delivers projects on time and on budget, considering many of its jobs involve working on congested sites and in open trenches that are routinely deep.

“We don’t shy away from tough projects,” declared Lamb. “It’s common for us to do projects that involve going down 20 to 30 feet or more. Because of our geography, that often means we’re running into water, so we have to take the necessary steps to deal with that, such as installing well points. Many companies aren’t willing to take on such jobs, and that plays right into our hand. It narrows the field.”

Ronnie Lamb has gained the experience in doing those types of projects and others because he’s worked at Kenneth Lamb Construction since its beginning in 1971, when his father, who has since passed away, founded the business. At first, he worked part time, but quickly moved up to full time and began running a crew.

“When dad founded the business, it was basically a one-man show; he concentrated on digging and cleaning out roadside ditches and repairing culverts,” Lamb recalled. “About two years in, he started doing some utility work. For several years we continued to do both types of work, but eventually phased everything else out and turned exclusively to utilities.”

A dedicated family, staff

Today, Lamb oversees a staff of about 65 that’s split into three underground crews and one clean-up crew, as well as truck drivers and office help. Included in the latter are his two daughters, Angie Dotter and Holly Thomas, his mother, Bobbie Lamb, who is President, and his son, Ronnie Jr.

“It’s a pleasure to come to work every day and see family members who take pride in maintaining the reputation for quality customer service for which we’ve become known,” said Ronnie. “Everyone understands their role and is committed to the company’s success.”

He is quick to point out that, in addition to family members, employees contribute greatly to Kenneth Lamb Construction’s success. The vast majority have decades of experience, including such key personnel as Estimator Trey Kissane and Foremen Javier Valdez, Gary Larner and Casey Kelly.

“I can’t be on every jobsite, so I put my trust in those people and their judgement, and they don’t let me down,” said Lamb. “In turn, they have good workers on their crews who understand what it takes to do any job safely and efficiently. Overall, we have an excellent staff here, and they deserve much of the credit for our success.”

Hitting the “sweet spot”

Most of Kenneth Lamb Construction’s work involves hard-bid projects for municipalities as well as private developers, mainly in the Houston area. It often bids as a general contractor, subbing out work like clearing and paving. One such project, about two years ago in the city of Conroe, involved installing about 30,000 feet of pipe. At $3.6 million, it was the largest job the company had ever done.

But not far behind are two more recent projects that each totaled about $3 million. One was Bridgeland Parkway Section 5 that involved water, sanitary and storm utilities, including about 2,700 feet of 30-inch sanitary line, 32 feet deep in spots. Large-diameter storm sewer and box culverts were part of the job as well.

More recently, Kenneth Lamb Construction put in roughly 20,000 feet of water, sanitary and storm lines for Springwoods Municipal Utility District 2 as part of a residential subdivision project to support public infrastructure. A crew also put in 1,800 feet of 12-inch water line, and about 100 feet of 66-inch reinforced concrete storm pipe for a commercial job in Katy.

“Our projects typically fall in the $200,000 to $3 million range,” noted Estimator Trey Kissane. “We’ve seen quite a few projects at the upper end during the past few years. Our sweet spot tends to be $500,000 to $700,000, and lately about 95 percent of our work falls under the public municipal market.”

Komatsu stability, longevity make a difference

To dig utility trenches, do minor clearing and backfilling, Kenneth Lamb Construction mainly turns to Komatsu excavators and dozers. Ronnie began using Komatsu excavators around the time the company switched its focus solely to underground work, about 20 years ago. For nearly that long, he’s worked with veteran WPI Sales Representative Mark Rickett. Recent acquisitions include PC300, PC350, PC400 and PC200 excavators, as well as D61PX-15 dozers.

“At the time of our first purchase, we bought a brand-new PC300 and a competitive machine of the same size,” recalled Lamb. “The difference was night and day. The Komatsu had better balance and stability. In fact, we had to weld a larger counterweight on the other brand because it tipped under the same conditions. That cemented Komatsu as our machine of choice.

“That’s continued to remain the case and why we added more excavators,” he noted. “They give us good production, even in deep digging. We really like the D61PX dozers as well. Because we run into wet ground often, the wide tracks on the PX models make a big difference. They have lower ground pressure, so we can keep working.”

Lamb added that better stability, balance and production aren’t the only factors in buying Komatsu. “Komatsu’s longevity is unmatched, as far as we’re concerned. We’ve run some of our Komatsu machines as many as 20,000 hours without doing much more than routine maintenance.”

Kenneth Lamb Construction handles that routine maintenance itself, calling on WPI for help as needed. “For something that’s beyond routine, we can call Mark or anyone else at WPI and know that they’ll get to us quickly,” said Lamb, who’s purchased other equipment from WPI, including Bomag compaction machinery. “WPI does most of the work for us in the field, which is a time and expense savings. Mark has been terrific to work with through the years. The relationship we’ve built with WPI is great. We consider them a partner in our business.”