Flatiron Construction

NATIONAL CONTRACTOR OPENS UTAH OFFICE AND QUICKLY BECOMES MAJOR, HEAVY-CIVIL PLAYER

Aug 12, 2011

Outstanding productivity of Komatsu equipment

Flatiron Construction is one of the leading contractors in the U.S. A division of HOCHTIEF, a top international provider of constructionrelated services, Flatiron’s 2010 revenue exceeded $1.15 billion. The award-winning company ranks 37th overall on Engineering News-Record’s Top 400 Contractors list. It is the nation’s sixth-largest transportation contractor and eleventh-ranked domestic heavy contractor. Headquartered near Denver, Flatiron has regional locations throughout the U.S., including a Utah office in American Fork (near Salt Lake City).

The company’s rapid, recent growth in Utah demonstrates just how quickly it has become a major player in the state’s construction scene. Flatiron arrived just a little more than two years ago and already employs several hundred people in Utah. It has several highway projects and other jobs under construction in the state.

With the absorption of Ellsworth Paulsen Construction Co., Flatiron has also added water/wastewater expertise and won more than $50 million in water/wastewater projects across Utah, with several treatment plants under construction. Flatiron installs systems ranging from reverse osmosis in West Jordan, Utah, to membrane technology in Henderson City, Nev. The company is slowly venturing into small pipeline jobs and mechanical plants.

“Flatiron is a relative newcomer to Utah, but was able to hit the ground running, thanks in part to assembling a top staff,” acknowledged Dennis Ashton, Deputy Project Manager. “The company won some big jobs early and we proceeded to hire the best people we could find to run those jobs.”

“One of the things that sets Flatiron apart from some competitors is its resources,” added Construction Manager Ardell Allred. “When we need something to do a job, we get it. It doesn’t take an act of Congress to get a piece of equipment or to hire additional people. The mind-set here is to do whatever it takes to deliver a quality project and do it safely, on schedule and on budget. Flatiron gives us the tools we need to make that happen.”

Timpanogos Highway Project

One of Flatiron’s Utah jobs is a major UDOT project, building a new seven-mile stretch of State Route 92 in northern Utah County. To be known as the Timpanogos Highway, it will upgrade State Route 92 from a two-lane road to a five-lane highway, which will connect Interstate 15 in northeast Lehi with State Route 74 in Highland.

In addition to dramatically improving State Route 92, the project also includes 4.5 miles of non-stop commuter lanes from I-15 to Highland Boulevard, as well as construction of multi-use trails to upgrade the existing trail system. The new roads will greatly improve traffic flow to the rapidly growing region east of Lehi, which includes Alpine, Highland and Cedar Hills.

Actual construction of the new highway started in June of 2009. The project is expected to be complete, as scheduled, by September 30 of this year.

“It’s definitely been a challenge,” said Allred. “Three things stand out. One, not disrupting traffic flow while we’re working. Two, well-above-normal rainfall, resulting in the wettest spring on record. And three, painstaking underground work associated with utility relocations.

“Regarding the amount of underground work, this could almost be considered a utility job with a paving element,” he added. “By the time it’s done, we’ll have laid 67,500 feet of storm drain, ranging from 18-inch up to 72-inch. We relocated most of Lehi City’s water line. We relocated Questar’s main-feed, high-pressure gas line through the area. We relocated critical fiber optic lines throughout the project. With all the different cities, counties and power entities, it takes a great deal of planning, coordination and work.”

Design-build specialists

The Timpanogos Highway project is a design-build joint venture between Flatiron and Harper Excavating.

“With design-build, the project owner explains the overall job goal and basic parameters to prospective bidders, then it’s up to the contractor to submit a plan to complete the project in the most cost-efficient manner,” explained Ashton. “At Flatiron, it’s become our preferred method of delivering projects. We have highly creative design and engineering groups who are able to come up with faster, simpler and cheaper projects. Design-build has been proven to be 30 percent faster than other construction methods, including bid-build. In addition to faster, we’re convinced it results in a significantly better overall project.”

To make design-build project delivery work, a company needs top-flight personnel. Flatiron has such a work force, both nationally and locally. In addition to Ashton and Allred, key personnel on the Timpanogos Highway job include Project Manager Billy Shaddox; Construction Superintendents Duane Boyer and Luke Carver; Safety Manager Greg Cart; Foremen Larry Thompson and Allen Pendleton; Superintendents Jeff Duvall and Rick Fallis; and Field Engineers Rich Steffen, Chris Mari, Travis Lott and Mike Dufresne.

“From office staff to supervisors to operators and other field personnel, we believe our work force is second-to-none,” said Ashton. “They’re the reason we’re able to do challenging jobs like Route 92, overcome the problems that always arise and still bring it in as scheduled.”

Productive Komatsu equipment

Also crucial to Flatiron’s success is a productive equipment fleet. The company has turned to Komatsu Equipment Company in Salt Lake City to rent Komatsu hydraulic excavators, dozers, wheel loaders and haul trucks.

“We reached the point on the State Route 92 job where we needed to rent a significant number of machines,” recalled Ashton. “We like Komatsu machines and Komatsu Equipment had excellent availability from their rental fleet. The rental units we got were all late-model, low-hour machines. They’ve given us outstanding productivity.”

Flatiron has a Komatsu PC800 excavator for mass excavation, along with four PC200s (including a hybrid PC200) and a PC160. The company also has a D65 and two D51 dozers; half a dozen wheel loaders, including five WA320s; and six HM400 articulated haul trucks.

“I’ve been pleased with all the equipment,” reported Allred. “The dozers have been a pleasant surprise, and the wheel loaders are highly productive. Komatsu’s newer excavators have good power and stability, and our PC800 has been a real workhorse. I also like the PC200 hybrid. It’s so quiet, you almost don’t even know you’re working.

“I’ve been especially impressed with the trucks,” he added. “They climb extraordinarily well. We have some large excavations with two-to-one, even three-to-one slopes on the finish banks — and the Komatsu HM400s go right up them with no problem. That eliminates the need for us to cut accesses everywhere to get in and out, so that’s a big advantage. The other thing is, they’re fast — 38 miles per hour. We have some fairly long hauls and that speed allows us to gain a lot of yardage during the course of a day.”

“We’ve also found the KOMTRAX system on our Komatsu machines to be very helpful,” said Ashton. “We use it to monitor machine utilization. If a machine is only being used 50 percent of the time, we’re going to find out why. Maybe we don’t need that machine anymore. KOMTRAX is also great for alerting us when the machine is due for service.”

Dealer support

Both Ashton and Allred say they’ve also been pleased with the service and support Komatsu Equipment Company provides to Flatiron.

“When we’ve needed them, whether it’s for maintenance, repair, another rental machine, or whatever, Komatsu Equipment Company and our Sales Rep, Garin Humphrey, have been there for us,” said Ashton. “We’ve also found most of the service intervals on our Komatsu machines are 500 hours — twice as long as competitive equipment. It saves us money on service, plus it reduces our downtime considerably.”

“Dealer support is crucial to our success because we’re all about productivity,” added Allred. “Komatsu Equipment keeps our equipment available to us with minimal downtime. If something does go down, they get somebody out here right away to get it back up and running in short order. That’s what we need and that’s what Komatsu Equipment does.”

Future growth

From a startup operation in 2009, Flatiron has grown rapidly in Utah and has no intention of slowing down.

“We have seven good-size projects under construction right now and another is planned,” reported Ashton. “We’re now also bidding work in Idaho and Wyoming out of our Utah office. Flatiron has established a presence here and we believe the company will continue to grow as the state and region grow. Our goal on all projects is total customer satisfaction, and as long as we deliver that, we think we’ll be in demand.”