Spartanburg, South Carolina. Like most contractors, Clary Hood, Inc. has striven to build their company’s success and growth with a reputation for meeting their customers’ expectations and deadlines. The company began as a small family business and Mr. Clary Hood grew up around equipment and remembers operating bulldozers from the age of eight.
Back then the company was involved in projects such as clearing brush and trees for agricultural purposes, creating fish ponds and then expanding into landfill operations (being licensed at one time in 9 states). Over 27 years ago they expanded their operations to include commercial site grading, where today they concentrate their efforts and continue to deliver and perfect their trade, moving an average of six to seven million yards of material per year.
“This is a highly competitive field and if I were to say we have a certain ‘niche’ or advantage over the competition it is our reputation to honor our contract agreements and bring them in on time or ahead of schedule,” says Mr. Clary Hood, owner and founder of Clary Hood, Inc. He recalls working as sub-contractor for a 16 mile stretch of toll road and completing the three year projected job six months ahead of schedule. He says “our part involved moving six million yards of dirt and at one juncture we had to move a large amount of material in a short period of time. We moved 800,000 yards in a two-month period; it was a lot of hard work but we proved we could deliver.”
Clary Hood says “it is success stories such as that by which our customers have a trust and a comfort level in us that we will perform to their expectations; they appreciate our hard work and rely on us to deliver on time. We are awarded a majority of our work contracts because we are able to continually honor any commitments we make to our customers in terms of scheduling, pricing and staying within budget.” He adds “by keeping true to our word big name chains have come back to us time and time again.”
That reputation of performance and commitment has been recognized by national commercial chains such as Wal-Mart, Target and Lowes who have awarded numerous contracts to Clary Hood, Inc. as well as supermarket chains such as Bi-Low, Winn Dixie and Publix. Their site clearing operations are not limited to the commercial market as they are also currently working on a switching station site for the internet search giant Google and even have several airports to their credit.
Clary Hood admits “it has not been an easy feat but we have managed to meet or exceed all our customers’ deadlines and we have never delayed a store opening. All Wal-Mart contracts come with a tight schedule and they are contingent upon meeting their opening date.” He adds “they are demanding but I’m proud to say we have never missed a deadline or delayed a store opening.” Clary Hood Inc.’s efforts have not gone unnoticed; for example since the mid 1980’s Wal-Mart alone has awarded the company more than 50 store contracts in several states.
When the company began to concentrate their efforts on site clearing and preparation operations they were using scrapers to do the majority of the work. However, they soon realized that articulated trucks were more productive and cost effective. Clary Hood says “as we saw a transition of our work-load moving towards site preparation we in turn looked at the logistics of our operations and the decision to move from scrapers to articulated trucks made the most sense for a number of reasons.”
Clary Hood says “first of all we find articulated trucks, and Komatsu trucks in general, to be much more reliable than conventional scrapers. “With the incorporation of articulated trucks we have been able to refine or streamline our dirt moving applications. We definitely saw a decrease in our down time and in repair costs while our productivity and output increased,” says Hood. He adds “plus, we were able to free up more of our dozers as we didn’t need to worry about pushing scrapers over difficult terrain and our cycle times increased as our scrapers tend to waste valuable time trying to position themselves correctly.”
With over 120 major pieces of equipment in their fleet including 25 off-highway trucks Clary Hood explains why they decided to test Komatsu’s line of articulated trucks. “I have always felt a positive difference in Komatsu’s equipment across the board and over the years I have noticed some common features throughout Komatsu’s product lines and that is they are a smoother operating machine and extremely reliable.”
Clary Hood goes on to say “we began many years ago with a PC200LC-3 excavator and it was great on fuel, very easy to operate and you gained a strong feeling, or level, of confidence early on. We put over 20,000 hours on that machine without encountering any major mechanical problems. Komatsu always had a strong reputation for dozers which made our decision to purchase them much easier. So, these factors made it easier for us to try the new line of articulated trucks.”
“We have and continue to operate articulated trucks by several manufacturers in our fleet,” says Hood. However, once Komatsu entered the Articulated Truck market and we tried the Komatsu trucks we saw an increase in our production almost immediately. When I tested the HM400-1 Articulated Truck series I was very impressed with the stability and overall performance of the machine. The HM400 offered a smoother ride and the unit seemed more responsive with its ‘torque’ or power.”
Clary Hood Inc. made the decision to purchase five HM400-1 articulated trucks in 2006 and earlier this year they added an additional five HM400-2 Trucks to their fleet. Clary Hood says “we have really grown to appreciate the Komatsu Articulated Trucks and what they have done for our productivity; we will update/increase our artic truck fleet to respond to our continued operational growth.” Hood says “we will sell off more of our scrapers and replace them with Komatsu Articulated Trucks because we can be more competitive, versatile and more profitable; it’s a ‘win-win’ situation and it’s definitely the way of the future.”
Wesley Hood, President and CEO, agrees and said the versatility and power of the HM400 trucks make them stand “head and shoulders above the rest.” He says “one thing I like about the Komatsu trucks is you can move just about anything; my basic rule of thumb is if it can be loaded it can be moved.” He adds “unlike scrapers, the artic trucks are not hampered or restricted by obstacles such as large rocks/boulders, trees, stumps and heavy mud or the Georgia Clay which is so prevalent in this area.”
Wesley Hood also feels that maximizing your company equipment is so important in this day and age and that’s why he really appreciates the adaptability of the articulated trucks. He says “if it rains at 8:00 in the morning and the rain lets up you and your trucks can go back to work or work through the weather, unlike working with scrapers where a day of work is lost.” He adds “granted, you may not be able to go back to work compacting soil, but the HM400 trucks are such versatile units that there are still jobs you can accomplish so the entire day is not wasted.”
Another reason Clary Hood Inc. gives for dropping out of the scraper market are the difficulties they encounter in finding skilled operators. Their contracts with Wal-Mart and other such chains mean they have to travel extensively throughout North and South Carolina and Clary Hood says “when it came time to solicit local help we found it very difficult to find scraper operators.” And, if we wanted to take a scraper operator across county and state lines we would have to incur additional costs of food, lodging, etc. which cuts into our profit.”
He goes on to say “we can find local truck drivers or we can train someone to operate an articulated truck, and in particular a Komatsu Articulated Truck, a lot faster than we can find a skilled scraper operator or train someone to run a scraper. The Komatsu trucks give us a wider pool of operators to choose from and we can train or get them up to speed a lot faster.”
Clary Hood feels comfortable in hiring local workers because the simplicity of the truck controls has eliminated a lot of down time and costly repairs caused by inexperienced operators. He says “we had a lot of problems in the past with employees damaging axles and differentials by engaging and running them (lock-up differentials) in applications where they should not be used. However, with Komatsu’s design, the differentials can be engaged with the push of a button, even when the truck is running. From an owners perspective it doesn’t have a lot of knobs and buttons and things that can go wrong.” He jokingly adds “there are less things for the operator to tinker with. You don’t have any major headaches to worry about. The technology is built into the machine so it basically takes care of and runs itself.”
Clary and Wes agree all their employees (new and old) enjoy the Komatsu trucks and welcome the transition from scrapers. Wesley says “Our operators like the cab design and they say it has the look and comfort of a pickup truck or an SUV. They (operators) always seek out the Komatsu Trucks over the other manufacturers’ models when they arrive at the job site.”
Clary Hood says “I’m impressed with the ‘plushness’ of the cab if you will. From the easy entry and exit of the machine, to the power windows to the smooth ride and suspension, it just adds up to great comfort all-around.”
In speaking with some of Clary Hood, Inc.’s site foremen they concur with Mr. Hood. They find it easier to train operators on the HM400 as a lot of the “guess work” has been taken out of the cab controls. They also like having the passenger or “buddy seat” located next to the operator, unlike many other manufacturers’ models where the seat is placed behind the operator. They say this makes it a lot easier to point out the controls to the operator and the operator is not inclined to look over their shoulder while receiving instructions.
Clary Hood goes on to say “just as important as the productivity and operation of the Komatsu Trucks was the level of service I would receive from my dealer.” Clary Hood Inc.’s primary areas of operation are North and South Carolina and Florida all of which are covered by Linder Industrial Machinery, Komatsu’s southeast distributor, and Clary Hood says “that’s comforting because we know what to expect.”
Hood says “I know that my equipment will perform or it will be serviced immediately. It keeps our downtime ‘down’ and allows me to complete my projects on schedule. I can concentrate on running a business, seeking out new projects and making money.”
Clary Hood continues “if I were asked to decide between the quality of the truck and the dealer support I would have to say it is 50/50.” I’m not going to say dealer support was secondary-they rank equally as far as I am concerned.” We keep our equipment for a long time, as you can see by the 20,000 plus hours we put on the PC200, and we don’t trade out very often so reliability and dealer support are very important.”
Clary Hood says “Linder has always responded immediately to all our equipment issues. I could probably buy cheaper equipment from other manufacturers but cheaper is not how it will be in the long run. We will spend more down the line on parts and service not to mention what we will lose in productivity.”
Clary Hood adds “Linder realizes their success relies or is hinged upon the success of we the contractor. It’s almost like a marriage-both of us come together to make it work. And it has been a long and healthy relationship.” He points to Linder’s Sales Representative, Ron Small, as proof. Clary Hood says “Ron has been calling on us since 1983 and from day one he has gone out of his way to make sure we stay up and running.”
When asked about his total experience with Komatsu, Clary Hood says “it goes back to what Wesley says about maximizing your equipment; I feel utilization is very important today if you want to stay in business and ahead of the curve. He adds “the Komatsu Articulated Truck is a superior truck to any we have ever run or tested. I don’t think there is a better truck on the market. As an owner I think what has impressed me with Komatsu’s trucks is the same feature that has impressed me with all Komatsu equipment and that is their uptime. The trucks live up to the challenges and the dealers back them up. Komatsu equipment gives me peace of mind.”