Digalot Hoe Service

WILLINGNESS TO “GO ANYWHERE, DO ALMOST ANYTHING” HELPS COCHRANE, ONTARIO, CONTRACTOR EXPAND

Dec 18, 2013

Komatsu equipment - equipment that delivers maximum uptime

Seven years after going into business “seriously,” Marcel Cheff Jr. continues growing Digalot Hoe Service’s presence. The latest move in the ever-expanding business is construction of a new 6,000-square-foot office and workshop in the company’s home base of Cochrane, Ontario.

“I actually started working on my own in 2002, doing snow removal part time with a used loader I owned,” explained Cheff, who operates Digalot, along with his life and business partner, Stacey Barr. “At the time, and for several years before and after that, I worked for a construction company. Fully investing in a business of my own came about in 2006.”

While working as an operator and supervisor for another company, Cheff gained valuable experience running and maintaining equipment, as well as supervising crews and projects. Before that, he’d already spent years helping out in his father’s landscape business, starting when he says he was “much too young.”

“My prior work gave me a solid background, and that helped Digalot get off to a fast start,” said Cheff. “Another key factor in our fast growth and continued success is a willingness to take on practically any type of project and ‘learn on the job.’ I’ve always believed diversification is essential, and our resume shows we have plenty of it.”

Digalot is prominent in the construction, forestry and mining sectors, with diverse service offerings in all three. In construction, the company handles all types of road building and maintenance, including constructing winter forestry roads, bridge building, and residential and commercial site preparation that includes footings, septic systems and utilities.

On the mining side, Digalot handles land clearing, site preparation and stripping, along with tailing pond and access road construction. In addition, the company still does a fair amount of snow removal, mainly commercial work, from mid-November to April.

“Even during the nonpeak construction season when snow removal gains prominence, we remain busy in other aspects of the business,” noted Cheff. “For instance, this past winter we cleared about 500 hectares of land for a mine expansion. It was part of a joint venture with the North Amisco Aboriginal Group (Taykwa Tagamou First Nation), which is something we do quite often.”

Unique projects

Digalot teamed up with the same group to install eight- to 12-foot multiplate culverts for the Ontario Hydro plant. In another joint venture, the company harvested 100,000 trees as part of a 400,000-metre forestry project contract.

Digalot primarily works within about a 180-kilometre radius of Cochrane, which encompasses locales such as Matheson, Timmins and Chapleau. Unique projects include taking apart and removing a 200-foot wooden bridge over the Buskigo River, as well as removal of a nearby house.

“What made that project stand out from other types of work we’ve done is that we first had to construct an ice road across the river,” Cheff pointed out. “Additionally, it required ice divers to go underwater and cut the pillars. Despite the challenges and lack of experience, Digalot completed the project with flying colours and gained new knowledge we can put to good use.”

While Digalot contracted the divers, the vast majority of the project – as well as the myriad of other work the company does – was and is performed by a dedicated group of about 21 employees. Digalot’s resume also includes clearing about 80 kilometres of land during two winters for new power lines; mine site rehabilitations; environmental cleanups; and work for several forestry contractors that involved harvesting, roadside log loading and transportation.

“We’re able to get projects done on time and on budget, including ones that present unique challenges, because we have the most hardworking and dependable group of people in the business,” said Barr, noting the company has a 100-percent health and safety record. “In turn, we reward them with excellent pay and the proper tools for each and every job we do. We have people knocking at our door and waiting to become part of the Digalot team. I believe that says a lot about who we are and the reputation we’ve built.”

Komatsu and SMS value

Cheff added that part of having the proper tools includes investing in equipment that delivers maximum uptime, even in challenging and often harsh conditions. From the start, that’s included Komatsu motor graders (GD655), excavators (PC138 to PC350 models), a PC270LL log loader, wheel loaders (WA100 to WA470) and a D41PX dozer. Being diversified, Digalot uses several attachments in conjunction with its Komatsu equipment.

“The company I worked with before starting on my own used Komatsu equipment, so I was familiar with its durability and reliability,” explained Cheff. “That’s why I sought out Komatsu, and I’ve never been disappointed. The excavators are especially good in terms of hydraulic power. Our two PC350s are equipped with brush cutters, and we use those quite often in land clearing.

“I believe Komatsu offers the best all-around value when considering price and owning and operating costs, which includes between 20 percent and 25 percent lower fuel consumption than other brands I’ve run,” he added. “Another value is the support we get, both from Komatsu and SMS Equipment. With KOMTRAX monitoring, if there are any issues, I immediately get alerts on my phone, so we can address those quickly. We handle our own maintenance, with help from SMS Equipment as needed. They’ve been great to work with, from our Sales Rep Kevin Ormandy to Operations Manager Dan Mannila, to the service department at Timmins.”

“Doing what I like”

Diversification doesn’t stop with construction, forestry and mining services. Digalot is also licensed to transport machinery and often contract hauls for SMS Equipment. Last year, Cheff teamed up with Randy Sinai to form CSR (Cheff Sinai Rentals), which offers equipment for rent.

“I’ve never been one to stand still,” admitted Cheff. “If there’s something that makes sense, and I firmly believe we can handle it without sacrificing the quality and dependability our customers have come to expect from Digalot, I’m willing to take the chance. I always knew that if I started my own business, it would be ideal for me. I am doing what I like, so I believe the move has paid off well.”