Customers in Action

Brown Excavation & Utilities

SAN ANTONIO CONTRACTOR GROWS ITS IN-HOUSE SITE-WORK CAPABILITIES WITH NEW CONCRETE DIVISION

February 24, 2015

Outstanding Komatsu equipment

Brown Excavation & Utilities

About a year ago, Brown Excavation & Utilities added a third division by offering concrete work to its list of services. Husband and wife Owners Robert and Bridgett Brown made the move in an effort to increase services to its customers.

“Adding concrete services furthered our ability to do nearly every aspect of a job in-house,” said Bridgett, who is President. Robert is Vice President. “For many years, our niche has been providing turnkey site packages where we handle the excavation and utilities and sub out the concrete work. By doing it ourselves, we can better control the schedule and further ensure our work is done on time and on budget.”

Brown Excavation & Utilities’ concrete division provides flatwork for paving and building pads, as well as foundations. The new concrete venture complements Brown Excavation & Utilities’ other divisions, which are reflected in the San Antonio-based company’s name. The three divisions often work together to complete large-scale projects that fall mainly in the civil sector.

“From an excavation and utility standpoint, we already do everything ourselves,” said Robert. “That includes clearing and grubbing; mass excavation; water and sewer installation; fine grading; and building-pad construction. We prefer to provide a complete package, but we will break out services at a customer’s request and do just an excavation, utility or concrete job.”

First project a stepping stone

Adding concrete work also meant hiring more workers. Brown Excavation & Utilities now employs about 90 people. That equates to a nearly 900-percent growth since 2009, when the Browns founded the company with a couple backhoes, a gooseneck trailer and a handful of staff. Among them is General Superintendent Mark Talley, who started on day one.

“It was always my goal to be in business for myself,” said Robert, who describes himself as a third-generation construction foreman. He worked for several companies before striking out on his own. “My last job brought us to San Antonio, and we decided to take the risk when the economy went flat a few years ago. We started on a small scale. Our clients liked the way we worked and continued to call us back. We’ve been growing ever since.”

Brown Excavation & Utilities

Small scale is relative. Brown Excavation & Utilities’ first project was a $500,000 utility installation as part of a school remodel. It entailed putting in about 500 feet of storm sewer that included a 4-foot by 5-foot double-barrel box culvert, as well as a small amount of other utilities.

“We challenged ourselves with that first project because much of the pipe had to be put in right next to an existing building, so it was tight quarters,” said Robert. “Not long after that, the general contractor hired us to do another big job at a new school. We’ve continued to work with that same company since, and they have referred us to others, which has built additional ongoing relationships.”

“Not many companies can claim that their first project was a big stepping stone, but that one put us on the map right away,” added Bridgett. “It spurred our growth, and we’ve continued to add services to accommodate our customers’ needs. We now have one or two concrete crews, depending on our work load, two dirt crews and up to 10 utility crews. Our work is mainly local, but we consider the entire state our territory.”

Outstanding Komatsu performance

Brown Excavation & Utilities is currently working on its largest project to date, a $5.2 million excavation and utility installation for the new theater along Alamo Parkway on the northwest side of San Antonio. With two dirt crews and two utility crews dedicated to the site, the company will move about 60,000 yards of rocky material and install more than 600 feet of 40-foot-deep sanitary sewer in a six-month period.

The company is using several pieces of Komatsu equipment to complete the project, including Tier 4 Interim dozers (a D61EX-23 and a D155AX-7), a WA380-7 wheel loader and a PC210LC-10 excavator.

Brown Excavation & Utilities

“The site was very rocky,” said Robert. “In addition to a rock mill, we used the D155 with a ripper to loosen, then push the material, and the D155 powered through both tasks with no problems. We knew it would be productive in those conditions because it has proven itself before, under similar conditions. In fact, all our Komatsu equipment performs well in every application.”

In total, Brown Excavation & Utilities has about 40 pieces of Komatsu equipment, with excavators making up the largest percentage. Sizes range from a 6,460-pound PC27 to a 90,000-pound-plus PC400. The company also uses WA150, WA200 and WA250 wheel loaders and a D39 dozer.

“I used Komatsu equipment at previous companies I worked for, so I knew it was reliable and productive. That’s why I chose Komatsu when we started and continue to add it to our fleet through purchase and rental,” said Robert. “We work on large and small projects, so we need equipment in different sizes. Each and every Komatsu machine we’ve used has given us outstanding performance.”

Added value with Komatsu, WPI

WPI handles scheduled services on the Tier 4 machines complimentary for the first three years or 2,000 hours through the Komatsu CARE program. WPI tracks the machines via KOMTRAX and sets up a time and place to do the work. Brown also keeps an eye on the machines with KOMTRAX, including using the mobile app on his smart phone.

“We see KOMTRAX and the Komatsu CARE program as added value,” said Robert. “KOMTRAX is a great fleet-maintenance tool, and the Komatsu CARE program ensures our maintenance is done on time by WPI’s technicians. We appreciate everything WPI does for us. Our Sales Rep Brian Childress takes care of our sales and rental needs, and WPI backs the equipment with parts and service as needed. Our relationship with them is another big reason why we continue to use Komatsu and BOMAG equipment.”

Don’t get stagnant

The Browns’ intent was to do about a million dollars in business in their first year. They blew past that figure and have consistently met their annual goals for the past six years. In 2013, the company did $20 million in work. In 2014, it was significantly higher.

“The markets look good, and we believe that a nice bump in growth is certainly possible,” said Bridgett. “We already have quite a bit on the books, so we’re off to a strong start. The key to maintaining that will be continuing to provide the exceptional service that our customers have come to expect.”

“Meeting those expectations is what drives us and what causes customers to continue to ask us to bid their projects,” Robert added. “We have a fairly long list of repeat clients, and I believe that, alone, says a lot about how we treat them and the quality of our work.”

He added that Brown Excavation & Utilities may someday branch out beyond private work.

“We’ve started to look at public utility projects, and I’m not quite sure yet where that’s going to lead. But, I’ve always believed in being proactive. A business that’s not looking ahead tends to get stagnant, and I don’t want that.”