PC360s are the stars of the fleet
When Gene Lowder started at his father’s
construction company in 1977, dirty hands
and a sweaty shirt constituted a hard day’s
work. Today, as the President of Charles D.
Lowder, Inc., he analyzes spreadsheets of idling
statistics and talks about drones and unmanned
dozers on jobsites. While many things have
changed at the company in nearly 40 years, the
value of a hard day’s work has not.
“My dad thought that I didn’t work,” recalled
Lowder. “I was always interested in thinking
about and contemplating strategy. I was working
with my mind. If you need me to jump in a
dozer and move dirt, I’m not your guy; but I can
go to a jobsite and identify how it can run more
efficiently. Eventually, my dad saw the value in
what I was doing.”
Lowder’s ability to evaluate the market helped
his company through some hard times and
prepared it for future success. He began running
the day-to-day operations in 1995 and completed
the buyout of the other shareholders on
September 10, 2001. The following day, the twin
towers collapsed, bringing the U.S. economy to a
halt. Lowder had to examine the business.
“We had a lot of debt, and the economy after
9/11 really hurt us,” recalled Lowder. “We
struggled for a few years. If I had an extra $500, I
applied it to what we owed. Finally, by 2007 we
This approach paid off when the economy
crashed again in 2008. With cash on hand and
no debt, Lowder, Inc. was well-positioned to
weather the downturn. A decision to pursue
projects for institutions, such as healthcare
facilities, was also fruitful.
“Right as the economy was crashing in 2008, we
got a job building the Novant Health Kernersville
Medical Center,” noted Lowder. “It was a sizable
project that kept us busy through the recession, and
allowed us to keep our bonding capacity.”
Between the hospital project and other smaller
jobs, Lowder made it through the downturn
without laying off any employees or incurring
additional debt. In addition, the economic times
allowed him to hire key individuals who are still
with him today. So, when the economy began
growing in 2012, Lowder, Inc. was poised to take
advantage of it.
“We came out of the gate hard and landed
some big work,” said Lowder. “When the phone
started ringing again in 2012 and 2013, we were
in the catbird’s seat. Today, we’re doing very
well because of the company’s financial position
before the recession.”
Lowder, Inc. has continued to earn large
projects like Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital
in Greensboro and Davie County Hospital
in Advance. It is currently converting an old
railroad easement into a walkway/greenway
area on the Rails-to-Trails project for the City
of Winston-Salem; performing a complete site
package for a Wal-Mart Supercenter in King; and
developing a site for the new Oak Grove High
School in Davidson County.
Commitment to technology
Lowder turned teeth on excavator buckets
to save money when he started working at the
company. He puts in a full day’s work, and
appreciates the same honest work ethic from his
employees. While the 58-year-old construction
veteran is inherently old-school, he also has an
affinity for the latest advances in the industry.
Lowder, Inc. was one of the first in the region to
use GPS technology, and the company remains an
industry leader in its use today.
“In 2006, we looked to become more efficient,”
Lowder recalled. “Instead of buying new
equipment, we invested in GPS technology. It was
the best decision we’ve made.”
The additional technology paid immediate
dividends, and Lowder has applied advances in
other areas to make his company more efficient.
Lowder, Inc. recently installed new accounting
software to help identify how and where money
“There was immediate value added when we
implemented the system,” explained Controller
Roger Mayhew. “Our previous accounting system
was pretty much a bucket of dollars, now we
have a detailed account of what the machines
actually cost us. It’s been great for our head
mechanic to have this information so he can see if
there is repetition of maintenance and frequency
Komatsu’s remote machine-monitoring system,
KOMTRAX, has also been very useful.
“KOMTRAX gives us a monthly report on fuel
consumption and idle time,” said Field Operations
Manager Jason Carter. “We have made a big
push to reduce idle time with specific goals for
machines based on their applications. The data has
helped our operators buy into the effort.”
The goal of the technology has been to increase
efficiency; something Lowder believes has helped
the company to flourish.
“Our plan is to stay ahead of the curve with
technology,” shared Lowder. “It’s certainly not
going away; it will become more important.
Companies that don’t invest in technology will be
Komatsu equipment from Linder
Lowder, Inc. has a fleet that includes 10 Komatsu
excavators (two PC210s, a PC270, two PC290s, a
PC300 and four PC360s), a WA200 wheel loader
and two HM300-5 articulated trucks. Like so
many other decisions that helped the company
thrive, choosing to purchase Komatsu equipment
from Linder Industrial Machinery Company and
Sales Rep Conrad Graham also stemmed from
“Conrad always checked in on us, even when
we didn’t have any Komatsu equipment; he put in
the time to build a relationship,” revealed Lowder.
“It was March 2008, and he asked what I needed.
I said I was thinking about getting a PC270 and a
PC300. The next morning, they were in our yard.
I’m glad I didn’t ask for a giraffe! So, in the middle
of a recession, when the world stopped turning,
I bought excavators. It was a great deal and the
beginning of a solid partnership.”
Lowder, Inc. uses Komatsu excavators primarily
for grading and trench work. It also had them
equipped with aftermarket GPS systems. The
PC360s are the stars of the fleet.
“Each crew has a PC360 assigned to it because the
machine can perform the smaller jobs that a PC210
can do, as well as handle our deeper pipe work, and
it has the power to move double trench boxes,” said
Lowder. “On a typical site we have many machines,
so we try to match them to the best application, but
a PC360 is a very versatile machine.”
Lowder’s Tier 4 equipment also came
with Komatsu CARE, with Linder providing
complimentary service for the first three years or
“We have four full-time people in our garage,
so having Linder handle the maintenance on the
Komatsu machines allows these employees to
focus on the rest of the fleet,” explained Lowder.
“Linder does a terrific job scheduling and
performing the maintenance.”
The Komatsu equipment has been a sound
investment for Lowder, Inc.
“Komatsu makes great equipment,” Lowder
shared. “The excavators are strong, fuel-efficient,
and we’ve had zero downtime with them.”
Preparing for the future
Applying knowledge from lessons learned has
helped Lowder get his company to its current
place in the industry. He is confident that his
business will continue to thrive, but knows that it
will inevitably face new obstacles.
“I think we are positioned to remain successful
in the future,” observed Lowder. “Right now we
have 90 employees, and this seems to be a number
that works well for us. I think we can continue to
get better at what we do, and that will allow us to
gain more work.”
Lowder says the company could easily grow,
but for that to happen he needs to find qualified
workers, an issue facing the industry as a whole.
To address the labor shortage, Lowder is taking
matters into his own hands.
“We have some of the best people in the
industry working here, but it’s becoming more
difficult to find qualified help,” Lowder noted.
“One of the things we plan to do is expand our
current office. We will have training videos and
simulators for our employees. We have also
discussed building a demo area behind the shop
where employees can operate machinery. We
know that in order to have the workforce we
need, we must educate incoming and current
employees and improve their skill sets.”
Whatever the future holds, Lowder expects to
be a part of it.
“I plan on taking a back seat at some point,
but I don’t think I can handle retirement,
psychologically,” said Lowder. “I really like this
work, and I am committed to my employees. I
have 90 families who depend on this company.
I’m working for them as much as they are
working for me.”