“Big fans of Komatsu wheel loaders”
Bob Quinn is always game for a challenge. Reviewing a list of assignments that his company, Quinn Construction, Inc., has completed throughout the past 25 years is proof. Quinn wasted little time in setting a precedent for his business.
“On our first job we had to use 8,000 tires to complete a breakwater project for a marina south of Rapid City,” recalled Quinn, who is President of the Rapid City-based firm. “That was odd enough, but to find those 8,000 tires, we had to inspect 40,000 others to make sure we had the right ones. That set the tone for us.”
Since then, Quinn and his crews have been drawn to similar contracts with unique elements.
“We’ve been a part of many out-of-the-ordinary jobs through the years,” noted Quinn. “Many of our projects involve some form of water. Lagoon repairs and sewer-pond construction are two of the most common requests we get. There are a lot of small towns in South Dakota that can’t afford sewage-treatment plants, so they use these ponds. We’ve built several and continue to maintain them.”
As Quinn Construction grew, it evolved by adding more services to its repertoire, including highway work and utility installation for light commercial projects.
“Approximately 10 years ago, we started doing more excavating for sewer and water and recently began branching out into additional site work,” detailed Quinn. “Today, we do a lot for the local military bases, cities, counties and the DOT. We also help the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department.”
Currently, Quinn Construction employs roughly 35 people and operates primarily in western South Dakota, but will travel throughout the state and into Wyoming occasionally, focusing on projects in the range of $500,000 to $5 million.
Wet and wild
While the company has an expanded list of offerings, difficult assignments that include water elements remain its bread and butter. Whether that requires drilling 3,000 holes to blast and remove 120,000 cubic yards of rock for a sewage-treatment lagoon at the Crazy Horse Memorial or installing 5,000 tons of riprap underneath a bridge to help reinforce the banks of a high-velocity river bend east of the Black Hills, Quinn’s team relishes the challenge.
“We have a lot of experience with water,” explained Quinn. “We have developed a niche in that area, and our employees really enjoy it. We have the experience and equipment to handle that kind of work, plus there tends to be less competition as the job description gets more out of the ordinary.”
The company put its knowledge and passion to the test on a project near Vermillion in 2017 for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department as it tackled a shoreline-protection job along the main channel of the Missouri River.
“We reinforced a half-mile stretch that the river was eroding away,” detailed Quinn. “The project was also necessary because that area included wells for the Lewis and Clark Water District, which supplies 25 million gallons of drinking water every day to residents of eastern South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota.”
To complete the venture, Quinn Construction’s crew performed a two-to-one slope – which required two feet of distance per foot of elevation – that started four feet below water level and extended as high as 40 feet in some places. The surface was layered with quartzite, dirt, riprap and field rock to create a solid barrier between the river and the wells. “From one to 10, this was about an eight or nine on the difficulty scale for us,” admitted Quinn. “We removed trees, cut the slope and reinforced it with the rock – we had to truck in 35,000 tons of riprap from more than 100 miles away to complete it. Then, we went back and placed field rock, so it all looks natural and also helps maintain the integrity of the slope. In the spring, we’ll return to reseed and plant trees.
“In addition to those tasks, we accommodated the wildlife that inhabits the area as well,” he added. “We stopped work for a few weeks to make sure we weren’t disrupting the bald eagles and again for the mating season of the bats in the area. It took longer, but we saw it as just another challenge. We started in July and wrapped up before Christmas.”
Using ‘the best’
Unique jobsites and challenging maneuvers are common for Quinn Construction. One aspect that is stress-free for the company is its Komatsu equipment from Diesel Machinery, Inc., (DMI) and Branch Manager Mark Barry.
“I’ve run every brand of machine, but I believe Komatsu is the best,” revealed Quinn. “When I started Quinn Construction, I knew I wanted Komatsu equipment, especially excavators. They have excellent fuel efficiency. I only burn six gallons an hour in an 68,000-pound machine. That’s better than my truck.”
The firm deployed its newest excavators, a PC350LC with a long stick and a PC360LC excavator, on the Missouri River assignment.
“We bought the PC350 specifically for that project,” said Quinn. “The long stick gave us the necessary reach to complete the slope. We had it fully extended and were digging in mud and water with plenty of power. Plus, we asked DMI to outfit it with Easy Dig, a guidance program that helps us find and stay on grade. That was a huge benefit. We were able to complete the job much faster, and we didn’t need someone checking grade while standing in the mud and water. We could get in the excavator and get to work.”
“We are big fans of the Komatsu wheel loaders,” shared Quinn. “We have a WA500-3 with more than 20,000 hours on it that we use all of the time. I’m convinced it’ll run forever.”
In addition to top-of-the-line equipment, Quinn relies on DMI to supplement his company’s mechanics.
“Knowing that DMI is there to stand behind their equipment is a nice option for us,” noted Quinn. “We have mechanics on our staff, but when we are out of town, DMI is there to help. The service they provide makes their equipment bulletproof.”
The next phase
Quinn knows that change is on the horizon for his company, in terms of cutting-edge innovations, size and management.
“The technology that has come into our industry is amazing,” recounted Quinn. “Right now we have some aftermarket systems that use stakes and lasers, but I imagine we’ll have integrated technology soon. We tested the Komatsu intelligent Machine Control excavators at Demo Days in Cartersville, Ga., and we were really impressed. It’s the future.”
Along with ushering in new tools, Quinn has been grooming the next generation of management.
“I’ve been in the industry for 40 years, so retirement is around the corner,” he said. “We have a succession plan in place. Derek Suhr has worked here for 10 years, and he’s very ambitious. He’s going to be a great fit to take over when I retire. He plans to grow the company, promote it and looks to add services. He will do well.”