Komatsu dozers save on surveying and material costs
Mark Ballard, President of R.A. Alexander & Sons, had carved a solid niche for his family’s third-generation company, developing land for subdivisions in the Owensboro, Ky., area. The company did such a good job that Bill Jagoe, Owner of Jagoe Excavating, LLC, came calling in 2016 with an offer that would benefit the two companies.
“R.A. Alexander was already doing a lot for us, and we had a great relationship,” explained Jagoe. “When you find someone you can trust and who does great work, you want to keep using them. This is the next level. Mark is one of the best, and this collaboration is going to help both of us significantly.”
While the relationship isn’t exclusive, Ballard estimates that 70 percent of his company’s work load today is related to projects for Jagoe Excavating. The fit makes sense because each company fills the other’s gaps.
“Partnering with Bill has been a huge benefit because it has allowed us to move into utility installation and upgrade our fleet, two things that we wouldn’t have been able to do without his involvement,” said Ballard.
“These guys are expert operators,” explained Jagoe. “Thanks to this arrangement, we have enough skilled employees to get the job done right.”
The partnership has already paid dividends for R.A. Alexander & Sons and its work force, which has grown substantially in two years.
“The most employees we’d ever had was five, and two of them were part-time,” recalled Ballard. “Today, we are up to 12 with two crews, and we’re looking to add more. We’re also able to offer additional perks like a 401k, profit sharing and better insurance plans. It’s been a great thing for everyone involved.”
Moving, installing, growing
Aside from adding utility installation to its repertoire, R.A. Alexander & Sons’ focus has remained largely the same – dirt work and site prep for residential construction, just a lot more of it.
“Earthmoving and utilities go hand-in-hand in the type of work we typically do, so it was natural for us to add it,” noted Ballard. “Doing both makes us a lot more efficient. We don’t have to rely on another contractor to a complete part of a project; if we’re waiting, we only have ourselves to blame.”
Efficiency is crucial when teaming up with a company that has the output of Jagoe Excavating, which is part of one of the largest homebuilding organizations in the region.
“We plan to build 460 houses this year,” shared Jagoe. “Downtime for us results in a lot of land without houses on it, and that can get quite expensive. With R.A. Alexander & Sons performing both the dirt and utility work, we are able to bring communities on a lot faster.
The Deer Run subdivision in Owensboro is a reflection of the R.A. Alexander & Sons - Jagoe Excavating partnership. The 176-acre project, that when finished will have 600 homes, broke ground in 2011. Jagoe hired Ballard and his crew for the initial earthmoving tasks. As the development grew, so did their relationship.
R.A. Alexander & Sons continued to do work at the site through each stage, and wrapped the next-to-last phase of the development when it completed both earthmoving and utility installation last winter. The firm will start on the final 20 acres of the project, which will include 135 homes, this summer.
“2017 was probably the best year we’ve ever had, and we have big plans for this year and next,” said Jagoe. “We’re confident in those goals because we don’t have to worry about labor; Mark and his crews do a great job.”
Comfortable and productive equipment
To meet those lofty benchmarks, R.A. Alexander & Sons requires the most advanced equipment available. For that, it turns to the Komatsu intelligent Machine Control line from Brandeis Machinery & Supply Company and Sales Rep Brandon Russell.
“Komatsu makes a great machine,” said Ballard. “They have terrific uptime, and we know they are going to perform. One of our favorite aspects is the cab comfort. Our operators can work a full shift and still feel great when they go home. Take all that, add intelligent Machine Control and it makes Komatsu the best.”
R.A. Alexander & Sons purchased its first intelligent Machine Control piece, a Komatsu D51PXi dozer, in 2015. When Jagoe came on board and the project list expanded, Ballard knew he needed more equipment. He acquired a second D51PXi dozer in addition to a D61PXi dozer and PC210LCi excavator – each with integrated technology – as well as a Komatsu D39PX dozer with an aftermarket Topcon system. The results speak for themselves.
“Integrating our fleet with the intelligent Machine Control pieces has made us 40-50 percent faster, and we’re achieving accuracy within two-tenths,” stated Ballard. “Having a model that we can plug in and follow, speeds us up significantly. Where we save the most time is on minor details associated with parking lots and streets. On earthmoving projects with major grade changes, it’s phenomenal. There’s no lost time with operators reading plans or asking questions. Everything is right on the monitor and in the machine.”
The results were noticeable right away to Jagoe.
“I was surprised there weren’t any stakes at the jobsite,” said Jagoe. “But, I noticed that the machines never stopped moving, and they were finishing jobs sooner. The intelligent Machine Control pieces are a big investment upfront, but they save us money on things like surveying and material costs. Plus, we are able to do more projects because we can work so much faster.”
Having Brandeis and Machine Control Specialist Joe Kiesel only a phone call away has also provided a huge advantage.
“I am not very tech savvy, so Joe has been amazing for us,” said Ballard. “I wear out his phone with questions, and he always has an answer for me. When we added the new equipment, we demoed each manufacturer’s ‘smart’ machine. The biggest selling point for Komatsu was that Brandeis and Joe came with it. There’s still so much we can learn about this equipment, and Joe is the best there is at training.”
The partnership between R.A. Alexander & Sons and Jagoe Excavating is still in its infancy, but that hasn’t kept the companies from thinking about the future.
“I’m always looking to expand in some capacity,” reported Jagoe. “I believe there is great opportunity for us to grow and add other services like roadwork.”
“I think that demolition is an area that will become more prominent in our area,” Ballard added. “The market keeps growing, and that’s good for us. The best part of this relationship is that it puts both of us in a position to capitalize on any opportunities that might arise.”