“My PC210LCi was an investment, but it’s been worth every penny”
Companies are constantly searching for ways to increase efficiency. When GPS-based systems hit the market, construction firms saw increases in productivity and profitability. As with any emerging technology, users soon began seeing areas for improvement with the aftermarket systems and anticipating the next big thing.
In 2014, Komatsu delivered just that with its intelligent Machine Control dozers. This line revolutionized the industry with its integrated GPS technology and semi-automated machine control, featuring more than just a blade that remained on grade at all times. Instead, with these dozers, the entire machine works seamlessly to reduce slippage and maintain maximum blade load throughout a cut – all without the masts and cables of aftermarket systems.
Komatsu again upped the ante as it outfitted its PC210LCi, PC360LCi and PC490LCi excavators with the same technology. The 3-D machine control allows operators to dig and remain on-grade, in one swift movement. The system even accounts for bucket curl when excavating.
Now, Berry Tractor customers across Kansas are reaping the rewards of intelligent Machine Control equipment. “We are seeing customers significantly increase their productivity on all types of jobs with the Komatsu intelligent Machine Control products,” said Berry Tractor Sales Rep Atlee Preheim. “These machines are the real deal. Once operators use one, they are sold. They’re that good.”
A solution for everyone
Companies of all sizes can benefit by using Komatsu’s intelligent Machine Control products. From two-man operations, like Marion’s Hett Excavation, to large companies that operate in multiple states, such as Superior Excavating, the results are undeniable.
“We build pads for convenience stores, typically with a 12,000-square-foot store and a 20,000-square-foot parking lot,” explained Hett Excavation Owner Justin Hett. “Using the D61PXi saves us about a week per project. We don’t need stakes or to wait for surveyors; we plug the model into the machine and start cutting. In addition, we’re always on grade. We don’t undercut or overcut. We jump into the dozer, and it’s good to go.”
On complex jobs with several moving parts, the Komatsu intelligent Machine Control equipment continues to deliver. Wichita’s Andale Construction deploys its D61PXi dozers on mass grading sites as large as 130,000 yards. For Andale, the bigger the project, the greater the return.
Support that matches technology advancements
To ensure that customers can maximize the benefits of intelligent Machine Control, Berry Tractor hired a Technology Solutions Expert (TSE) to work closely with customers to provide initial training and continued support after the sale.
“The TSE provides intelligent Machine Control customers with service and support tailored specifically to their needs,” said Berry Tractor TSE Aero Sallee. “Our main goal is to work with owners and operators so they know how to get the most out of the machines. The technology is a big jump forward, and that can be intimidating for some customers. However, once they start using it, they pick it up quickly.”
“Having a contact like Aero is amazing,” said Hett Excavation Owner Justin Hett. “He knows his stuff. Any time I call with a question he takes care of us – usually over the phone or from his computer. Having the ability to solve problems like that instead of waiting for a service truck to come out is a big advantage for us. If we’re waiting, we aren’t working, so we’re losing money.”
The technology delivered
“We switched to the iMC dozers about three years ago to speed up and reduce wear on our motor graders, which we used for fine grading,” recalled Andale Construction Senior Project Manager Brent Jones. “Immediately, we saw the benefit in the machines. We could use the GPS from first pass to final grade. We don’t have to pay for any grading stakes, and we’re getting to within a half-tenth of grade.”
Superior Excavating Owner Chris Barnhart recalled, “We had a competitive dozer with a GPS system on it and there seemed to be a problem every time we used it. We spent 30 hours grading a retention pond only to find out the GPS was off by eight inches, and we had to bring in about 8,000 yards of dirt to fix it. That was the last straw. We called Berry Tractor, got a Komatsu D61PXi and the results have been amazing. We load the design, put it in third gear and get to work. We’re always on grade. It’s so much faster and convenient, and we never have to worry about adding or removing material after we’re finished, because the job is done right.”
Time and material are the most common areas of savings for intelligent Machine Control customers, and the equipment enables companies to utilize fewer people on projects, yet complete them faster. For Garden Plains’ Seiwert Services, upgrading to the PC210LCi excavator helped to fill a crew-member vacancy.
“My grade man retired last year, and I needed to figure out something quickly,” recalled Owner Joe Seiwert. “I like to be very precise, and the PC210LCi was a great option. Now, I can go to a jobsite and take care of it myself. With one less person, I still finish faster. Plus, using the job specs on the software has helped to significantly reduce the time it takes to complete the billing for jobs. It’s all because of the technology.”
Easy to use
In order to help operators master the technology, Komatsu designed the machines to be as user-friendly as possible, and Berry Tractor has staff ready to provide training and assistance for customers. Unlocking and implementing the machine control technology has been a breeze for operators.
“All of the aspects of the system are at your fingertips,” said Seiwert. “It’s very simple to use. I was a little intimidated at first, but once I tried it, I picked it up. Even my dad, who’s pretty old-school, took to it quickly.”
Jones added, “You don’t have to be a computer genius to understand this.”
From the most seasoned operators to the greenest of hands, the intelligent Machine Control equipment helps boost performance and deliver results.
“If you can follow a line, you can grade in these machines,” said Barnhart. “I promise you, I could put my 14-year-old daughter in our D61PXi and within a half an hour she could be grading as well as an operator with 50 years of experience using a standard dozer. For veteran operators, it makes their jobs easier because they can focus on other things and move dirt much faster. The technology and the machines are that good.”
The convenience of the integrated system has also been a bonus because owners no longer need to spend time with the masts and cables that typically come with aftermarket systems.
“We are so much more productive now that we don’t have to wait to put up or take down the masts and cables,” noted Barnhart. “We’d waste an hour a day on them. Komatsu has it all inside the machine. There is no prep. Turn it on and go. Plus, we don’t need anyone climbing on the machine in the elements to adjust the system. It’s so much safer."
Andale President Pete Molitor agrees and says that the built-in system also eliminates another headache for his company. “The time savings are great, but we also don’t have the costs associated with the upkeep of the GPS equipment. If an end came loose or a cord was damaged, it was $600-$800 each time. That added up.”
Komatsu intelligent Machine Control saves significant time compared to operating competitive dozers that have integrated technology.
“The thing I appreciate about our D61PXi is that we turn it on, raise the blade and within seconds it calibrates itself and we’re good to go,” described Barnhart. “With another brand that we tried, it seemed like there were a hundred steps – go forward, slam it into reverse, do this, do that. It made no sense, and we had to continuously check to see if the GPS was calibrated. It was so much hassle.”
Invest now, save later
Most companies make decisions based on the bottom line. When considering the purchase of the Komatsu intelligent Machine Control pieces, these Kansas firms decided that spending a bit more now would save them money in the long run. They were right.
“Through time and material alone, we will have made up the difference between our iMC D61PXi and a standard dozer within a year,” declared Hett. “It was an upfront expense for sure, but we saw the benefits, and the technology delivered.”
“My PC210LCi was an investment, but it’s been worth every penny,” shared Seiwert. “I couldn’t be happier.”
With savings in hand and projects on the books, these satisfied customers are excited about a future with intelligent Machine Control. “I’ll never go back,” promised Hett. “We first used the D61PXi on rental, and about an hour into it I knew what it could do for us. Our next step is to add an iMC excavator. We’re believers.”
“Any company that isn’t using some form of GPS won’t be able to compete in the near future, at least not with us,” predicted Barnhart. “We’re all-in. The technology is amazing, and it has led to our growth. I’m excited to add more iMC machines and see how much better we can be.”
How the excavator works
Komatsu’s intelligent Machine Control excavators have a unique sensor package, including stroke-sensing hydraulic cylinders, an Inertial Measuring Unit sensor and Global Navigation Satellite System antenna. They utilize 3-D design data loaded into the machine’s monitor to accurately display machine position relative to target grade. When the bucket reaches the target surface, automation kicks in to limit overexcavation.
“Once the target elevation is reached, no matter how hard the operator tries to move the joystick control to lower the boom, the excavator won’t allow it,” said Berry Tractor Technology Solutions Expert Aero Sallee. “Minimizing overexcavation reduces wasted time and the costs associated with placing and compacting new, expensive material to replace what didn’t need to be removed in the first place.”
Advanced functions, including Auto-Grade Assist, enhance the excavators’ ability to effectively reach target elevation without overexcavating. As the operator moves the arm, the boom adjusts the bucket height automatically, tracing the target surface and minimizing digs that are too deep, allowing operators to rough-dig without concerns regarding the design elevation, as well as to fine-dig by operating the arm lever only.
The Auto-Stop Control feature halts boom or bucket operation automatically when the bucket edge reaches the design surface. The excavator is equipped with Minimum-Distance Control, which regulates the bucket by automatically selecting the point on the bucket closest to the target surface. If the machine is not facing a sloped surface at a right angle, it will still follow the target surface and minimize digging below it.