Brinkman Excavating

CARO, MICH.-BASED COMPANY DEFINES THE MEANING OF A FAMILY BUSINESS

December 14, 2018

Sold on Komatsu equipment

Gateway Pipeline

Operator Garrett Brinkman uses Brinkman Excavating’s Komatsu WA380-8 wheel loader at the firm’s sand plant. “It’s an excellent fit for us there,” he said.

Gateway Pipeline

“With the lifting power and larger bucket, I can put more material where I need it. It’s a great machine with a smooth ride.”, Garrett Brinkman added.

Having the last name Brinkman isn’t a prerequisite for working at Brinkman Excavating, LLC, it just seems that way because the Brinkman family makes up four-fifths of the company’s roster. Jeff is the Owner/Operator; his sons, Garrett and Randy, are Operators; and his wife, Kim, handles the financials. It’s the epitome of a family business.

“When I started the company, Kim and I wanted to stay small and have our sons involved,” said Jeff. “It’s been great. We’ve been able to add services and applications while remaining the same size, which is important to us.”

After 10 years of working for an excavation company, Jeff opened his business in November 1994 with a quarter-mile-long road project, one that would set the tone for the next 24 years. “It probably wasn’t the smartest time of year to start a job,” joked Jeff. “However, it paid the bills throughout the winter and showed people what we could do.”

Today, residential construction with a focus on digging basements, site preparation and the installation of utilities and septic systems makes up the bulk of Brinkman Excavating’s work load. Its services have also expanded to include agricultural-related activities, primarily digging feed bunkers, building-site prep and field-tile irrigation.

“We complete approximately 30 to 40 projects a year, typically within 40 miles of Caro,” estimated Jeff. “We do everything from driveway patches to site prep for a location that will have four large buildings, two ponds and tons of underground utilities on it. We take pride in what we do, no matter the size of the job.”

Brinkman Excavating’s evolution into larger contracts was thanks, in large part, to one thing – its good name.

“We don’t advertise much, but word spreads quickly around here,” stated Jeff. “We’ve been fortunate to develop a strong reputation by continuously delivering for our customers. As we were able to complete projects, grow our equipment fleet and gain experience, larger opportunities in the area kept coming our way. I think that’s a testament to how we operate, and people see that we take pride in what we do.”

Buying the farm

In 2001, the Brinkmans built a new house with a shop that was located behind a farm. They would have been content to remain a small excavating firm, but an opportunity for expansion into the aggregate industry soon presented itself. All they needed to do was purchase their 80-acre front yard.

“The farmer who owned the land was looking to sell and wanted to know if I was interested,” recalled Jeff. “I knew there was a sand deposit on the land and thought it had to be pretty good because a local asphalt plant was also interested. We felt like it was a great fit for us because it was close, it would give the boys something to do and could ensure a steady flow of work. We already had dump trucks for delivering the material. It just made sense.”

Jeff’s hunch was correct. He bought the land in 2002 and almost immediately, the sand plant began paying dividends.

“Right away, we had some farmers and a big contractor who became regular customers,” recalled Jeff. “Then in 2006, we won a contract for the City of Caro’s water- and sewer-main project. We moved 67,000 tons of material that year, which opened up the pit a lot.”

Today, the 30-acre sand pit includes a screening and wash plant that produces state-certified Class 2 sand, pea gravel and 6A stone. What sets Brinkman Excavating’s pit apart from the competition is its bedding sand.

“It’s a very fine product that area dairy farmers prefer for bedding, and it’s also great for masonry,” explained Randy. “Our sand is unique in that it’s naturally very clean. We didn’t even wash it when we first started. It came out of the ground good to go. Customers love it. Today, we produce about 50,000 tons of the bedding sand a year.”

Just like with the excavation side of the company, word traveled quickly. The viability of the sand plant has been an advantage for the Brinkmans.

“It has really helped us diversify,” said Jeff. “We expected it to be good , but we didn’t anticipate anything like this. Thankfully, we’ve been able to meet demand, and our customers have been very loyal. Most of our business is repeat.”

Gateway Pipeline

CEC Sales Rep Chad Fullerton (far right) calls on Brinkman Excavating’s (L-R) Garrett, Randy and Jeff Brinkman for their sales and service needs.

Gateway Pipeline

Using a Komatsu PC170LC-11, Operator Randy Brinkman removes overburden on a berm. “I really like how the PC170 handles – it is very smooth and doesn’t jump around,” he said.

Family feel

The Brinkmans believe that the family element of their company is key to its success. They value similar traits in their relationship with Continental Equipment Company (CEC). Brinkman Excavating’s first CEC Sales Rep was Dennis Fullerton and today his son, Chad, calls on the firm.

“It’s neat to have that family feeling with our distributor,” said Jeff. “When working with Dennis and now Chad, we know we are getting service that we can depend on. They have bent over backward to help us achieve our goals, which means a lot.”

The relationship with CEC has led to the acquisition of a number of Komatsu pieces for Brinkman’s fleet, beginning with the purchase of a D39EX-22 dozer.

“We needed a new dozer, and I thought I wanted a larger model from another manufacturer,” remembered Jeff. “Once I ran the Komatsu D39, I was blown away. It was faster and stronger than the larger, competitive model that I was interested in. The visibility was amazing, and the hydraulics were impressive. I was sold.”

Brinkman Excavating then added two more Komatsus, a PC170LC-11 excavator and a WA380-8 wheel loader.

“I really like how the PC170 handles – it is very smooth and doesn’t jump around,” noted Randy. “Plus, we can easily put it on a trailer and move it to multiple sites in a day without having to permit it. It’s the perfect size for us.” “We run the WA380 primarily at the pit, and it’s an excellent fit for us there,” said Garrett. “With the lifting power and larger bucket, I can put more material where I need it. It’s a great machine with a smooth ride.”

Komatsu CARE, which provides complimentary service on Tier 4 machines for the first 2,000 hours or three years of operation, also provides a great benefit to Brinkman Excavating.

“We are a small company, so for CEC to be able to handle all of the service allows us to operate more efficiently,” detailed Jeff. “CEC monitors everything and contacts us when a service is needed or a code pops up. Then, they come out and address it at a time that’s convenient for us, or right away if necessary.”

Looking ahead

The blueprint hasn’t changed much for Brinkman Excavating throughout its first 24 years, and the Brinkmans don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

“Being a small family business is important to us, and it suits us well,” shared Jeff. “Our goal has never been to aggressively grow or add services. We adapted to our customers’ needs, and if an opportunity that made sense came up, we took it. That is something we will continue to do. As long as we are able to deliver quality projects and products, we will have success.”