GPS technology provides a decided advantage
In the construction industry, it is common for a company to have family ties. When Don Plester started his field-tiling firm in 1996, he began teaching his son, Brandon, the business from the moment he could sit on a tractor in hopes that he would continue the business for the family one day.
“Brandon always wanted to be around,” recalled Don. “We’d find small things for him to do, and then we let him start running jobs when he was old enough. The plan was for him to take over when his mother and I were ready to retire.”
That plan has been revised slightly. Brandon started his own company, BP Contracting LLC, four years ago to do some side work. Today, it has grown to the point that Brandon now operates it full time.
“BP Contracting started while I was still with my dad’s company as a way to do some different projects,” said Brandon. “It was important for me to accomplish things on my own instead of just inheriting something. I wanted to run a company, but I wanted to know that I had earned it, too.”
The decision was one that Don endorsed. In fact, both companies continue to operate from the same location in Ruth, Michigan, and the father-son pair still collaborate on some jobs.
“I’m proud of what he’s done, and he has my full support. I think it’s great,” said Don. “Certainly, our businesses work closely together and will continue to. He’s built BP Contracting on his own – purchased machines, developed contacts, hired employees. Although he’s not taking over the family business, he’s building a solid reputation and still representing our family. That’s a neat thing.”
Fields of opportunities
While Brandon ventured away from the company he grew up with, he remained in the field where he honed his craft. His father’s business focuses on installing tile to help with drainage for crops; Brandon’s company builds off of that, capitalizing on the many opportunities related to the rural area.
“I started small with some assignments for the county, changing culverts and digging ditches,” recalled Brandon. “Fortunately, I performed well on those jobs and continued to get them. I like tiling, and I take pride in it, but I really wanted to focus on the excavating side. So, after I finished my work for dad, I’d go and do some of those other things.”
Eventually, the side projects began to grow in size. When Brandon landed a contract on a 72-turbine wind farm in Kinde, Michigan, it was time for him to quit his day job.
“That project is the one that allowed me to go off on my own,” he said. “Dad and I had completed smaller wind-turbine jobs before, but never this size. I really liked that work, so he encouraged me to go for it.”
After he landed the wind-turbine farm contract, Brandon knew he needed more help, so he hired BP Contracting’s first five employees last spring.
“I had been doing projects on my own, but this required a full staff,” explained Brandon. “Fortunately, I was able to hire great people, and we’ve been growing and learning together. It’s been awesome.”
At the wind farm, BP Contracting is re-routing the field tile within a 200-foot radius of the turbines’ foundations before construction begins, to ensure that cranes or other heavy machinery at the site won’t crush the tile. After the turbines are erected, BP Contracting will re-tile around the radius and fix any tile that may have been damaged during construction or the installation of collector lines.
The company also plowed in roughly 200,000 feet of electrical cable, installing as much as 8,000 feet per day on the wind farm. It is an application that Brandon thinks can help his company continue to grow.
“As far as plowing cable or tiling, the only difference is the depth at which we install it,” he explained. “It can provide a cost savings to our customers to have us handle all of the installation, and it’s something we will continue to pursue.”
PC210LCi earns praise
While the wind farm helped BP Contracting grow exponentially in the past year, the company also landed a contract to maintain rural ditches for Huron County.
“I handled between 10 and 15 miles of ditches on the side in 2015, but this will be a larger commitment,” said Brandon. “It’s nice to count on those jobs; they keep us steady.”
To ensure that the quality of its work remains high, BP Contracting invested in a new Komatsu intelligent Machine Control PC210LCi excavator from Continental Equipment Company (CEC) and Area Sales Manager Chad Fullerton. In April 2016, BP Contracting became the first company in the area to have an excavator with integrated GPS technology in its fleet. The results were immediate.
“The PC210LCi helps us finish ditches faster while maintaining grade; the GPS is a valuable tool for us,” noted Brandon. “The county is particular about its ditches; it has very high standards. The PC210LCi has been amazing on these projects, and the county has been extremely happy with the results.”
While the technology of the excavator gave BP Contracting a leg up on the competition, the GPS technology in the PC210LCi has helped maximize that advantage.
“Learning how to use the GPS was simple,” said Brandon. “After a few setups, I felt very confident in the machine. It runs just like a standard PC210, except it won’t let you go off grade. It was a piece of cake.”
Brandon credits CEC Technology Solutions Expert Will Burt with helping his company learn the nuances of the technology. Beyond-the-sale service like that, in addition to Komatsu CARE, Komatsu’s complimentary service program for the first three years or 2,000 hours, and KOMTRAX, Komatsu’s telematics system, help the young company maximize its equipment.
Brandon also turned to CEC and Komatsu for the rest of his fleet, which includes PC228USLC and PC270LC excavators as well as a D65 dozer. The commitment to CEC is as much of a Plester family tradition as is working in the field.
“Probably 80 to 90 percent of our equipment is from CEC,” said Don. “They have always been good to us, and Chad has been a big part of building this relationship. If we need something, he takes care of it.”
“I thought I would work there one day,” added Brandon. “I went to school to be a diesel mechanic with the idea that I’d get a job with CEC. In the end, I decided I would rather operate machines, but I think it says a lot about our relationship with CEC.”
The road ahead
Brandon’s decision to start BP Contracting may have resulted in rewriting the Plester family’s master plan, but it was a decision that could provide an even greater payoff.
“It’s exciting to build something of my own and also have my family there to support me,” said Brandon. “I think both companies are going to benefit from the diversified offerings. It’s an exciting time right now, that’s for sure.”
With a long future ahead of him, Brandon hopes to position his company for continued success. He believes the key to maintaining a long-term competitive advantage well into the future lies with the use of technology.
“The more that we can embrace and integrate technology, the better it is going to be for us down the road,” predicted Brandon. “In the short time that we’ve had the PC210LCi, we’ve already seen production gains. There are more applications we can use the GPS technology on, and if we can remain ahead of the curve, it will only benefit us.
“There is definitely growth potential,” he added. “We had to turn some jobs down this summer because we were so busy. That’s not a bad problem to have, but we want to make sure we are able to take care of all of our customers and deliver quality results. I am confident we will be able to do that.”