Geotechnical Construction, Inc.


September 12, 2016

Efficient fleet of Komatsu excavators

Springtime is a weather roller coaster for those living in the Midwest. Abundant sunshine on Monday can give way to flurries on Tuesday. While most of the weather inconsistencies are an annoyance, sometimes there are dangerous side effects. Constant rain and melting snow can push rivers and streams over their banks and cause serious property damage. Helping to prevent rivers from reaching that point is a specialty of Mount Olive, Illinois-based Geotechnical Construction, Inc. (GCI).

“One of the main components of our work is drilling relief wells for levees to relieve hydrostatic pressure,” noted GCI President Mark Dragovich. “These wells help control the flow of water when levels rise by diverting it to a pump station or drainage ditch. Without the wells, the water will force material up through the levee and could cause it to break, which leads to mass flooding.”

Mark, who earned a civil/structural engineering degree from the University of Illinois, built waste-energy plants before purchasing GCI with a partner in 1992. His son, Jon, started going on jobs and helping out in the shop at age 10 and has progressed to running the field operations. Mark and Jon are the owners and operators of the company that has experienced significant growth in the past few years. GCI’s work is primarily focused along the Mississippi River Valley from St. Louis to New Orleans, as well as some jobs in the Ohio River Valley.

When working on relief projects, GCI creates artesian wells by drilling 27-inch holes between 80- and 120-feet deep. Once a well is made, it is fit with a stainless-steel casing and filled with filtered gravel. After GCI performs a pump test to remove the fine material that remains in the well, it is capped and covered. Jobs can vary in size, requiring as few as five wells or as many as 90.

“Every assignment is different,” said Mark. “We might take an entire day to set up, other times we complete a well per day. We may need to do some soil sampling, too. Planning is important.”

In addition to relief wells, GCI specializes in dewatering projects at new construction sites. It also has a five-year land-development contract at Lake Shelbyville in Illinois that includes grading for a campground, laying riprap and sewer pipe as well as constructing roads.

“I think the potential to expand into some other areas is there, but right now the water aspect of our business makes up the bulk of our work,” explained Mark.

Komatsu creates efficiency

GCI utilizes an efficient fleet that includes Komatsu PC88, PC290LC and PC360LC excavators. While each machine plays an important role in finishing jobs, the headliner is the new PC360LC.

“Having the PC360 really sets us apart from the competition,” said Jon. “It’s a do-it-all machine. We can drill and trench with it, but the biggest advantage is its ability to move large objects. We previously used cranes to move heavy mats into place to level out jobsites and transport tanks to filter water. The PC360 handles those tasks now. It’s been addition by subtraction.”

The idea to use the PC360 for heavy lifting occurred in the midst of a 75-well project the company performed in Louisiana.

“It was pretty wet on that job, so we decided to do the work with an excavator that we were using instead of unloading another machine,” said Mark. “It worked well, and we’ve been doing it this way ever since.”

Trust in Roland

GCI turned to Roland Machinery Company and Sales Rep Chris Ingram to purchase the Komatsu excavators. The company’s decision to acquire the PC360LC followed a similar path as its previous purchases.

“Until recently, we only rented machines,” said Jon. “Finally, we decided it made more sense financially to buy the machines we were using a lot. That’s how we bought the PC88 and PC290LC. We rented them for a while and then purchased them. We did the same with the PC360.”

When it came time to add a new excavator, the choice to work with Roland and Komatsu was natural.

“Our relationship with Roland started with Paul Walters, who works in rentals. It has continued with Chris, and we couldn’t be happier,” said Mark. “We’ve rented other brands when we’ve traveled, and we have some horror stories – generators showing up without lugs, light towers with bulbs that didn’t work and a broken excavator. We’ve never had an issue with the equipment we rent from Roland. Every piece is always in great condition. This attention to detail made the decision to purchase from Roland clear cut.”

A competitive package from Komatsu Financial and Komatsu CARE complimentary service for the first three years or 2,000 hours also prompted GCI to purchase the PC360LC.

“We went through Komatsu Financial and have Komatsu CARE for both the PC290 and PC360,” noted Mark. “To get zero-percent financing and have Roland monitor and service the machine made it a slam dunk. It’s rare to find a dealer that works with customers in this way.”

Continued success

Mark predicts more of the same in the years to come for GCI. The company has enjoyed solid growth in the last few years, and he foresees a steady number of projects on the horizon.

“We’ve grown and become more efficient, which has been great,” said Mark. “Right now, I don’t see much change coming in the future. There is a lot of dewatering work that needs to be done, and we have a solid reputation among customers. As long as we continue to do quality work, I think we’ll be successful.”