Versatile, fuel-efficient and dependable Komatsu excavators
Since opening its doors in 1993, KAJACS Contractors Inc. has made a name for itself in the southern regional markets by completing water and sewer jobs on time and up to customers’ standards. During that time, it found the most value with projects that feature large-diameter distribution lines. In order to land more of those contracts, the company hit the road.
“We decided to pursue transmission and distribution jobs with large-diameter pipe, and there weren’t enough of them in our area to keep us busy, so we expanded,” recalled CEO Mike Persons. “We had to go where the work was. It was a gamble, but it’s paying off.”
KAJACS’ primary markets have always been Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. Recently it expanded to Oklahoma and Alabama with plans to move into the Dallas/ Fort Worth Metroplex and the northern markets as well. Persons says the company will continue to expand as long as the job makes sense.
Right jobs, right people
KAJACS performs a range of utility projects for municipalities and other government agencies. However, it also handles dirt work – including grading, excavating and directional boring – and highway assignments. The diversification is important to KAJACS’ success.
“Right now, nearly 80 percent of our work is utilities, but if it were reversed, I wouldn’t have a problem with that,” he said. “We are set up to take advantage of opportunities year-by-year. You have to follow the opportunities.”
Knowing the location of the prime projects has become a skill that KAJACS honed during the last 24 years. The company developed a process to help make the most informed decisions possible before bidding on a job.
“We try to do as much homework as we can before moving forward,” explained Persons. “Instead of eyeballing a site or digging some holes with large machinery, we use surveying and technical equipment as well as software to get a clear picture of what we would be dealing with. It saves us a lot of time and money.”
For a company that specializes in large assignments, information is an advantage. KAJACS recently started a $5-million project in White Oak Bayou near Little Rock, Arkansas, where it is installing three miles of 36-inch sewer interceptor at a depth of 18 feet. The contract also requires the company to perform a 600-foot, 36-inch bore underneath Interstate 40. Without sufficient information going into the bid process, Persons believed the project would not be a success.
In addition to selecting the right jobs, employing top-notch people has also been an integral part of KAJACS’ accomplishments. The company has 70 employees and experiences very little turnover, something that Persons attributes to the company’s cross-training program.
“We know that good workers are very hard to find, so we develop them,” said Persons. “Of the 13 supervisors on staff, all but two started working in a ditch for us. We have several employees who have been with us for 20 years. People appreciate knowing that advancement opportunities exist.”
Persons credits his management team for the company’s success both in completing projects and building a staff. The team includes Chief Financial Officer Sheila Calvert, CPA; Vice President Rodger Williams II, PE; as well as Project Managers/Estimators Rick Prosser, PE, and Ethan Hoggard. Persons’ son, Aron, is the President and operates the company’s Little Rock office.
Komatsu and Roland
When KAJACS needs an excavator to complete a project, it turns to one of its 17 Komatsus from Roland Machinery Company and Sales Rep Dan Christensen. KAJACS’ excavator fleet ranges in size from a PC78 to a PC400.
“Komatsu excavators have repeatedly proven themselves to us,” shared Persons. “They have the handling and power to perform a variety of jobs. On top of that, they are extremely fuelefficient and dependable. They can take the punishment we give them.”
The fleet range allows KAJACS to match its excavators to applications and maximize efficiency.
“Once we win a job, we start building an equipment list,” said Persons. “We take several factors into consideration – size of the pipe, depth, location – and it’s always a Komatsu excavator.”
Persons and his team are also fans of Roland Machinery and the services it provides, including Komatsu’s telematics system, KOMTRAX.
“Everyone at Roland does an excellent job for us,” proclaimed Persons. “Dan is always just a phone call away if there is an issue. If we need anything, he takes care of it right away.
“KOMTRAX is also very helpful for us,” he added. “Now that we’re farther away for work, being able to bring up a machine on KOMTRAX without any extra equipment or software saves us significant time and money. Our mechanics use it to work with operators and fix the problem quickly.”
The Road Ahead
While expansion is the newest trend at KAJACS, Persons says he expects the company’s core values to endure.
“We will remain committed to teamwork, integrity and safety,” promised Persons. “They got us to this point, and without those values, growth wouldn’t be possible. The sizes and locations of our projects may change, but our values won’t.”