Komatsu dozers deliver outstanding power-to-weight ratio
When Dan Hutton and Charlie Bowman got the chance to run Kingston Services, they had a lot of ambition, but little experience as contractors. Luckily for them, they had an extensive background in the latest constructionrelated technology.
Early on, the firm would be competing against many established Des Moines-area companies for jobs. With little name recognition or experience, the company’s leaders believed that GPS technology could provide an advantage. Kingston’s competition was attempting to learn the technology and understand how to incorporate it into their businesses. In contrast, Kingston hit the ground running with a firm grasp of GPS and its capabilities.
“Charlie and I worked together training owners to use GPS technology,” explained Hutton, who is President of Kingston Services. “We always joked about owning a company, and in 2013 we got our chance. When we started doing our own work, we knew the benefits of the technology and used it as much as we could.”
Hutton and Bowman began by using their laser screed to handle smaller, custom-concrete jobs and charged by the foot. After some advice from a fellow contractor, Kingston changed its focus and began to grow.
“That contractor said that I was never going to make any money with the projects I was doing,” recalled Hutton. “So, we decided to move forward as a full-fledged concrete contractor and started paving bike trails and parking lots in Polk County and the surrounding area.”
In 2014, Kingston poured nearly 7,000 cubic yards of concrete and doubled that amount the next year. The company’s first large project was a new 80,000-square-foot parking lot for Gilbert High School. The project helped Kingston climb to another level.
“When we took the job, I stood at the corner of the lot and asked myself how we were going to pave it all,” admitted Hutton. “Fortunately, we acquired a concrete company and used their materials and employees. We poured it with our laser screed and were off to the races after that.”
Today, the company has grown to 50 employees and completes roughly 20 projects a year, with almost half of them quite large in scope. Kingston also started handling dirt work, as well as grading and pipe installation to better manage the quality and time line of assignments.
“We began performing our own dirt work subgrade and utilities because it prevented headaches for us,” noted Hutton. “Now, we can go to a jobsite and use the same CAD files and technology on all phases of the project, and we have much greater control.”
MPS and Kingston
Hutton is the first to admit that Kingston wouldn’t be where it is today without the support of its sister company, MPS Engineers. The relationship began when MPS hired Hutton as Director of Marketing. After eight months, he received the opportunity to run Kingston.
“Even though I was in marketing, I supervised some projects and pushed them along,” he said. “Umesh Shetye [President] and Amit Pradhan [Vice President] at MPS gave Charlie and me the opportunity to run Kingston.”
Although Kingston was an existing company performing smaller side jobs, Shetye and Pradhan hoped that handing the reins to Hutton and Bowman would help take the company to another level. After three years of growth, the investment seems to have paid dividends.
“We’re grateful for that MPS took a chance on us,” proclaimed Hutton. “No one else would have offered us a shot.”
The GPS advantage
Hutton estimates that, pound-for-pound, Kingston Services is one of the top companies in Des Moines for GPS use. The integration of technology helped Kingston lap the field, almost immediately.
“Having so much experience with the new technology gave us a definite advantage,” recalled Hutton. “The GPS technology made up for our lack of experience. We could start and finish jobs quicker. If a customer wanted us to begin a project immediately, we could accommodate that because we didn’t have to wait to put in the stakes. The technology helped us complete more projects in a shorter time, without sacrificing quality. Speed is great, but accuracy is better.”
To take advantage of the latest in construction technology, Kingston turns to Road Machinery & Supplies Co. and Sales Rep Chad Hein. Two machines that have been instrumental in Kingston’s success are its GOMACO GT-3600 curb-and-gutter slipform paver with stringless technology and a Komatsu intelligent Machine Control D51PXi dozer with integrated GPS.
“The D51i uses the same Topcon technology as our GT-3600, so we are able to get precise results,” said Hutton. “The D51i allows us to work and grade in a higher gear than we can with other brands equipped with aftermarket systems. When we grade with our D51i and pave with the GT-3600, we save time and material, and we can get within a sixteenth of an inch to spec.”
RMS has been an asset in helping Kingston build its fleet, which includes a PC210LC and several traditional dozers on rent. With assistance from RMS, Kingston has incorporated its Topcon technology with the rentals.
“Chad knows the way to our hearts – if he says we can put technology on a machine, we’re in,” joked Hutton. “You can move a lot of dirt with Komatsu’s dozers. The power-to-weight ratio is outstanding, and the visibility is awesome.
“RMS does an excellent job of addressing our requirements,” he said. “If we need parts or service, Chad is there. We have a great relationship with RMS.”
GPS technology has helped the company grow in its early years, and Hutton expects that it will become even more of an asset moving forward.
“A company that doesn’t embrace GPS technology isn’t going to be very successful in the future,” he predicted. “It’s so much more efficient, and it makes our lives a lot easier.”
He referenced a recent project to illustrate his point.
“We were paving a parking lot for a school, and another company that wasn’t using GPS was paving a parking lot of the same size across the street,” recalled Hutton. “We started a few days after they did, and finished a week before them. It wasn’t even close.”
Young and savvy
Kingston is a young company, and so is its staff. Much like the choice to embrace technology, the decision to hire youthful workers was also made to out of necessity.
“We couldn’t get the operators with 30 years of experience, so we offered young employees a shot,” explained Hutton. “We hired people out of high school and college. One reason we were able to do that was because the technology helped make up for a lack of operating experience.”
The younger employees naturally gravitated to the technology, but even the seasoned veterans have been enthusiastic converts.
“Most of our employees grew up with computers in their hands, so it’s nothing new for them,” added Hutton. “Even our older employees have gotten on board. We did a street widening with our GT-3600, and an employee nicknamed ‘Grandpa’ couldn’t understand why we were using all of the technology. Once we finished, he was blown away by the speed and accuracy. He’s a believer now.”
Today, Kingston Services is a known and respected company in the Des Moines area, but it wasn’t always that way. Hutton has worked hard to establish the company’s identity.
“Two years ago, nothing got under my skin more than someone asking, ‘Kingston who?’” he admitted. “We did a lot to get our name out there – we made shirts and branded our equipment – but most importantly, we did good work and had solid backing from MPS.”
The relationship with MPS has been an important one for both companies. While MPS provided mentorship and projects for the young company, the goal is for Kingston to eventually take care of MPS.
“The plan is for Kingston and MPS to merge as Kingston,” explained Hutton. “MPS and Umesh have done a great deal for us, and I see it as an investment in their future. Until then, we will continue to expand in a sustainable way. Anyone can grow a business, but the key is managing it right, so you can maintain it. That’s our goal.”