Power Grade

FINDING ITS NICHE HELPS SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA COMPANY BUILD, MAINTAIN LIST OF SATISFIED CUSTOMERS

October 15, 2019

Komatsu CARE provides ‘peace of mind’

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A member of the Power Grade team uses a Komatsu WA470-8 wheel loader on a recent project. “The loaders have a lower center of gravity, so we believe they are more stable,” said Superintendent Chris Doty.

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A Power Grade operator places dirt for a new road and grades a slope with a Komatsu D39EX-24 dozer on a Colton, Calif., jobsite. The company added Komatsu dozers after a demo. “Those dozers outpushed the competitive machines they were up against,” said Superintendent Chris Doty. “That convinced us to give Komatsu a shot, and we’re glad that we did.”

When times are slow and work is hard to come by, some companies seek additional sources of revenue. Such was the case with Power Grade Inc. nearly a decade ago in the midst of the Great Recession, near the point when Chris Doty joined the firm as a grade checker. His first assignment was on a tilt-wall project in Moreno Valley.

“At the time, it was the largest building pad under construction in California,” said Doty, who has worked his way up to Superintendent of the Ontario, Calif., company. “Power Grade was doing general earthwork, and still does, but it was willing to step out and pursue other markets in order to ensure its survival.”

One area that sparked Power Grade’s interest was civil municipal work for power companies, especially electrical entities. It proved fruitful, and Power Grade quickly developed a solid foundation in that sector. Today, it does everything from clearing rights of way to putting up electrical towers. Power Grade’s services include earthmoving, drilling for and installing concrete foundations and, in some instances, erecting the towers. The firm also handles complete substation construction.

“This is a niche that we have excelled in – so much so that customers ask us to take on more projects and additional types of work,” said Doty. “We are now the fastest-growing municipal contractor in southern California. Our jobs range from tens of thousands to multimillions of dollars, depending on the scope. It can be anything from constructing a lay-down yard, to grading for new tower sites, to comprehensive engineering and construction of multiple locations.”

One of the company’s current contracts calls for the firm to construct 320 sites for new electrical towers over a 70-mile area that runs through varying landscapes near Los Angeles, including wide-open stretches, mountains and cities. The job is expected to take 24 to 36 months to complete. At one location in Colton, a crew put up a 330-foot wall and an access road.

“We built it up using dirt that was borrowed from other sites,” Doty explained. “We try to balance out projects as much as possible. I think that our attention to detail is a key strength, along with the quality of our work. We also understand the importance of environmental, biological and archaeological issues and are sensitive to those as we plan for and progress through a project.”

Vast list of services

While electrical continues to be Power Grade’s top source of business, it does perform other municipal jobs across a wide swath of southern California, from Fresno to the Mexican border. It also handles assignments in other states, including Arizona and Nevada.

“As a company, we have more than three decades of experience, and quite a lot more when you total all the years of our 140-member-plus staff,” said Doty. “One of the reasons we maintain success is an outstanding group of loyal employees. They are dedicated to getting jobs done on time and on budget. The owner, Jim Putman, has made this a great place to call home. The environment is second-to-none, so our turnover rate is very low.”

Crews are involved with as many as seven to 10 projects at any time. As a civil general contractor, Power Grade serves residential, industrial and commercial clients alike, including full site development that consists of clearing and grubbing, mass excavation, rough and finish grading, wet and dry utilities, paving, and structural concrete. In some instances, it may also implement storm drain and channel reinforcement, slope and soil stabilization, project consulting and management. Additional offerings include developing cost-control strategies and budgeting.

“We continue to grow because we’re unafraid of challenges or trying new things, whether they are outside of our niche or a part of it,” Doty emphasized. “For instance, during the past few years, we have started putting up block walls around substations and installing concrete piers and conduit for security-camera poles.”

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Road Machinery Account Manager/Sales Chris Porter (left) meets with Power Grade Superintendent Chris Doty on a jobsite in Colton, Calif. “We are very thankful for Chris’ persistence in pursuing our business,” said Doty. “He continues to check on us to make sure we are happy and the machines are performing as they should.”

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Power Grade uses Komatsu excavators, including this PC360LC-11, equipped with attachments to drill holes for piers, “They have plenty of power to get the job done,” said Superintendent Chris Doty. “Across the board, we are extremely pleased with our Komatsu equipment’s productivity, reliability and efficiency.”

Dependability across the board

Power Grade’s electrical-related projects cover a wide range of conditions and locations. At times this includes remote, uninhabited sites that may be hours from a paved road. Doty said reliable equipment is essential to maintaining production and staying on schedule.

“Customers expect us to start and finish on time; we are committed to that and meet their expectations,” said Doty. “Our Komatsu machinery plays a vital role in that. We’ve used it in temperatures ranging from well below freezing to desert heat as high as 115 degrees, with no issues.”

Doty acknowledges that Komatsu was not at the top of his list of manufacturers until approximately two years ago. At that time, Road Machinery Account Manager/Sales Chris Porter suggested he demo a couple of dozers.

“Everything Chris told us about Komatsu proved to be true,” stated Doty. “Those dozers outpushed the competitive machines they were up against. That convinced us to give Komatsu a shot, and we’re glad that we did. The thought that goes into Komatsu’s engineering is great. For instance, the dozer seat sits forward in the cab, which gives the operator greater visibility. That can equate to better production.”

In addition to D39, D51 and D65 dozers, Power Grade now has PC170 and PC360 excavators and WA470 wheel loaders. “The loaders have a lower center of gravity, so we believe they are more stable,” said Doty. “We use the PC170s and the PC360 to drill holes for piers, and they have plenty of power to get the job done. Across the board, we are extremely pleased with our Komatsu equipment’s productivity, reliability and efficiency.”

Doty said he’s also more than happy with the relationship Power Grade has built with Road Machinery. “We are very thankful for Chris’ persistence in pursuing our business. He and Road Machinery are not looking to make a sale and never be heard from again. He continues to check on us to make sure we are happy and the machines are performing as they should.

“We got an upgraded fleet along with dependable service from Road Machinery and Komatsu CARE,” Doty added. “They contact us when a routine interval is coming up to schedule a convenient time to have their techs do the work. We have peace of mind knowing that our machines are taken care of, so we can continue to focus on getting jobs completed. No other dealer has done anything like that for us before.”

Concentrating on being the best

Power Grade’s willingness to tackle new challenges has kept it busy and growing. However, Doty says the company isn’t ready to pursue other markets at this time.

“We want to concentrate on being the best at what we do, and that’s providing an exceptional product for our customers and an excellent place for our employees to work,” shared Doty. “If we become too big and spread out, that may change. We’re happy right where we are.”