“If it’s a Komatsu, it’s running”
In the early ’90s, Dorothy Nipp and Bill Ringsdorf worked in different areas of the construction industry. Nipp was running TAB Construction, a small, Omaha-based business that performed concrete projects, and Ringsdorf was working for a large highway construction company – but they both wanted what the other had.
“I was looking to get into a smaller company, and Dorothy wanted to grow her company and focus on the business side,” said Ringsdorf. “When we partnered up, it was a great fit. She was able to handle the office – be the CEO – while I focused on the operations side. It’s been a great partnership.”
When Ringsdorf, who is now President and Co-owner, started at TAB Construction, it had 12 employees and worked out of a two-stall garage. Today, the company employs 70 people and does more than $18 million in projects.
Under Nipp and Ringsdorf’s team concept, the company began to grow, take on larger projects and eventually focus on highway construction. Today, the company performs a wide variety of jobs, but its forte is paving and concrete storm-sewer pipe.
“In 1995, we were mainly doing sidewalks, driveways and underdrain tile,” said Ringsdorf. “I had a background in heavy highway work, and I knew there was a niche we could fill in that area. We started bidding state, city and federal work, and things took off from there.”
The move to highway construction has paid off. Recently, TAB Construction was part of one of the largest highway undertakings the State of Iowa has ever done – the six-phase, $1 billion I-80/I-29 Dual, Divided Freeway project. TAB Construction was involved in four of the phases to renovate overlapping sections of the two interstates near Council Bluffs.
“We put in 25,000 to 30,000 feet of storm sewer, and paved about 126,000 square yards,” said Ringsdorf. “It was a very large job, and there were a lot of moving parts. We teamed up with several larger contractors to complete the work.”
The company does more than road construction. It recently began work on the Omaha National Cemetery, a 236-acre site located in Sarpy County, Nebraska. The $42 million project is expected to be completed in four stages.
“We won a bid for the first phase and will lay roughly 6,000 feet of storm sewer, 2,000 feet of force main, 2,500 feet of sanitary sewer and 6,000 feet of water main,” said Ringsdorf. “We’re really excited about it.”
He believes the company is successful on large projects like these because of its commitment to planning.
“We pride ourselves on our scheduling,” he said. “We’re always meeting with our superintendents and trying to think ahead. If we can save time, that saves us money. Our goal is to finish projects on time and under budget.”
Reliable Komatsu machines
Ringsdorf turns to Komatsu equipment from RoadBuilders Machinery and Supply Co., Inc. and Sales Rep Warren Kutz to meet his project goals. TAB Construction has a dozen Komatsu excavators and wheel loaders in its fleet for one reason – reliability.
“If it’s a Komatsu, it’s running,” said Ringsdorf. “We like to buy both new and low-hour, used equipment, and we keep it forever. We are still running a PC45 from 2000 that has 14,000 hours on it. Our first excavator – a PC200-6 that we purchased in 1995 – is still going strong as well. The best deal we’ve ever made was to purchase a PC400 that had 13,000 hours on it. We bought it a few years ago and it runs every day. Our Komatsus are very reliable, and we haven’t had any major issues with them.”
TAB Construction also recently purchased two new excavators – a PC390 and a PC360 – as well as a WA250 wheel loader.
“We needed more horsepower and digging depth, so we got the 390,” said Ringsdorf. “We did comparisons with the other major brands, and it was an easy decision. Komatsu was the way to go for us.
“We had an older WA250, but it was well-used, and we wanted the new hydrostatic transmission,” he added. “Warren found us a newer WA250 that only had 400 hours on it. The new transmission makes a huge difference. It’s quick and responsive. We got a great deal.”
The service that RoadBuilders offers has also been beneficial, according to Ringsdorf. TAB Construction’s PC390 came with Komatsu CARE and RoadBuilders will perform complimentary maintenance on it for the first three years or 2,000 hours. Ringsdorf also credits the KOMTRAX machine-monitoring system with improving the company’s efficiency.
“KOMTRAX has helped us significantly reduce our idle time,” said Ringsdorf. “When we started, our idle rate was around 40 percent – today it’s under 20 percent. It saves us in diesel costs and also keeps us from burning through our warranties.
“Having someone constantly looking out for our equipment has been great,” he added. “Every night, we get updates on the machines. If RoadBuilders needs to look at one of them, we know exactly where it is and what they are going to look at. Our equipment manager has an app, and those notifications go straight to his phone. It’s convenient.”
In addition to Komatsu equipment, TAB Construction also relies on RoadBuilders for Takeuchi skid steers and GOMACO machines and parts.
“RoadBuilders and Warren have been great to work with,” said Ringsdorf. “They go the extra mile for us, and we appreciate it.”
Ready for future challenges
From its modest beginning, TAB Construction has always had a solid base of employees, and Ringsdorf credits them with the company’s success. He lists Project Manager/Estimator Chris Wilsey and long-time Superintendents Toby Wilsey, Charlie Kahl, Brian Doerr and John Ringsdorf as catalysts for sustained success.
“The majority of our people have been here 15 years or more,” he said. “We have a wealth of talent and knowledge on our staff, and that’s because we’ve been able to retain such great employees.”
Ringsdorf says that TAB Construction’s growth has far-and-away surpassed his expectations, but the company is still planning for future success. In order to accomplish that, he knows it will need to address a couple of hurdles.
“We want to get younger workers in here so we can have a strong future,” said Ringsdorf. “A lot of kids graduate and don’t really know about the opportunities this industry provides. Financially, our industry has a lot to offer, but the technology is something that gets overlooked. The new GPS and electronics technology makes machines easier to run today, and that is exciting to a lot of kids coming out of high school. If we can get new employees with great attitudes who are ready to learn, we will get them the training.
“Now that a highway bill has been approved, I think there will be a lot of projects beginning,” he continued. “Like everyone else in the industry, we couldn’t really develop a five-year plan until that was passed. Most of our work is state and federal, so it was tough for our customers to plan projects without a finalized budget.”
Ringsdorf said challenges have always been a part of the industry, and he is confident TAB Construction will continue to work through them as it always has – with diligent planning and hard-working people.