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Steele Knows Dirt: Natural Gas Boom Grows Contractor’s Earthmoving Business

With a name like Steele in Pennsylvania, you’d expect Steele Construction, Inc. owner Bill Steele to specialize in structural steel construction, or to own a foundry. Instead, he’s recognized as one of the premier builders of timber-framed homes in the state. As new housing starts dipped during “The Great Recession”, Steele further grew his business on the strength of the Marcellus Shale natural gas boom. 

“We were lucky enough to get into a gas contract, and now our company is pretty much evenly split between the building of heavy timber frame and moving dirt,” says Steele.

Important Tips For Buying a Backhoe Loader

When buying a backhoe loader, it’s important to understand and differentiate between the specs offered with each machine. Knowing what’s most important to you and the work required will help your new backhoe loader be most productive in the long run.

Tip 1: Ask the Right Questions

Four Business Considerations for Telematics

Though its only recently gained popularity in the last two to three years, telematics has been around much longer than people think. A web-based system that is compatible with all current computers and can be accessed from any standard device that’s used to access the web, telematics is simple and cost-effective.

The system provides owners and operators a handful of benefits that include equipment utilization, machine maintenance, equipment security, and billing and estimating. This article details just how contractors can use this technology to better manage equipment, boost profitability and improve how business gets done.

Backhoe Evolution = Practical Innovation

Necessity is the mother of invention. An old proverb, but completely accurate as it relates to backhoes and how they’ve evolved over time.  The original 1957 backhoe loader was born from a need for a solution that was integrated from the factory and warranted by a single OEM, as contractors were retrofitting farm tractors with loaders and backhoe arms.

That necessity/invention pattern has continued. The extendahoe option on backhoe loaders wasn’t just a great idea – as regulations in northern climates dictated that water pipe had to be placed deeper and deeper to avoid freezing problems, there was a need to dig deeper. It also helped contractors digging around trenches perform that work while having the machine positioned further away – helping maintain the integrity of the trench and the safety of the operator.

Shop Talk: Maintenance Practices for Lowering Owning & Operating Costs

The construction industry continues to grow as the economy improves; more jobs are out to bid – yet contractors still find themselves in a competitive environment where it’s important to find every edge possible. One area where contractors can get more competitive is in lowering the owning and operating costs of equipment – and one of the greatest opportunities for lowering those costs is in fleet management/maintenance practices.

In this article, we’ll look at three areas where fleet managers can help keep owning and operating costs down: remanufactured parts, planned maintenance contracts and telematics. 

The Keys to Undercarriage Health and Longevity

Undercarriage maintenance and upkeep is not a short-term effort. The only a time a machine’s undercarriage is not experiencing wear is when it’s standing still – and machines that stand still don’t make money. The undercarriage also represents a high percentage of the total operating cost of the machine over its life. With dozers, approximately 20 percent of the purchase price and 50 percent of the maintenance cost sits in its undercarriage.

It’s also the mechanism that gives tracked machines much of their power and stability. Proper operation and maintenance play a critical role in controlling operating costs over the life of the machine.

Analyzing the Top Attachments for Backhoe Loaders

It’s often said that quality beats quantity. Over the years, utility contractors have started to realize the truth behind that statement due to the benefits of having one machine with increased versatility on the jobsite instead of multiple machines.

In order to achieve that versatility, more and more attachments are being made available to the construction market every year. The backhoe loader, an invaluable jack-of-all-trades, has the capability to run a variety of attachments such as brooms, grapples and 4-in-1 buckets.

Going Pro a Boom for Excavation Business

Professional Excavating (owner: Daene Boomsma) has grown quickly – almost tripling in business each year. To handle that growth, the company doubled its fleet from one 16-ton excavator to two. Thanks to fuel savings, the support of the local dealer, and an ambitious maintenance, telematics and warranty package offered by the manufacturer (CASE ProCare), he’s been able to grow the business with minimal impact to his bottom line.

“During my five slowest months – we made half the payment on fuel savings alone,” says Boomsma. “It was the difference between my operators running a 10-year-old machine or a brand new machine. When I can do that and not cost myself any more because of fuel savings – now I’ve got happier operators and an image that says ‘we care about our equipment and we buy good equipment.’ [And] it’s not costing me anything because of the fuel savings.”

Six Practical Uses of Machine Control

Machine control on heavy equipment is often synonymous with road building and large site prep – but it’s not all about the long grade. Here are six machine control applications that can immediately help improve productivity and reduce rework in earthmoving applications.

1. Trenching at a specific depth using a 2D system: excavators, backhoes and compact excavators can all be outfitted with 2D and 3D machine control systems to assist in everything from mass excavation to precisely sloped trenches. Sometimes, however, a trench only needs to be a certain depth below the contour of the land. An excavator with a 2D system in this application can benchmark against the ground it sits on. The operator can set the machine to cut at a depth of six feet, as an example, and the system will indicate to the operator when the bucket has reached a depth of six feet. Then, the machine can back up, benchmark again against the new surface, and continue indicating to the operator when they’ve reached six feet in the new spot. The operator can repeat this for the entire length of the trench.

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