Equipment World

December 2017

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December 2017 | 62 area's devastating fires late last year. This year, McKinnley Excavating landed a National Park Service job to rehabilitate a historic building. Palmer attributes the growth throughout his 15 years of being in business to precision excavation, which he's been able to do because of machine technology. "What I've enjoyed more than anything is getting GPS on the equipment in the past year or so and watching our clients benefit from that," Palmer says. "We started with a Trimble 2D unit on our D6 and then with a 2D system on a Cat 314 for pipe work. It's been noth- ing but success. It definitely speeds up the process." At times, he's been able to use the technology to com- plete site-prep jobs of more than one acre in half the time he origi- nally estimated. While there was definitely a learning curve to adopting the GPS technology, Palmer has nothing but praise for the support from his Sitech representative. "Every Sitech GPS case, whether it's the rover or the base station, has their card clear taped on the inside," he says. "And those guys answer the phone, or text us within 30 minutes." "We've had to lean on technology, which can be expensive," Palmer adds. The expense, however, can be justified by the increase in efficiency. This in turn helps keep prices in line. "You become a cheaper, better- quality provider," he says. Still, the basic machine knowledge has to be there first, Palmer main- tains. "If you hire a young guy and put him on a D6 with an auto grader and that's what you teach him, that's not enough. You've got to put someone on a straight dozer and let them muck out a pond or cut in a road, then you can start letting them advance to using GPS. We have to have people who are diverse." Palmer has already experienced the benefits of telematics. On a recent jobsite, his Cat 314 excavator wouldn't crank. Stowers Machinery logged into the machine, found a shutdown error code and instructed them to reset the battery kill switch. "My operator kills the battery, gets back in and the machine cranks," Palmer says. "Five minutes later, he's back on the job. Two years ago, that would have been a 24- hour downtime." And now Palmer regularly uses a drone to shoot video and photos of his jobsites as a means of maintain- ing a visual record for himself and his clients. It's also a great way to give his crew an overall site view of progress made. Uniform fleet One thing Palmer says he learned in the military is the importance of uni- formity. "It builds a team and an im- age and helps you identify strengths and weaknesses," he says. Which is why Palmer says it's important to keep a uniform fleet. In his case, that means Caterpillar equipment and Kenworth trucks. "We have three dump trucks that look identical; they were bought to- gether," he says. "People sometimes see two of the three on the road, but they think they've seen 12. That builds an image for your company that you're growing." Palmer also considers a uniform fleet important to employee morale. "If I tried to mix my fleet, I couldn't imagine the impact on my employ- ees and the changes to my mainte- nance costs," he says. Palmer says if his company needs to rent a machine, he'll buy it in- stead. "If a job's producing profit, then I have to invest the profit. When you buy strong equipment, you should always be able to sell it. And if you're renting, it's hard to get the support back out of your dealer and your equipment because they just don't have the money there." There's a definite pattern to his equipment buying cycle, Palmer says. "I'm Googling or YouTubing a piece of equipment at first," he says. contractor of the year finalist | continued Jobsite discussion: Palmer (center) with Tyler Yarbrough, left, and Thad Rounsaville.

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