Mike Anderzack, owner of Anderzack-Pitzen Construction, Inc., is a big fan of Komatsu’s intelligent Machine Control (iMC) equipment for many reasons, but in the end “The proof is in the profit,” he said. “We are able to build large projects with close to half the manpower, which makes us far more efficient and competitive. We are able to build projects in one-third or one-half the time those without the technology can build them in.”
Anderzack was an early adopter of iMC machines. He and one of his operators tried the first iMC dozer, the D51i, at Komatsu’s proving grounds in Cartersville, Georgia, when the machines were first introduced. “We fell in love with the technology right from the get-go,” he said.
“Mike has always been on the cutting edge of technology, and he told me when something new comes out he wants to know about it,” said Luke Matheson, Columbus Equipment Company sales representative. “He knew Komatsu had done its homework and had come to market with something no one else had”—a completely integrated machine control system.
As Komatsu has made the iMC system available on more machines, Anderzack has added to his fleet, typically as a rental until he sees how useful a piece is for his business. He started with a D51i, then added a couple of D61i dozers. When the system became available on an excavator, he purchased a PC360i, then a D65i mass dozer.
For the last eight years, Anderzack-Pitzen has done a lot of railway roadbed preparation around the eastern half of the United States, clearing, filling and balancing the site, making it ready for the sub-ballast layer. Often, these jobs have a lot of cuts and shapes, and iMC equipment is perfect for that kind of work.
Last year, Anderzack-Pitzen handled 10 miles of railbed preparation near Gretna, Virginia, that required cutting hills that were 60- to 80-feet tall, balancing the site, and driving pile for a retaining wall. The iMC excavator is made for situations like that, because it can dig the overburden off a steep hill where bulldozers can’t push. The excavator can get to rough grade, and a small dozer can clean up the crumbs. “Everyone was questioning why we would want a 360i, but for pulling long slopes we can do mass excavation with it, so it’s a dual-purpose machine for us,” Anderzack said. More recently, the PC360i was used at the site for a new grain elevator, where it pulled all the ditches. “It’s efficient, and it really saves time.”
The savings from iMC come from all directions. The system makes operators more efficient, because the hydraulics sense how much a dozer can carry and maximize every load. That prevents overburdening the machine and saves fuel, Anderzack noted. The accuracy of iMC means there’s no need to regrade or to set out stakes to check grade, resulting in labor savings. “Rather than a five- or six-man crew, we can build a job with a three- or four-man crew,” he added.
One of the first things that appealed to Anderzack about Komatsu’s fully-integrated system was the lack of cables. “We used Topcon for grade control, and we were burning up a dozen cables a year. That was the weak link. When we saw everything was integrated in the machine, we felt that was the way to go,” he said. “I know a lot of people were hesitant [to go to an integrated system] because they wanted the flexibility of moving GPS equipment from machine to machine, but that really didn’t concern us. We didn’t move it that much, and that’s where you have trouble with connections and cabling. It saved us the hassles of hooking and unhooking—the human factor. The hidden benefit was that we eliminated bad connections and everything stayed put.”
It’s not just the iMC he likes about Komatsu dozers, either. “The visibility, power, and user-friendliness of the Komatsu dozers are all excellent,” he said.
Anderzack has been around construction his entire life, working as an operator for years before starting his own company in 1992. The company—based in Metamora, near Toledo—started out taking smaller jobs that other contractors didn’t want, but by 1996 it had grown enough that Anderzack brought on a partner, Jim Pitzen. The company specializes in site work and road construction, including cold asphalt milling and soil stabilization, around the Midwest and East Coast.
Anderzack has been a Columbus Equipment Company customer for as long as he has been a business owner. “We have a great relationship,” he said. “Luke Matheson will go above and beyond to help us with any of our needs. If there is ever a problem, Columbus Equipment Company has been Johnny on the spot to rectify any problems or answer our questions.”
Columbus Equipment Company’s machine control experts—Mike Fenster and Nate Koerper—have also been very helpful in providing training and support, he added. “They won’t let the machine go until they know everyone is comfortable using it.”
Anderzack-Pitzen has advanced way beyond the “comfortable using it” stage on iMC equipment. “We are at the point where all our people, our foremen, fight over the i machines,” Anderzack said. “We are renting a couple right now because we’ve been spoiled by them. We are totally committed. Everybody sees how efficient they are, and how efficiently they can grade. It takes all the guess work out.”
While Anderzack appreciates the technological advances of iMC, he isn’t holding his breath for a totally worker-less worksite of the future, and he probably wouldn’t want one. “With iMC, you can take a mediocre operator and make him a better operator, but he still has to have a basic understanding of dirt and how a project is to be built,” he said.
“Our people put us where we are today,” he added. “You can have good equipment, but if you don’t have good people to run the equipment you’re spinning your wheels. Our biggest asset isn’t equipment, it’s people.”
Visit columbusequipment.com/videos.php for additional video coverage on Anderzack-Pitzen Construction, Inc.’s iMC experience.