One common adage for business success is to find a niche in which you can become an expert, and to build your business around that. In a nutshell, that’s the story behind
Owner Mark Haynes was a self-described “shy farm boy.” He owned tractors when he was a kid, and by his sophomore year in high school, he’d purchased a bulldozer. He made money by dozing waterways, ponds and ditches for neighboring farmers.
After attending Findlay College, where he got a degree in business and played football, he did earthmoving and general contracting. From there, it was natural to return to the specialized area he already knew, and he began bidding on waterways and stream work.
Today, Norwalk, Ohio-based Mark Haynes Construction specializes in building and rehabilitating water conservation structures such as ponds, wetlands, streams, and shoreline stabilization. Customers have included the park authorities in Toledo, Columbus and Cleveland, ODOT, ODNR, as well as many cities and counties in the region.
Currently, the company is working on an earth dike near Toledo as part of a containment structure for material dredged from the Maumee River. “It’s going to be hundreds of acres in size,” Haynes noted. The project is needed because new regulations will no longer allow dredged material to be dumped into Lake Erie.
“A lot of our jobs involve river bottoms, lakes, low wetlands areas, places where other people might get stuck,” Haynes said. “We have figured out how to work with that softer ground through specialized machines and specialized training for our guys.” Some of the specialized equipment is low-ground-pressure machinery, including dump trucks on rubber tracks.
About a year ago, Haynes purchased three pieces of Komatsu iMC equipment, and it’s proving to be particularly good for his applications. He owns D51i and D61i dozers and a PC360i excavator.
The company is using the PC360i on a shoreline stabilization project in Euclid that involves rock revetment on Lake Erie, according to Craig Smith, operations manager for Haynes. “We’re digging into the bottom of the lake and placing armor rock to stop erosion.” The rock has to be set to certain heights, and with the 360i, the operator can meet specs without a grade checker. “The 360i is cutting both the time and manpower required in this application,” Smith said.
“With the intelligent excavator, knowing when you hit your grade underwater is not an issue,” Haynes explained. “With the 360i, we don’t have to have a guy in hip boots in waist-deep or chest-deep water checking grade. We don’t have that safety issue.”
Haynes had been using aftermarket GPS systems for years, but when he heard about how advanced Komatsu’s integrated machine control system is, he wanted to check it out. “At that point, I wasn’t very familiar with Komatsu, but I realized they had a head start on this technology. I figured it’d be better to experiment with Komatsu equipment rather than wait for another manufacturer to catch up.”
Haynes has been impressed with the intelligent machines. “They make it easier for operators to do a first-class job in less time,” he said. He also finds that the optimized dozing and digging operations iMC creates result in less wear and tear on machinery.
“They have definitely made us more productive. The machine is smart enough to know before the operator does that it’s time to start feathering up or down to the maximum push. That’s unbelievable. In the past, our GPS machine tracks would spin quite a bit as the blade was trying to get to grade. With the Komatsu intelligent system, the machine is smart enough to nibble away at the cut rather than to try to take a big bite.”
As an experienced operator himself, he also believes that the way the intelligent machines handle a job “helps train inexperienced guys the right way to approach a job.”
Another benefit to the intelligent machinery has been support from Columbus Equipment Company’s SmartConstruction Division. “Support has been phenomenal,” Haynes said. “Any questions or issues that come up have been very professionally worked through. And the fact that they can diagnose from offsite on their computer is very impressive. Columbus Equipment has a lot of experience and they know exactly what to look for. They can solve problems in minutes, and we don’t have to wait for them to drive to the jobsite.”
Haynes, who takes great pride in having a skilled workforce, likes the training the SmartConstruction staff provided. “I was really impressed with how seriously Columbus Equipment took the training process and how they made sure everyone was doing things correctly. I didn’t have much experience with Columbus Equipment Company before, but I really enjoy the service and the integrity from the sales staff and the service staff.”
If Haynes’ company is an example of how finding a niche makes business sense, his iMC experience offers more insight for contractors: Keep your eyes open for technology that can help you grow your business, and rely on experts, like Columbus Equipment Company, to help you optimize the opportunity.