It's been said that the only constant in the world is change. Such is the case for family-owned and operated Good Hope Contracting Inc. and its sister company Blount Springs Materials, both based in the same facility in Cullman, Ala. Two key additions to the staff over the last year or so have changed the face of the company. Richard Brown joined the organization as vice president of Good Hope Contracting Inc., and Ray Henry is the new vice president of Blount Springs Materials. Both work together on equipment acquisition decisions and agreed to change their equipment purchasing process.
Blount Springs Materials operates five quarries and is the sole company supplying Good Hope Contracting Inc. aggregate material for its five asphalt plants in Alabama. For both companies, purchasing machines is an integral part of success.
When Blount Springs Materials needed to replace excavators at two aggregate plants, Henry and Brown tackled the need by testing machines from multiple manufacturers.
“During this specific evaluation, we looked at four different manufacturers' machines,” said Brown. “We had distributors representing four manufacturers deliver to our quarry virtually exacting machines in the same weight class for a specified one week period of time to compare.”
After testing four machines, the consensus of the operators and management alike was to invest in a pair of Volvo EC480DL's.
“With the Volvo machine, the operators really liked the layout of the cabin, the way it ran, the quiet operation and the overall features,” said Brown.
“The one aspect of the machine that brought out a lot of comments from our operators was the speed of the Volvo.
“When we did our test on the four different manufacturers' machines, we realized about a three percent increase in fuel efficiency in the Volvo machine, which doesn't sound like much but it adds up quickly. In comparison to the older machines that we traded, we saw about a 3 gallon per hour savings, which essentially equates to a 25 to 30 percent fuel savings over previous generation machines.”
The machines were purchased as a package deal and were delivered by Cowin Equipment Company in April 2013.
“The service that Cowin provides, and the price, fuel efficiency, machine cost, ownership costs and resale value of the Volvo machine were the deciding factors when compared to the other manufacturer's machines we were considering,” said Brown. “The Volvo machines were just the best fit for us.”
Brown and Henry were pleased with the service they received throughout the process, working with Cowin Equipment Company's sales representative, Jay Rousey.
“He was very helpful in providing us with the information we requested and for providing us with a machine to use for feedback from our operators,” said Brown. “We actually knew what we were buying instead of what he was selling.
“We've worked with Cowin on other machine purchases in the past, including some IR rollers and a couple A40 Volvo articulated trucks. We're very familiar with the overall parts and service support we get from Cowin. If we call and have a problem, they're very responsive to either fix the problem or provide us with a replacement till we can get the problem fixed. The field service technicians are very knowledgeable.
“On the newer Volvo machines we really don't have any issues that require their attention. For parts, generally speaking, if they don't have something in stock already, we call today, we have it tomorrow.”
Many in the industry have questions and concerns about the new Tier IVi technology. This is not an issue for Brown.
“With these new Tier IVi machines, in our quarry applications, there is nothing different our operators need to do than with our previous machines,” said Brown. “If you run the machine the way it's designed to be run in a quarry application, you see no difference. At this point, our scheduled maintenance is no different either.”
Brown and Henry agree that the fuel efficiency of the machines along with the service and warranty Cowin provides sealed the deal for the purchase. As the machines age, Brown said he may consider rotating them out with other Volvo machines.
“Downtime is a big thing in the quarries and we look for machines that would absolutely give us the most efficient running time combined with a distributor that adds value to the machine, which Cowin did,” said Henry. “If we've had any problems, they've given us immediate response time. For the Volvo excavator itself, we looked closely at the strength and structure of the boom. We were very impressed with the weight of the boom as well. And like Richard said, fuel efficiency was a big part of the decision, but overall, we looked for not only a good machine, but a well-built machine with a good resale value supported by a distributor that could add value to us and respond quickly, which they do at Cowin. The machine's only special requirement was to be equipped with a heavy-duty rock bucket. Otherwise, they spec out perfectly for our application.
When asked about the work that will keep their machines running and overall observations of their industry, Henry said, “I think the state of Alabama has taken an aggressive view on road repair and highway construction. Our paving division company, Good Hope Contracting, has been very fortunate to have current contracts and the opportunity to bid on a lot work that is coming up in the near future. Good Hope has been busy in 2013 and continues to be busy, which is real positive for the Blount Springs side of the business, which feeds aggregate materials to them.”
“We're running three asphalt crews right now,” said Brown. “The biggest thing that we're seeing that is helping us right now is the Governor's ATRIP [Alabama Transportation Road and Improvement Projects] funding bill. That has really helped counties get some additional funds to resurface county roads or provide chip seal, which we don't do, but we sell the aggregate for it. ATRIP helps the counties resurface the roads in a way that they would not be able to if they didn't have that funding available. There's been a lot of this going on and they are into their third round of funding, which includes several projects that are out there that are coming up that are based on ATRIP money. We're also seeing a bit of an increase in highway work over the last three years.”