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Attachments Transform Off-the-Shelf Machine Into Producer

Fri April 29, 2011 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

To everyone else it’s an excavator. To Bruce Howard’s team, the machine with its customized suite of Geith attachments is part dream come true and part Swiss Army Knife — an incredibly versatile tool, capable of tackling any job, big or small. And Howard has more than a few jobs that needed doing…and doing well.

“We’re a small business that’s been fortunate enough to grow,” said Howard, owner of Bruce Howard Contracting in Lenaxa, Va. “We do a variety of projects, from site clearing work to projects for utilities, as well as work for residential and commercial construction companies. I need machines and equipment that can be as flexible as the jobs we take on.”

So with a need to be productive and profitable on his mind, Howard went to Lawrence Equipment, the Case dealer in Ashland, Va. He knew his jobs and crew would get a boost from a modified excavator and trustworthy attachments that were strong and reliable, but also versatile and precise. He made a list of what his dream machine would include: wider tracks for maximum flotation in wet areas, extended dozer blade, short stick… the list went on…

That’s where Steve Kelly, service manager of Lawrence Equipment, came into the picture. The two men had known each other since Howard’s earliest days in business when he bought his first equipment from Joe Gomer at Gomer Equipment, a widely respected figure in the region’s construction sector.

Kelly and Howard did business occasionally over the years, and Kelly was intrigued by this new challenge. They talked it over and ultimately agreed that Geith attachments on the recommended CX135 excavator would provide the durability, versatility and functionality to cover the full spectrum of jobs Howard’s company tackles.

Kelly (along with Sean O’Reilly at Geith) worked with Howard as a guide and problem solver on the ambitious package: a Geith hydraulic quick coupler, shortened boom, hydraulic progressive link thumb, 60-in. (152 cm) hydraulic tilt bucket and 36-in. (91 cm) digging bucket, the extra-wide tracks and an extra long custom-welded dozer blade.

Modifications completed, all that was left were the final touches.

“We had our painter clean it up and make it look factory fresh,” said Kelly.

“We were chomping at the bit to use this thing,” Howard said. “They did a lot of work to make this thing right and to make it work for us. In terms of fit and finish, we couldn’t ask for anything more.”

The moment of truth: taking the “mini on steroids” (as nicknamed by Howard’s foreman Jamie Parsley) out on its first job. “It worked flawlessly,” said Howard.

The operator could sit by himself, switch attachments in a matter of moments and grab logs with the thumb or a piece of concrete on the fly, according to Howard.

“It’s about as close as you can get to digging with a human hand,” Howard said.

Now Howard is taking on new jobs … unusual jobs… using this machine with its zero tail swing, quick coupler and diverse tools.

“It allows us to switch buckets and clean up behind us,” said Howard. “We don’t have to use additional equipment. We don’t need additional rentals. So we don’t end up with wasted time.”

And there’s no money wasted on excess rentals, as well, he said.

While Howard’s confident the machine and its Geith attachments will pay off in productivity, he’s not sure if getting the tricked out machine was the best or worst decision he’s ever made.

“I’m going to need four more of these machines because my guys are always fighting over who gets to use it” he joked. “They keep it looking like new because they know that the longer they take better care of it, the more they’ll get to use it. So now it’s the prettiest machine around.”

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