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Business Builds Success Through Unique Purpose-Built Attachments

Thu November 02, 2023 - Northeast Edition #23

With one of their Rotastar screening buckets are Donna LaFata, president of A & D Equipment, and Anthony LaFata, president of LaFata & Son Excavating Inc.
(CEG photo)
With one of their Rotastar screening buckets are Donna LaFata, president of A & D Equipment, and Anthony LaFata, president of LaFata & Son Excavating Inc. (CEG photo)
With one of their Rotastar screening buckets are Donna LaFata, president of A & D Equipment, and Anthony LaFata, president of LaFata & Son Excavating Inc.
(CEG photo) Anthony LaFata demonstrates how the rotating polyurethane stars of the Rotastar screener process materials.
(CEG photo) The Rotastar screener processes material.
(CEG photo)

A & D Equipment is often referred to by its customers as "the real deal," "top notch" and "a true customer's dealer." That's because the company sets out to learn just what its customers need.

"We have a great offering of unique purpose-built attachments, but what really sets A & D Equipment apart from its competition is its heritage," said Donna LaFata, president of the company. "My husband, Anthony, and I are second-generation excavating contractors. His dad was an Italian immigrant who started the company from very humble beginnings, who ultimately turned his thriving excavation business [today known as LaFata & Son Excavation Inc.] over to my husband, and it was taken to the next level.

"Every product we sell is a product that we use just about every day on the job site, so when we recommend an attachment for a specific application, we already know how it's going to perform," she added. "Everything we sell has been field tested here in Connecticut on some of the toughest job sites you can find."

Anthony LaFata has always had a passion for attachments.

"With the amount of money that you spend for an excavator, to reach that investment's full potential, using attachments to expand the machine's capabilities just makes sense," he said.

Anthony LaFata likes to tell the story of the first attachment that A & D Equipment took on as a dealership.

"As a contractor in the 1990s, we started to look for new technologies that would help us process aggregate materials on site," he said. "New England contractors led the industry in that technology. Typically, we would bring a crushing or screening plant on site to process materials. But what we could not do was move that plant to process small amounts of material; it just wasn't cost effective.

"We experimented with a couple of different screening attachments, but they were really not all that productive; that is until we came across a manufacturer in Europe making an excavator attachment called Rotastar," he added. "This product turned out to be an amazing piece of technology that allowed us to screen all types of materials, wet or dry, in significant volume, and transportation and setup time were no longer an issue. The Rotastar is durable, productive and affordable. After using the product for a significant amount of time, the thought occurred to us that perhaps we could sell this attachment and that's essentially how A & D Equipment got its start."

The Rotastar screening bucket comes in a variety of sizes from skid steers up to 34-ton machines and uses lightweight pliable polyurethane stars that rotate and separate materials without crushing, allowing for an uncontaminated, usable product.

The decision was made to have Donna LaFata operate A & D Equipment and Anthony would keep his primary focus on the construction company. As time passed, Donna discovered that they were getting a lot of requests from Rotastar customers for other types of attachments. The LaFata's knew from their experience with Rotastar that selling products which had already been tested by their construction company was a successful formula. It stood reason that if screening buckets were in demand and productive for the end user, a crushing bucket would be a logical next step.

After Anthony used several different crushing buckets on job sites, they made the decision to add the Xcentric crushing bucket to their product offerings. Xcentric is designed to be a very high-volume crusher bucket.

"You would put it in the category of being the Cadillac of crusher buckets," Anthony said. "It's going to out-produce any other bucket on the market using some advanced technology. But with that higher production comes a premium price."

The next product added to the A & D Equipment product offering was Indeco, a leader in the hydraulic attachment market that has been selling hammers in the United States for more than 30 years and has its U.S. headquarters in Connecticut. Again, Indeco was a product that had been time tested by LaFata & Son Excavation Inc. Anthony's father had purchased their first Indeco back in the early 1990s.

"We were so impressed with the Indeco product we were interviewed for a testimonial video for Indeco that was featured at ConExpo, so putting the A & D Equipment name behind the Indeco product was an easy move," said Anthony. "The company's manufacturing is done both in Italy and the United States, and besides the hammers, Indeco makes high quality hydraulic pulverizers, shears and grapples."

Anthony's passion for attachments led him to tiltrotators. But his introduction to Steelwrist, the tiltrotator manufacturer that A & D Equipment represents, came in a roundabout way.

"I had no idea who Steelwrist was at the time, but they were rebranding a relatively simple screening bucket that processed material through a set of bars that vibrated, and I felt that it would work well for certain applications," he said. "I found the product on the Internet. The company was overseas. I called them and a man named Stefan answered the phone. We went back and forth a little bit and when it was all said and done, I purchased a container load of these buckets.

"A few months went by, and I got a phone call from Stefan," he added. "He was in Connecticut and wanted to meet us and it turned out he is the CEO of Steelwrist. We spent quite a bit of time together and we actually became their U.S. warehouse temporarily while they established their U.S. headquarters here in Connecticut. Ever since that time, we have had a very close working relationship with Steelwrist, including working with them at major events like ConExpo. The tiltrotator market is beginning to explode in the United States. Younger owner-operators are embracing the technology, and it has become a very important part of our business."

Anthony said at first, he struggled with the operation of the tiltrotator until he became involved in the production of an HDTV pilot episode involving the building of a house and he had to force himself to operate the tiltrotator setup.

"It was a lot of pressure and I hated it," he said. "But by the time we were done, I had fully embraced it, and today I don't know what I would do without it."

A & D Equipment has successfully marketed its attachments not only in New England, but also across the United States. Most attachments are not particularly complex, so supporting attachment sales a thousand miles away is something that can typically be handled via a phone conversation.

A & D recently achieved Women Owned Small Business status, which has put it in a very competitive position when bidding on government contracts. The foundation of the company is nonetheless strongly built on passion for and expertise with attachments. And as the saying goes, at the end of the day, helping contractors do their jobs more productively and efficiently is, according to A & D, what it's in business to do … every day. CEG

This story also appears on Aggregate Equipment Guide.

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