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Compact Machines Pack Punch for Brawdy Construction

One company shows that Bigger is not necessarily Better for some jobs.

Mon April 22, 2013 - Northeast Edition
Jessica Simpson

Brawdy Construction needed a multitasking machine with enough reach and payload capacity to meet its  job requirements, yet it had to weigh less than 400 lbs.-per-sq.-ft. Liftech recommended a JCB 515-40 telescopic handler.
Brawdy Construction needed a multitasking machine with enough reach and payload capacity to meet its job requirements, yet it had to weigh less than 400 lbs.-per-sq.-ft. Liftech recommended a JCB 515-40 telescopic handler.
Brawdy Construction needed a multitasking machine with enough reach and payload capacity to meet its  job requirements, yet it had to weigh less than 400 lbs.-per-sq.-ft. Liftech recommended a JCB 515-40 telescopic handler. The building is 85-ft. (26 m) high so masons needed scaffolding to reach the top.

Light-weight, small and compact aren’t the most common descriptors of construction equipment. Contractors and engineers typically look for hefty, versatile machines that can withstand long hours of use and heavy payloads. On large-scale construction projects, such as erecting a high-rise building, larger equipment just seems to make sense. But, size and versatility are not mutually exclusive. Some compact construction equipment can pack as much punch as larger counterparts, allowing contractors to get the best of both worlds — strong, capable machines and a smaller package.

Tom Fitzpatrick, maintenance supervisor and head of logistics of Brawdy Construction, once agreed with the “bigger is better” mentality, but when the Brawdy crew needed a smaller machine to meet safety standards, the entire team had to alter its thinking. JCB’s “miniature” 515-40 telescopic handler became a creative solution to their seemingly complicated problem.

On a recent job site, a Brawdy Construction crew was forced to comply with strict weight limitations, which their current forklifts violated. They needed a multitasking machine with enough reach and payload capacity to meet their job requirements, yet it had to weigh less than 400 lbs.-per-sq.-ft. The team didn’t think a smaller machine could do the job as efficiently, but without another choice Fitzpatrick turned to Liftech Equipment Company for an answer.

“Liftech recommended a JCB 515-40 telescopic handler,” said Fitzpatrick. “It turns out JCB was the only manufacturer that had something qualified for the strict weight standard. We had no choice but to use the small telehandler, and in hindsight we’re glad we did.”

Ryan Curtis of Liftech said, “The 515-40 may look toy-sized compared to Brawdy’s larger telehandlers, but it can get the job done. The machine features a 13-foot, 2-inch reach and 3,300-pound load capacity. I knew it would be ideal for Fitzpatrick’s situation, and I knew he would agree after demoing it.”

Family-owned Brawdy Construction is very familiar with JCB equipment, but prior to using the 515-40 the company had only utilized larger machines. Currently, Brawdy owns five 506 telehandlers, a JCB 550 and a 930. Fitzpatrick said almost all of the company’s jobs require a telehandler, whether it’s for concrete and masonry construction or moving materials from one point to another.

Brawdy Construction serves all of Buffalo and western New York, completing a wide range of commercial construction projects including site excavation, foundation work, flatwork and masonry. The company was founded in 1951 by Thomas Brawdy and is now run by Jim Brawdy, the second generation owner and operator. Sixty employees comprise the company’s six field crews. In addition, Brawdy Marine offers lakeside construction in the Finger Lakes Region, particularly Seneca, Canandaigua, Cayuga and Keuka Lake. The marine division specializes in retaining walls, boat hoists, dock, deck and patio construction.

It was on the Greenpac Mill construction site in Niagara Falls, N.Y., that Fitzpatrick and the Brawdy crews faced the weight-limit obstacle. Brawdy is one of several companies constructing the new containerboard mill, a one-of-its-kind mill in North America. Greenpac is owned by Norampac, a Montreal, Canada-based company, so Brawdy and other contractors involved have to abide by Norampac’s job site safety standards.

“We constructed foundations and concrete floors for the Greenpac Mill, and are completing a significant portion of the masonry work,” said Fitzpatrick. “The building is 85-feet high, so as our masons worked their way up to a particular stage of the construction, we had to assemble scaffolding to accommodate them. We then needed to get materials to the floor they were working on and across the floor about 200 to 400 feet. That’s where we ran into the problem.”

Once the rest of the masonry work is completed the Brawdy crews will have spent just under a year and a half on the job.

The Brawdy crew usually uses a forklift to move materials from one end of a site to another where contractors need them, but safety regulations prevented them from using the heavy forklift on Greenpac’s half-completed stories.

“We needed something that weighed under 400 pounds-per-square-foot and no bigger than 5-feet wide,” said Fitzpatrick. “All of the machines we looked at except the JCB 515-40 telehandler weighed too much or were more than 6-feet wide.”

With only a 5-ft., 2-in. (1.6 m) wide slab of concrete available to move materials back and forth across the building, the 5-ft. (1.5 m) wide JCB telehandler was perfect, Fitzpatrick said. Although the controls differed from a regular forklift, requiring more training time for the crew, the telehandler worked smoothly and gave the crew the ability to work efficiently without compromising safety, he added. With more than 150 companies working on the Greenpac site, safety was held to the highest standard.

There were two Brawdy crewmen designated to run the JCB telehandler.

“Because of the tight confinements and hazards of running the 515-40 on a 62-inch wide strip of concrete, only two of our most experienced men ran the telehandler on the Greenpac site,” said Fitzpatrick. “On other job sites everyone runs the telehandlers in order to maximize efficiency.”

When the crew finished with the small JCB telehandler, they transitioned to the next stage of the Greenpac construction, working more than 80 ft. (24 m) in the air.

“At that point we used the taller JCB 506-36 telehandler to transport materials as high up as we could,” Fitzpatrick said. “We also use a JCB 510 on different phases of the project. Our telehandlers are invaluable for us on job sites, especially with jobs as big as the Greenpac project.”

Beyond the Greenpac job, Brawdy definitely gets the most out of its JCBs. Eight distinct field crews and their superintendents are on job sites daily. The company handles all of their work in-house, including maintenance, excavation and trucking, as opposed to hiring subcontractors.

“We stay very versatile,” Fitzpatrick explained. “Everyone in the company does more than one job. We all have to wear many hats to keep things moving smoothly.”

Fitzpatrick himself plays double duty as the maintenance supervisor and head of logistics.

“On a daily basis, my main task is to keep Brawdy’s more than 300 pieces of equipment running. That’s everything from chainsaws to forklifts, telehandlers, pick-up trucks and trailers.”

Logistically, Fitzpatrick must get all of the crews what they need on time. He facilitates material deliveries and truck drivers’ schedules.

“On average, I take 45 to 70 phone calls per day, so I have to stay organized and see that the crews are set-up for each job while requests are coming in.”

Due to Fitzpatrick’s mechanical skills and the cost savings from not having to outsource maintenance, Brawdy can afford, and prefers to purchase equipment instead of rent it.

“We prefer to purchase our own equipment and are dedicated to JCB, having been the first multi-JCB-owning company in western New York. We’re also fortunate to have a great JCB dealer in Liftech. Liftech’s crew is always knowledgeable about maintaining JCB equipment, so if I have a question I know who to ask.”

Brawdy’s relationship with Liftech and Fitzpatrick’s organization in getting the crews machines they need is what led to the discovery of the small telehandler for the Greenpac project.

“It was definitely a joint effort between me and Liftech,” said Fitzpatrick. “I knew the safety requirements we needed to meet on the job site and brought those needs to Liftech. The dealership pulled through and provided us with the 515-40, enabling us to finish the work without a hiccup.”

Being able to continue working without stalling or having to test multiple machines also were pros in addition to meeting safety standards, Fitzpatrick added.

The JCB 515-40 telehandler proved itself for Brawdy on the Greenpac site, demonstrating that smaller equipment can be just as productive as much larger machines.

“In our case, versatility turned out to be a better benchmark for productivity than size,” Fitzpatrick said.

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