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Daily Grind Keeps Con-Site Busy

Sat September 15, 2007 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

It was almost as if growing up with the name Richard Woods predestined the Alabama man’s career path.

On a daily basis, he works with wood of all sorts — trees, pallets and the like — which he and his crew at Con-Site Services Inc. grind up for clients throughout the Birmingham area.

The five-year-old company primarily performs land clearing and tub grinding. Other services include erosion control work, such as hydro-seeding, silt fencing and erosion netting.

“Our main business is involved with getting a project set up and ready for a grading contractor to start moving dirt,” Woods said. “We supplement this work with grinding wood waste. It may be a construction site, pipe mill, paper mill or wood yard that has a volume of wood waste.”

Con-Site, which employs 25 people, has kept busy from the get-go. With a firm goal set in place, it started with a trenching machine and worked primarily erosion control jobs. But just eight months later, clearing and grinding gained position as Con-Site’s predominant type of work.

“Fortunately, we’ve been busy for five years. There have been a few months that the grinders have been idle because we’re in the middle of the burn season, where we can burn all the debris on the clearing jobs,” he said. “The burn ban in the Birmingham area during the summer and fall has prompted the growth of tub grinding in the area. When you can’t burn, you gotta grind it or landfill it.”

The ground material that Con-Site produces is trucked out to different paper mills for use as hog fuel or boiler fuel to produce power for the plants.

“As they are continuously making paper, these plants are receiving material from a lot of different suppliers, including us,” Woods said. “There’s a constant need at these plants for a cheaper source of fuel, which the wood gives them, in lieu of buying diesel fuel or natural gas.”

The company generally works two to three jobs at once. Con-Site has a fleet of 18 machines, including eight Komatsu hydraulic excavators.

“For the money we invested, they’ve performed up to our expectations on the projects that we’ve had them on and I’m well pleased,” Woods said. “Tractor and Equipment’s service has been outstanding, the finance department has worked with us to keep us going and the rental division has kept us in trackhoes when some of our machines were being serviced or if we needed an extra machine. That’s why we keep buying Komatsus.”

Woods said his operators are pleased with the performance of the machines, but jokingly added, “they’re just glad to have air conditioning right now.”

Every excavator Con-Site buys comes equipped with an Esco bucket and thumb, since every aspect of the company’s work requires the ability to grab wood waste and debris for loading into a grinder or a truck. Virtually every Komatsu excavator purchased by Con-Site is still on the job, with the exception of one recent trade.

“We just traded a PC300 for a new PC200LC-8. The 300 was a little bit too big for what we needed. It was a bit cumbersome for loading the smaller grinders and a bit big for moving the machine from job to job quickly. We originally purchased the machine for land clearing and found that the 220s were just as quick as the 300. It’s not comparable in power, but for what we do, the 200s and the 220s are what we like and they are more easily transported from one job to the next,” Woods said.

Lynn Pate is the company’s manager of grinding operations. He said Con-Site traditionally uses Vermeer grinders

“The Vermeer grinders we own include 525 and 630 hp machines, which have give us great service,” Pate said.

But even the best machines require maintenance.

Pate estimates the grinders work for 40 hours until he needs to turn the teeth and 350 hours before welding is needed to build them back up.

He also services the Komatsus.

“I like doing work on our Komatsu machines. In about an hour or hour and a half, you can be through changing the oil and the filters and all,” Pate said. “The design of the machines makes accessing everything really easy, especially the filters.”

Woods believes he and his crew are good at what they do — and the fact that 90 percent of Con-Site’s business comes from repeat customers seems to support his belief.

Customers “have learned that we do business the right way, that they can easily work with us, that they’re going to get a fair price and that we’ll be there until the job is finished,” he said.

Con-Site works for some of the largest grading contractors and developers in the Birmingham area and Woods said its making inroads with some of the largest industries, too. Approximately 80 percent of its work is located in the five-county area around Birmingham, although it does travel outside of that region.

While Woods said he’s able to breathe easier with five years of success under his belt, he doesn’t believe he’s out of the proverbial woods quite yet.

“We have another five-year-plan ahead of us,” he said.

He credits great customers and a good economy, along with a healthy combination of blood, sweat, tears, luck and a lot of blessings from above. CEG Staff

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