At a project in Hopkinton, Mass., an Emerald Excavating operator put a Komatsu PC238USLC excavator to work moving material.
What do dentistry and excavating have in common? Nothing, and that's precisely how Emerald Excavating got its start.
"I was a dental hygienist, and one of the dentists I worked for wanted to get into construction," recalled President Inge Kelleher. "He sold his practice, lined up some partners and hired my husband, Jim, to run the backhoe. After the first project, the dentist realized that he had made a big mistake. He offered to sell me the equipment, and I took him up on it."
Inge Kelleher, president
Forty-six years later, that failed hobby is thriving as Emerald Excavating Co. Inc. Inge handles human resources; and while Jim is technically retired, he remains involved with the company.
The couple passed down their love of the industry to their sons, Operations Manager Sheamus and Business Manager Rory, who are also co-owners.
"We started working when we were probably too young to be here," joked Rory. "Sheamus and I knew we wanted to be involved, so when the time came to return after college, the decision was natural. It wasn't a financial move, it was more about a life opportunity. Sheamus and I are neighbors, Mom and Dad live close, we get to do what we love and our kids can see their grandparents every day. In some fuzzy way, what I always envisioned is happening now."
Today, Emerald Excavating has 50 employees and handles site development for large projects, including roads, infrastructure and grading.
The key to success for this family enterprise is simple — do the right thing for customers. That credo has served the company well.
"We've grown steadily throughout the years," said Sheamus. "We started with smaller backyard jobs like septic installations. Then we began doing concrete foundations, dipped into commercial work and eventually got involved in residential projects in the early 2000s."
That background enabled the business to build a diverse skill set, which sets it apart from the competition.
Working on large projects requires precise planning and execution. That's why the company turns to C.N. Wood and Sales Rep. Keven Hobbs for Komatsu intelligent Machine Control equipment.
"Rory and I are civil engineers, so we dove right into GPS technology," shared Sheamus. "In 2005, we purchased a Topcon system and linked two dozers and excavators to it. We were one of the first on the East Coast to use it on an excavator. We knew it would provide a higher level of efficiency and allow us to work with confidence."
When Komatsu introduced intelligent Machine Control with integrated GPS technology and semi-automation, the Kelleher brothers quickly realized they needed it.
"We were using add-on systems on another brand of equipment," said Sheamus. "We liked it, although our main wish was always for a feature that would allow us to control depth. When we saw Komatsu's intelligent Machine Control, we were blown away."
C.N. Wood and Keven have helped Emerald Excavating build a fleet of Komatsu equipment, most notably including several intelligent Machine Control excavators and dozers. The machines have lived up to expectations.
"We literally run our entire business with the GPS," said Rory. "The difference between Komatsu's intelligent Machine Control and a third-party system is capability. On the dozers, the load-sensing capabilities allow our operators to cut and carry or cut and fill using the system the whole time. The machine automatically loads the blade and grades. It's so much more efficient. Using these excavators reduces the likelihood of overdigging and makes the job easier for operators."
The brothers view the company's use of intelligent Machine Control equipment as a clear advantage.
Using an intelligent Machine Control D61PXi dozer, an Emerald Excavating operator effortlessly grades on a recent project.
"There are a lot of places that have had GPS for a while, although they don't use it to the degree we do," said Sheamus. "The biggest advantage in adopting it right away is that we are ahead of the curve on the learning process. Now, when something new comes out, we can add it and see an immediate benefit. We have an understanding, the operators get it and we are all on the same page."
The intelligent Machine Control equipment is firmly entrenched in Emerald's fleet and paved the way for other Komatsu machines, including a PC238USLC tight-tail-swing excavator.
Komatsu's equipment has proven to be dependable for Emerald Excavating. Likewise, services such as Komatsu CARE, KOMTRAX and Komatsu Financial have made Komatsu and C.N. Wood an essential part of Emerald Excavating's operation.
"We consider C.N. Wood and Komatsu to be strategic partners," said Rory. "Our visions for the industry align nicely. It's a collaborative relationship, and they have been very forthcoming in providing potential opportunities for us to try things that we wouldn't necessarily have had access to."
The Sweet Spot
Exponential growth and evolution have never been the goal of Emerald Excavating, and it seems poised to remain that way as Rory and Sheamus prepare to guide the family business into the next generation.
"We have found our sweet spot," stated Rory. "With our size, we have a lot of control over our product, and we're also able to do any project we want. I see us staying on that path, and growth will come through diversification."
(This story was reprinted with permission from C.N. Wood's Wood Works Magazine, Jan. 2020 issue.)