Traveling west toward Downingtown, on the Route 30 Bypass, in southern Chester County, PA, a monster is visible in the distance. The monster towering over the surrounding landscape is a Caterpillar 375L hydraulic excavator.
The machine sits atop a benched pile of dirt, taking scoop after scoop and loading a series of Cat 730 articulated trucks. The boom and stick of the machine seem like the arm of a giant, each move affecting the building site.
The Cat 375L is being used by B&J Excavating, a Downingtown-based site contractor who is working on the building pad and parking lots of a Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse. The excavator has been the central figure on this major earthmoving project. This $5-million job called for the excavation of more than 400,000 cu. yds. (305,825 cu m) of earth. More than 100,000 cu. yds. (76,456 cu m) of this material is hard granite and rock.
Mike Bartsch, president of B&J, knew he needed a serious machine to tackle this difficult project.
“I knew that we needed a machine with top performance and production. We made the decision to rent the [Cat] 375 from Giles & Ransome because of this. I was thrilled with the machine. We couldn’t find anything that would slow it down.”
Bartsch made similar statements about the 730 trucks. He said they were a perfect match in both size and performance. The job site was very tight and Bartsch said the “exceptional visibility” of the Cat trucks was one of their major benefits.
In addition, B&J Excavating is responsible for the entire site work, water and storm sewer on the Lowe’s site as well as the grading, paving and curbing for the parking areas. There are a number of large retaining walls that must be constructed.
Tackling jobs like this is not uncommon for B&J, a medium-sized company offering clients exceptional service and total solution, said Bartsch.
“We are not the biggest construction company in the area, but we compete with them. Our focus is on developing clients for long-term relationships. When a client hires us, we look to provide a total solution with the emphasis on service and satisfaction. Our clients should always feel like they are the number one concern to everyone at B&J Excavating,” Bartsch explained.
A big part of B&J’s success and growth has come from its relationship with its local Caterpillar dealer, Giles & Ransome Inc.
When Bartsch started B&J Excavating in 1984, he had two pieces of equipment, a Caterpillar 955K track loader and a D5 bulldozer. As B&J expanded, it turned to Giles & Ransome for a larger dozer. Bartsch purchased a used D7G, sight unseen.
“I knew that I could trust the people [at Giles & Ransome] and that if there was a problem, they would stand behind their commitment. I put 14,000 hours on that machine and got 40 to 50 percent of the value back when I traded it in,” he said.
As B&J grew, it began to take on much larger site development projects and Bartsch decided to purchase two 627 scrapers. “They were the best investment I ever made,” he said.
With all the investments Bartsch was making in equipment, maintenance and support became two of his key concerns. Currently, B&J has 50 to 60 pieces of equipment, with 90 percent of the fleet being Caterpillar. During its busy season, it is nearly always at 100-percent utilization and will often rent equipment to satisfy its needs.
B&J cannot afford any downtime and places a huge emphasis on preventative maintenance to ensure that the machines are up and running. It also relies heavily on the Giles & Ransome’s fluid analysis lab and scheduled oil samplings (SOS).
“We are religious when it comes to our oil sampling and routine maintenance. This is the key to our return on investment. My shop superintendent reviews all of our samples and we use all Cat oil, filters and hardware. It does make a difference. I even use them [SOS, Cat oil and filters] on my competitive machines. The program does work and the return is definitely there,” he said.
“We had a 963 track loader that had some bad samples. The technician at G&R called us and we got the machine into our shop. We were able to fix a minor problem very quickly. Had I kept running this machine, the whole engine could have failed. This would have cost a considerable amount to fix and I would have been without the machine. The oil lab saved me a lot of money,” Bartsch explained.
In addition, Bartsch has strict standards when purchasing equipment. In the past two years, B&J wanted to purchase two 33-ton (30 t) excavators. It has some Cat excavators and some competitive machines. Bartsch opened the deal to a number of different suppliers with the goal of determining who was making the best machine.
“Ultimately, our choice was the Cat 330C L. The production level of this machine is unbelievable with our pipe crews. Giles & Ransome came with a great package,” Bartsch explained.
The second machine was purchased with the exclusive Caterpillar pin grabber couples, which added more versatility to B&J’s fleet. There was a similar situation with a 938G wheel loader.
“A number of other manufacturers came with some very competitive deals, but Giles & Ransome and Cat had the best total package,” he said.
In addition, the Cat 730 trucks were highly contested by the competition, but ultimately the production and the support made them the obvious choice. All this is evidence of the quality and commitment that B&J places on its work and its customers’ needs.
“Our clients know that we are in it for them, not just in the short term, but for the long haul,” Bartsch said, and the Lowe’s project is no exception.
For more information, call 800/525-3135 or visit www.ransome.com.