Drive by this site of Route 16 West, Milford, MA, and you’ll think whoever is building there has got to be out of their mind. First of all, it’s all ledge — and it’s deep. Second, it’s squeezed in between several very busy retail stores, including a large supermarket, which, needless to say, complicates blasting and hammering.
Still, intense site preparation is going on there, with crews working seven days a week, 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., in the midst of one of Massachusetts’ coldest winters in history. The excavation firm owner, David Calarese, is as happy as can be. So is his director of field operations, David Phillips. And they both agree, people stop by every day and question their sanity, and the profitability of the project. So, what can they see that others cannot?
It comes down to three components. The first one, of course, is location — this is the right one, around the block from Route 495, easy to access from everywhere. According to Calarese, that convenience is a great plus for their customer, a commercial storage company.
“Basically, developers are running out of good locations, and when you see one, you grab it.”
Then, you need the right excavation company — LRC knows what to do in conditions such as these and the company has turned what could have been a monumental challenge into a great business opportunity. Last but not least, the right equipment and the right product support made a difference.
“This type of work is really tough on the machinery and at times really puts service departments to the test,” said Phillips, “and with a good chance for surprises after you start blasting, and a lot of ways to tackle those challenges, good advice is crucial.”
“We took a look at the site and we saw the potential — we knew we could do it. We had the team, and we had the equipment support,” explained Calarese.
“You have to keep in mind, challenging sites such as this one will become more and more common, so working with experienced application specialists makes a lot of sense,” added Phillips.
Although the characteristics of the site make it particularly rough on the equipment; any unplanned downtime becomes very costly when you have machines lined up one after the other, assembly-line style, excavator, to hammer, to crusher, to truck, and so on.
Both Calarese and Phillips stress the importance of field service. “If you have a machine down, the whole process stops. It makes a huge difference to have someone at the job site within an hour, and, someone who’s good at diagnostics, none of this changing one part after the other.”
Besides field service, flexibility and support have been crucial to the success of this project.
“There’s no way you can be always prepared for everything; but from a business point of view, it’d make no sense to have machinery sitting, just costing you money. We appreciate being able to buy new, buy used, rent, try for one day — it allows us to try certain things and pretty much handle anything, and to do it cost-effectively.” A quick example is the Cat 365 — an excavator larger than the ones that LRC would normally use, but having it for this job has allowed LRC to work a lot faster. “One machine this size does the job of two or even three smaller ones; plus the 365 has the reach to set the blasting mats, and the weight to lift huge rocks,” Calarese said.
And there is another benefit to the site that LRC saw early on. “I love rock,” laughed Phillips.
That’s quite a statement to make, and he immediately backs it up. “You see rock — but we see money. If we weren’t getting this product from here, we’d have to buy it; we need rock for our other jobs — foundations, roads, retainer walls, you name it … .”
Sure enough, as soon as the Cat 365 excavator is finished filling up the trucks with crushed rock, the truck takes off, on its way to another LRC project, this one in Franklin, MA, where the firm is laying down foundations on a residential development.
Calarese recounted when the job started. “We began September 18, cutting down trees.” And he admitted that not even the wood was wasted; it was either bartered or given to his employees.
Then, the blasting company came in. “It took Atlantic Blasting five weeks to complete their job; and the Cat 365 was totally dedicated to supporting their work — from setting the blasting mats, to separating the shots, to pulling the outcrops, explained Phillips.
“The blasters left, and we started working on the rock — using a 10,000-pound NPK hammer on the excavator. We break it down to 18-inch minus pieces; then it goes through the jaw crusher, coming out as six inch to eight inch rocks. The final step is the cone crusher which brings the pieces down anywhere from three inches to three-quarter inches depending on our need at the time,” he said.
Besides the Cat 365 that LRC acquired from Southworth-Milton, the other machines on site include two Cat 345 excavators, two Cat 330 excavators, a Cat 962G wheel loader, a Cat DR8 dozer, a Cat D250 rock truck, a Pegson Automax 1000 cone crusher, a Pegson 26 in. by 44 in. Premiertrack jaw crusher, and assorted transport trucks.
Seeing the operation from a vantage point, on top of the hill next to the job site, it’s hard to avoid comparing it with a “well-orchestrated ballet,” as Calarese put it — the machines moving really close to one another, on a relatively small “island” — two acres — surrounded by deep, straight vertical falls on all sides. It’s impeccably well-coordinated, with the 365 excavator picking up from one pile, dumping it inside the crusher, turning around and loading the truck, almost in one fell swoop, while the two 345 excavators position rock for hammering and loading the crushers.
It needs to be well-coordinated — not too many feet away, suburban housewives are picking up groceries, families are dining, and couples are shopping. So the hammering, crushing and loading operation has to run smoothly and non-intrusively. The LRC team is up to the challenge — excited about the progress of this project, looking forward to more opportunities to prove conventional wisdom wrong as to what makes a “tough” job — and ready for more rocks.