The 300-acre (121 ha) Delaware Ridge development outside of Kansas City is a bit of an anomaly for Miles Excavating Inc.
Wide open spaces, no congested traffic and no existing residents encroaching on its construction site. Seventy-five percent of Miles’ work is in street rehab — ripping out curbs and existing pavement, installing utilities and then returning the street to its original form. The rest of its work is an even mix of site development and dirt work.
The Delaware Ridge development is a perfect example of how Miles Excavating’s skills come together to create a total site plan.
No piece of this site has gone untouched by Miles, as crews have performed all the grading, installed all the sewers, coordinated all the drainage systems, graded all the roads and poured the curbs. The only element not completed by Miles is the asphalt paving.
Before the roads can be paved, however, one last piece of the puzzle needs to be placed.
Miles is installing a 350-ft. (106 m) long, 14- by 14-ft. (4.2 by 4.2 m) concrete box culvert, designed to drain 800 acres (324 ha) into the Kansas River. A tough job calling for reliable machines, this task involved cranes, and six-wheel and articulated trucks.
But all the heavy grunt work — the excavating of 15,000 yds. (13,716 m) — was handled by one machine, Komatsu’s 306-hp (228 kW) PC400LC-6 excavator.
Company Growth a Result of Staunch Work Ethic
The best education often comes from experience. Steve Miles, president, Miles Excavating Inc., went from working as a laborer at a feed lot in Kansas City to being a dozer operator, then an equipment owner.
To buy his first used backhoe, he sold a horse and started doing excavation work by the hour. Today, he owns and operates one of the most successful construction companies in the Kansas City area — and owns a fleet of Komatsu excavators that he bought without selling any animals.
“It’s just grown from there,” said Miles. “My background had nothing to do with learning business in college. I’ve learned the business day in, day out. I’ve learned how to estimate, learned how to get jobs, learned how to hire and keep the right workers.”
A family man who would much rather spend time at the controls of an excavator than on the golf course, much of Miles’ success can be attributed to his deft knowledge of which equipment is best for each job and how to best utilize the resources at hand.
Street rehab work requires a steady stream of trucks, both hauling out debris and hauling in gravel to make sure streets are usable by locals. It also requires reliable excavators that can effectively move materials.
Jobs such as Delaware Ridge, where much of the work involves excavation, depend more heavily on excavators and their ability to constantly move dirt. In either instance, the reliability and strength of his excavators are critical, so when it came time to purchase two new 95,000-lb. (43,091 kg) machines to handle his company’s workload, Miles took no chances and stuck with a trusted product, the PC400LC-6.
“Back when excavators were first coming out with air conditioning, I tried another piece of equipment with air conditioning over purchasing a Komatsu hoe [excavator]” said Miles. “My superintendent was operating the new machine and it didn’t take long before he jumped off that brand new machine and back into the seat of a Komatsu. We’ve grown comfortable with these machines, and it seems that if we made a switch now, I’d have eight or nine operators revolting.”
A Very Large Hole and
To accommodate the 14- by 14-ft. box culvert, Miles and his crew dug a trench 27 ft. (8.2 m) deep, 50 ft. (15.2 m) wide and 400 ft. (122 m) long, hauling out 15,000 yds. (13,716 m) of dirt in a three-day period. On site for this task were one of the new PC400LC-6s with just under 400 hours on it, and another PC400LC-6 with 8,000 hours on it. Digging conditions weren’t the easiest because of a great deal of rock that had to be forced out with an NPK hammer fitted to one of the excavators.
For such instances, the PC400LC-6 features a Power Up switch that increases implement force by 9 percent, and five individual working modes that help tailor machine performance to the given application — handy when encountering variable soil conditions like the ones at Delaware Ridge.
Miles also uses a JRB quick coupling system to allow for easy change-out of attachments such as the NPK hammer.
“Operating the PC400LC-6 in our dirt operations seems to work the best for us,” said Miles. “It provides the right size and performance, and we don’t need a machine bigger than that, as we move these units around from site to site a lot.”
To get the dirt out, Miles matches the PC400LC-6s with six-wheel drive trucks capable of hauling 15 yds. (13.7 m) of dirt per cycle. Miles hauled the dirt and piled it up at another location on site for easy access when back-filling.
When the trench’s depth reached 27 ft. (8.2 m) and hit solid rock, Miles brought the trench back up to a 24-ft. (7.3 m) depth by hauling in 3 ft. (.9 m) of rip-rap and 1 ft. (.3 m) of gravel for the 40,000-lb. (18,143 kg) sections of the culvert to sit on.
When the base was laid and the time came for a crane to individually place the 50-ft. (15 m) sections of the culvert, the excavators still played an important role. Utilizing the machine’s JRB quick couplers, Miles placed the bucket on backwards to square the PC400LC-6’s bucket to the culvert, and helped push together individual sections of the concrete.
As this occurred, a PC400LC-6 and PC300LC-6 loaded six-wheelers and artic trucks that constantly hauled backfill into the trench. Minus rainouts, the entire process of installing the culvert took no more than seven days.
“The PC400s have been a good machine for us,” said Miles. “For top-loading our trucks, whether it be in dirt or rehab work, I would see no need in going with anything bigger.”
Utility and Rehab Work
The PC400LC-6 plays a major role in the utility and rehab aspects of Miles’ business as well, and is complemented with smaller excavators that help finish jobs as efficiently as possible.
“We use the PC300LC-6s primarily for digging pipe,” said Miles. “We use the PC400s on our really deep sewer projects and for top loading debris into trucks. And we use our PC128UU to neatly rip out curb on rehab projects.”
The 128UU is a valuable machine in helping keep homeowners along roadside street projects happy. With its boom design and compact structure, Miles is able to ensure that, even when ripping out existing concrete and asphalt, people’s lawns are damaged as little as possible.
“The knuckle boom on the 128UU is really why I went with that machine,” he said. “You can run right up alongside the curb and keep digging straight up. With a normal tracked excavator, you’d wind up in the center of someone’s yard, not to mention damaging the existing dirt bank. We like to keep that dirt bank as stable as possible to eliminate the back-filling and sod work that comes along with damaging someone’s yard. That machine is ripping out 50,000 feet of curb as we speak.
“With the PC400, we’ll drive right down a city street — I can pull out trees with it if that’s what’s called for, or, if my plans show me tearing out 40 feet up someone’s driveway, I’ll just turn that machine and pull the entire driveway into the street with me. I’ve got a constant line of trucks behind me. With the PC400 scooping up curbs, asphalt, and concrete, we’re able to efficiently dispose of debris. Then, just as quickly as we tore out the material, I’ve got trucks hauling in gravel. That way people never have to drive on dirt. That way, everyone is happy. The city gets fewer calls.”
Street rehab only flows as smoothly as Miles describes it if you’ve got equipment that is strong enough to handle the rigors of such work and is reliable enough to provide the necessary uptime to keep operations moving. A reliable machine by design, this excavator still provides a self-diagnostic system that monitors 119 machine functions.
With the diversity of its work, Miles benefits from the five working modes featured on the machine, designed to tailor machine performance to each application, whether digging, lifting or manipulating attachments. The PC400LC-6 also features Active Mode, a setting designed to provide increased implement speed.
The 84-hp (62.6 kW) PC128UU is designed precisely for the application Miles is using it in. The offset boom features hydraulically controlled hinges on both the boom and bucket that allow for digging nearly 2 ft. (.6 m) outside of and parallel to the tracks, while the machine is facing straight ahead, as Miles described.
The hinges also can be controlled to keep the boom and bucket parallel, enabling the operator to dig straight, precise trenches — and in Miles’ case, while not intruding on existing yards and landscapes.
All of Miles’ excavators feature Komatsu’s HydrauMind hydraulic control system, comprised of closed-center, load-sensing valves that react in direct proportion to pressure applied by the operator to the controls, improving responsiveness for easier fine-control and lifting operations.
“These excavators are faster and smoother than other excavators we’ve used in the past,” said Randy Bates, Miles Excavating. When asked about the machines’ reliability and lifting power, Bates said: “They’ll just keep going, and for what we do, the lifting ability is just fine.”
Pride in a Job Well Done
Besides his machines and his crews, Miles gives a lot of credit to the guys who sell and service his machinery.
“RoadBuilders Machinery has really taken care of us,” said Miles. “Regardless of whether a machine can do somersaults, it means nothing if you don’t have the right people backing it up. Gerry Buser and Phil McCoy go to bat for us, and it’s nice to know that you’ve got people outside of your own company who care just as much about your assets as you do.
“We pride ourselves in quality, honesty and speed. We get in. We get out. And we treat our customers how we want to be treated. It helps facilitate our work better, and I think that quality shows in our work, in our employees, and the pride we all take in what we do.”
That same pride keeps Steve Miles off the golf course and in the seat of an excavator on Friday afternoons. Combined with a strong support network of equipment, distributors and employees, Miles can’t go wrong. And the days of selling off horses to buy equipment are long gone.