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Mississippi Contractor Finds Success With GPS

Tue August 16, 2011 - National Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

“Topcon GPS and machine control systems were required on this job,” explained Brian Williams of Eutaw Construction, the Mississippi-based contractor tasked with dirt moving on the Western Wake Expressway.

“The prime contractor, Raleigh-Durham Roadbuilders, wanted everyone to have the same systems so there wouldn’t be any problems with communication in the field. We had never used Topcon systems, but we have been pleased with their performance, seeing a 70 percent increase in our efficiency on this project alone.”

Using machine control systems, Eutaw is able to precisely control grades and ensure it is within tolerances on the first pass, eliminating the need for survey crews midway through the job, reducing labor costs. Machine control systems also aid Eutaw’s project management — with a continual stream of accurate and complete job information in the field in real time.

“In addition to the performance of the machine control systems, we use the GPS to take topo of the project monthly and are able to ensure that our quantities are correct on the job,” said Tim Knight, Eutaw project superintendent.

Pleased with the Topcon systems’ performance, Eutaw Construction has purchased an additional five systems for a recently awarded $87.5-million design-build project in Pontotoc, Miss. The new Highway 6 will run from Pontotoc to Sherman and is expected to complete in September 2012. With an expedited schedule, the 12-mi. (19 km) stretch of 4-lane highway project is one of the largest contracts awarded in the state of Mississippi.

“With the results we have seen on this job using the Topcon systems, we were very interested in purchasing additional systems for other jobs,” said Knight. “The Highway 6 job has an 18-month schedule so we knew the GPS and machine control were going to be important there.”

On the Western Wake Expressway, Eutaw is using machine control systems on four Caterpillar D6N dozers and two motorgrader systems — one on a Caterpillar 140H and the other on a 120M. Those machine control systems, in addition to the five GR3 systems they have on site, have proven to be an integral part of Eutaw’s approach to the job.

With the GR3 systems, Eutaw enjoys the precise signaling offered by Topcon’s combination of the American GPS, Russian GLONASS and European Galileo satellite systems. Reading from the base station installed on the job by Raleigh-Durham Roadbuilders, the Topcon receivers combine a modern design with ease of use that is critical in the field, according to the company.

Converting to the Topcon system was pretty easy, according to Knight, who described the systems as easy to use and understand, adding that his employees caught on quickly.

“We’ve had our ups and downs on the job, but we have seen a definite increase in our productivity and our ability to cut down on labor costs, using GPS vs. blue tops,” said Knight.

Eutaw purchased the systems from its local Topcon dealer, but has relied heavily on Benchmark Tool & Supply, the regional dealer in Raleigh, to assist in troubleshooting, service and repair.

’We bought the systems and had them installed in our shop in Mississippi,” said Williams. “When we got up here we started working with Benchmark to help us in the field and with product support. This project is on an expedited schedule and we can’t afford to have down time. The staff at Benchmark, from Josh Kearns who is in sales to Andy Hicklin and Mike Gaillard in service and repair, has been very responsive. I took a product in at 4:00 pm yesterday and had it back this morning at 9:00 am. We are getting great service to keep us moving.”

“We have enjoyed our relationship with Eutaw,” said Chuck Harris, president of Benchmark Tool & Supply. “We appreciate their business and are committed to standing behind the Topcon products. Eutaw came up here with the Topcon GR-3 and 3D-MC systems already installed, and we have been happy to support them in the field as they have learned more and more about the technology. As part of my business, I understand that time is money in construction and we do our best to trouble shoot problems over the phone or turn service and repairs around quickly. We want to keep everyone moving.”

Moving is something that Knight pushes for every day.

“We have moved 3.7 million cubic yards of material so far,” he explained. “We moved on site in January 2010, and started really moving dirt in late March and early April of 2011. With a total of 6 million cubic yards of material to move for the entire job, we are looking at completing the earthwork in November 2011. Our crews have been working day and night shifts for the past three months to get our production up. Hauling on a busy highway like Highway 55, we get more productivity at night where we don’t have to contend with traffic.”

From a high of moving 33,000 cu. yds. (25,230 cu m) of material in a single shift, to an average of 18,000 cu. yds. (13,762 cu m) a day, Eutaw has proven its strength in grading operations and its resilience in dealing with adverse weather conditions. With more than seven inches of rain in the past three months, Knight has accelerated production on days where the weather is good to minimize impact to the schedule.

“The bridges have been the driving factor in the schedule,” added Knight. “There are 32 bridges, including ten mainline bridges over wetlands and four bridges over major interchanges at U.S. 64 and U.S. 1. For each bridge, we have to prepare the approaches, build the detours and allow time for curing in our schedule.”

Eutaw’s contract for the Western Wake Expressway is an estimated $32-million and is an average size project for the company, which is headquartered in Aberdeen, Mich. Eutaw’s areas of service include transportation, water and wastewater, site development, bridge dam and drainage and disaster relief. With a fleet of equipment valued at approximately $35 million, the company is licensed to work in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

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