While the cost of doing business escalates, it’s important to have a competitive edge — from dedicated employees to reliable equipment to the ability to be flexible in scope.
That is especially true in the construction business where bids are often won by the narrowest of margins, leaving very little room for a contractor to be profitable. Get a group of contractors together and they will give a laundry list of what can impact the bottom line.
One budget buster is the cost for recycling/disposal/hauling of excavated material. Savvy contractors are finding that adding a mobile crushing plant to their equipment fleet helps complete jobs quickly and cost effectively, increasing profit margins in the process.
John J. Brennan Construction Co. Inc. not only has a stationery crushing plant at its aggregate facility, but also recently purchased a mobile unit for on-site and transfer station convenience.
John J. Brennan Construction, of Shelton, CT, was established in 1897 by John J. Brennan as a masonry and concrete placement business. It flourished until the Depression necessitated diversification into general contracting. Today, John J. Brennan Construction is managed by William, David, Eric and Matthew Brennan, the fourth generation of Brennans to work the business.
The firm’s 145 employees are experienced in a full range of construction services including site development, utility construction, aggregate material management, drilling and blasting, paving and trucking services. Because Brennan’s job sites are scattered throughout Connecticut and New York, an auxiliary crusher was purchased to reduce haul costs to its own yard in Shelton.
“We’ve been making our own aggregates for 25 years, and we learned a long time ago that if we can process close to where we are working, we will save a ton of money,” said Alan Thompson, maintenance supervisor of the company. “We purchased a Komatsu BR380JG-1 mobile crusher from our equipment distributor Don Stans of Edward Ehrbar Inc., [Pelham, NY].”
The crusher is capable of processing spoil [excavated material] into commercially sized aggregate for use as base material and filler.
“Trucks are expensive, plus this way we don’t have to buy our aggregates from a local source. We keep it all in-house,” Thompson said.
Dave Brennan, secretary/ treasurer, noted that having the capability to produce its own aggregates for backfill or base material provides a competitive edge.
“It is an additional resource to produce a quality product and to have more control over the critical path of the job,” he said. “The more resources we can bring to a project, the more control over its quality, the better off we are. Our customers know we will provide a quality product.”
Easy Maneuverability Key to Efficient Operations
“One of the reasons Brennan went with a smaller, mobile machine was size constraints on the job site. This machine has the ability to get into some pretty tight spots, yet still operate at full capacity,” Stans said. “Additionally, the Connecticut DOT has very stringent road restrictions in transporting heavy machinery. The 69,450-pound size means that special permitting is not required as it is transported.”
The completely mobile crusher is built on a Komatsu hydraulic PC270 excavator track undercarriage, which makes it easy to be hauled between sites.
“The dimensions of this crusher is one of the reasons we purchased it,” Thompson said. “I consider tracks over tires a big advantage because I can load on the trailer, unload and be crushing again in another five minutes. It’s a very handy feature, because we do crushing work for other contractors on their sites, so we don’t waste any time on setup or tear down.”
Productivity features of the crusher include a high performance jaw that has a production capacity from 55 to 265 tons per hour (49.9 to 240.4 t) and a crushing range from 2 in. to 5.9 in. (5.1 to 14.9 cm) open side setting.
In addition to its jaw, the crusher utilizes a variable speed hydraulic drive grizzly feeder that vibrates the material in an elliptical movement so that the materials being loaded into the feeder are separated and fed evenly into the jaw.
“This jaw crusher has enough power for our production needs,” Thompson said. “And I like the fact that it’s self-contained and clean. I call it clean because everything is closed up and very compact.”
At a recent utility project the crusher handled material primarily from trenching as the ground was prepared for pipe installation. After the road was sawcut, the excavated rock, cement and asphalt from the trench was taken to the crusher, where an excavator with a half-yard bucket fed it.
The first crush of 4- to 5-in. (10.2 to 12.7 cm) material was then taken down to 2-in. (5.1 cm) minus.
“We’re feeding the machine at an open setting for pre-crush and then we knock the setting down and reverse the jaw, which results in better breakage of the asphalt, which tends to smear when it gets hot,” Thompson said. “By reversing the jaw, we avoid that.”
“We’re producing about 150 tons per hour on a good day,” Thompson said, adding that a big benefit of the Komatsu crusher is its fully hydraulic drive system and hydraulic protection, which allows the jaw crusher to protect itself such as when tramp (metal uncrushables) enters the system. That can be catastrophic to the machine, but the hydraulic drive will stop operations by adopting the locking cylinders to fully open the discharge port before any damage is done.
Radio remote hydraulic steering also makes it easy for the crusher to move around a job site, and the hydraulic conveyor lifter ensures adequate ground clearance (12 in. [30.5 cm] minimum) and safe operation even on rough ground.
Taking Care of Itself
Because the company typically works 15 jobs and is frequently called on for emergency utility work, the crusher has more than one operator working it.
“We shuffle our crews around, depending on what emergency work needs to be done,” Thompson said.
“The easy operation of this machine means an operator can handle it with minimal instruction. The machine basically takes care of itself.”
All the switches necessary for operation are located on the main control panel, making it easier for the operator standing on the ground to reach and safely control the operation. With the one-touch start feature, all the operator has to do is push the start switch. This simple operation will sequentially start the operation of the magnetic separator, belt conveyor, jaw crusher and feeder.
Keeping the Competitive Edge
John J. Brennan sets high expectations for itself and the quality of work it produces. It expects no less from its vendors and the products and services they sell.
“Don Stans and Edward Ehrbar has gone above and beyond my expectations,” said Thompson. “I have nothing but praise for Ehrbar. They have sold us a quality product, and they give us quality service.
“Our crusher has about 900 hours on it right now, and we run it all day long, five days a week. We anticipate keeping it to about 15,000 hours. Financially, it makes more sense for us to sell or trade the machine while it still has value. That’s one of the ways we do business and which has helped keep us competitive,” Thompson said.
Brennan counts on the reliability of the BR380JG as it looks ahead to perhaps a fifth generation running the company.
“Longevity comes from project diversity, embracing new technology and always looking for the next way to provide a better environment for the employees,” Brennan said. “Nobody’s job is easy, no work is ever completely fun, but you take those things that are within your direct control and do them to the best of your ability — that’s how you get to be fourth generation. We provide a good quality product to our customers by staying ahead of the curve, and we provide a good quality work experience for our employees.” CEG