Fledgling companies need many things to fall into place before they can really take off. ONYX Inc., a utility work contractor in Bessemer, Ala., was formed three years ago. In that time the three top officers, Andy Pugh, president; Tom Hale, vice president; and Park Evans, secretary/treasurer, all with years of experience behind them and a strong desire to start their own company, have been able to put together the components of success in a tight, highly competitive market
Success in any company starts with the people inside and outside the organization. ONYX has a deep bench of experienced, competent people. Fifty-five employees keep an average of five projects running at all times, jobs based primarily in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia The company also maintains a fleet of approximately 30 pieces of equipment.
J.R. Matzke is the equipment manager for ONYX in charge of all purchasing, renting and maintaining of the equipment. For two current projects, ONYX is working with John Deere equipment from Warrior Tractor & Equipment Co., Tuscaloosa, Ala. Chip Dillard is the Warrior territory manager who works with ONYX. A John Deere loader is on site at a street revitalization project in which water, sewer and storm drains are being replaced and curbs, gutter and sidewalks are being put in. This six-month project is being done on Fosters Ferry Road in Tuscaloosa. A John Deere dozer is on a similar project also in Tuscaloosa, at 25th Avenue. This project has been ongoing for four months and should be completed just after the first of the year.
“When we go to buy something, we base our decision on what we’ve seen in the past. As far as the loaders and rubber-tired backhoes and small dozers go, we always run John Deere. Over the years we’ve seen that they’ve performed the best for us and get the best service out of the size machines that we use like the 650s, the 410s and the 544Js, which have also been very dependable,” Matzke said.
The sentiment is echoed by the president of ONYX, Andy Pugh, who said, “John Deere, especially loaders, have proven themselves. I’ve been in construction since 1980 full time and started as an operator running equipment. So I have a high expectation of the machines I buy. The Deere 544 loaders are very dependable. Production, from an owner’s standpoint, is one of my top priorities. Maintenance cost and machine breakdown is another top priority. Daily operating costs and uptime are other priorities for us and Deere excels in these areas.”
ONYX does its own maintenance on the machines and uses a computer program in which they turn in the hours every month and the program determines which pieces of equipment need to be serviced.
“Warrior addresses the larger scale maintenance needs including computer-related items,” Matzke said. “Out of all the Deere machines we’ve purchased, we only encountered one issue on one machine that required warranty work. It was simply a minor parking brake issue that was taken care of quickly by Warrior. Their service department is extremely helpful. When we have a problem in any place we’re working, we call them and they’re able to troubleshoot over the phone. Everyone on the staff is energetic and quick to take care of things when we need them.”
Having talented people at the job site and on the end of the phone line when problems do occur is vital because ONYX uses Warrior’s machines in some difficult jobs.
“We put the Deere machines through some of the tougher jobs out there, that’s what we do best. That’s why we put skidder tires on the loaders to run through swamps or anything else we might encounter. We look for equipment that will stand up to the kind of jobs we traditionally do, including lots of swamp jobs. John Deere is one of the strongest loaders and when you have the skidder tires on, you can’t stop them … they just keep on going,” Pugh said
This is true not only in measuring actual movement of the machines, but also in the longevity of them. “We have an old loader that we’ve had for years, an old 544E that we bought from another company. It’s probably an 80s model or so and has over 13,000 hours on it and it is still just as strong as it can be. We’re still using it regularly on our jobs,” Matzke explained.
Another big factor in ONYX repeatedly going back to the Deere 544 series is visibility. Matzke said, “When it comes to hooking and unhooking buckets and forks, the quick coupler system on the Deere machines seems to be easier to do and from the inside of the machine you can see what you’re doing real well. Visibility is a big factor in being able to change the bucket and forks.”
Going back to Warrior repeatedly makes ONYX’s success extend to the people outside the organization. “With regard to working with Chip Dillard and Warrior Tractor, I’ve worked with a lot of equipment dealers over the years and with Chip and Warrior, they’re among the best I’ve been associated with,” Pugh said.
Matzke, too, had nothing but praise for Warrior, “Chip really helps us get things done and he does a good job for us. Each piece of Deere equipment that we’ve purchased has been very dependable.”
With a talented staff in-house and strong backing from its equipment dealer, ONYX is confident of further growth. “As with everyone, we’re seeing a lot of competition in our market and the price of work is going down. We’re hopeful that more infrastructure work will be coming in ’09 so we’re able to have the competitive edge,” said Pugh. CEG
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