Operator Input Key to Segal & Morel’s Iron Purchases

Fri June 17, 2005 - Northeast Edition

If there is one area of the construction business that has thrived no matter what the economic climate, it has been the home site development and construction business. This has been especially so for home building company Segal & Morel, Bridgewater, NJ.

Segal & Morel was founded in 1966 and its principal owner Kenneth Segal is a second-generation builder whose family has been a major presence in New Jersey’s home building industry for more than 50 years. Jack Morel joined the company as a partner in the mid-1980s and retired in 1995, helping to build Segal & Morel into a well known home builder and developer in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The company’s philosophy of blending tradition with innovation has resulted in 21 residential communities totaling more than 3,500 homes.

Adam Segal, Kenneth’s son, is executive vice president and oversees daily operations.

“We are unique in that we are a family-owned company with an impeccable reputation,” he said. “We spend a lot of time and effort in researching and selecting the best products to include in our homes and we are especially proud to be able to offer many well known brand name products such as Kohler, Lennox, Owens Corning, JennAir and many others.”

Segal & Morel has won two national awards for design excellence from the National Association of Home Builders and is an Energy Star builder, a government certification that means the house is tighter and fuel efficient in heating and air conditioning.

“We try and stay at the forefront of building technology,” Segal said. “Striving to always give homeowners the best value is our company mission. Continually achieving this goal has been our success.”

Equipment Versatility

That desire for finding best value, in Segal’s opinion, extends to his new equipment, such as the recently purchased Komatsu D39PX-21A KOMSTAT II dozer, which is hard at work on an ongoing eight-year development of Riverview Estates in Forks Township, Pennsylvania. The D39PX-21A KOMSTAT II dozer — 95 hp, 19,620 lb. (70.8 kW, 8,899 kg) is used for topsoiling, rough grading, foundation work and filling around utilities.

“It’s a fantastic size in terms of productivity,” Segal said. “At the current job site, the D39 is pushing material as it’s getting delivered. So one dump truck at a time, it’s working with the material — be it stone, topsoil or fill.”

Riverview Estates is a golf course community that will encompass a housing mix of 500 town homes, single-family houses and active adult units. Segal & Morel is doing all construction work on the project with the exception of pipe and road work.

“We can do a sub-base and a cut and fill to make the road,” Segal said, “but when it comes to the paving, stoning and curbing, we prefer to sub-contract.”

With the variety of tasks associated with land development Segal & Morel utilizes a fleet of more than 25 pieces of equipment including water tankers, dump trucks, rollers, backhoes, wheel loaders, skid steer loaders, excavators and dozers. Dozers are a mainstay of the equipment fleet for foundation work, fine grading, and working with material of stone, topsoil or fill. With buyers anxiously waiting for their homes to be built, equipment — and operator — productivity is essential.

“It’s important the operators like the machine and are comfortable running it because we work a long day,” Segal said.

Before purchasing new equipment, Segal frequently demos machines from his equipment distributor, Binder Machinery Co., of South Plainfield, NJ, to get operator input.

“The whole reason for demonstrating the machines is for the operators’ benefit,” he said. “From the spec sheet, I can tell the capabilities of the machine, the power of the machine, the price, the life cycle and the whole operating cost. But when I buy a machine, 50 percent of my decision is made on operator preference.

“We brought Komatsu’s D39PX-21A KOMSTAT II dozer on a demo while one of our other dozers was in for blade repair,” he said. “The operators liked the D39 so much, I decided not to bring the old machine back. That really speaks a lot for the machine. Most of the time, the operators tell me they don’t care. But with this dozer, it really mattered to them, so when it was time to purchase, it wasn’t a difficult decision.”

Hydrostatic Transmission Provides Smooth Operation

According to Segal, a major reason why his operators remain productive is the Komatsu Hydrostatic Transmission (HST) and palm- controlled joystick. The HST offers two three-speed variable capacity travel motors that can be selected by the operator to match the optimum speed with the specific job.

“The HST machines are clearly easier to operate,” Segal said. “With one hand, an operator controls not only speed, but speed range. HST steering eliminates clutches and brakes so it’s more operator friendly and easier to work in all day. The palm command joystick controls all directional movements. And, since all the younger operators grew up on video games, they are used to joystick control. Plus, it’s less strenuous movement, so operator fatigue is reduced.”

Exceptional Blade Visibility, Comfortable Seating

Operator fatigue is clearly an issue when trying to maintain productivity, so comfortable seating and an easy ride are important to keeping operators happy. The D39 has a suspension seat with backrest and height adjustable armrests and increased leg space.

“I’ve been on other tractors and find when I get off, I’m pretty sore. But this machine provides a comfortable, stable ride, even when I’m on it all day,” said Operator Fernando Aguilar.

The dozer’s slim engine hood and well-located operator seat provide excellent visibility to the blade, which, according to Komatsu, greatly increases grading efficiency and reduces operator guesswork. The large ground area created by the long tracks and wide track gauges combines with a low center of gravity to make a stable and well-balanced machine. For smoother riding comfort, power train components and hydraulic control valves are mounted to the frame with rubber pads to soften vibration and reduce noise.

Durable Main Frame Provides Stability

Coinciding with the ease of operation is the stability factor of the machine. The dozer’s 7-ft., 9-in. long (2.4 m) and 25-in. wide (63.5 cm) tracks keep it well balanced, yet retain mobility.

The main frame is designed by the same CAE (computer aided engineering) technology used on Komatsu’s D575A — the largest bulldozer in the world. This main frame structural feature is a main frame and track frame combined with connecting bars by weldments, providing the ideal stiffness required in a small size crawler dozer.

“We like the fact that this small-size dozer is constructed with the features of a bigger, more stable machine, that still gives us a lot of mobility,” Segal said.

Added Aguilar, “The D39 provides us with all the pushing power and blade capacity you could ask for, not to mention, the controls are smooth and easy to operate so we can make tight turns and still keep material on the blade.”

Maintenance Keeps Machines Running Smoothly

Segal noted that the Komatsu-recommended preventative maintenance program has kept his dozers trouble free.

“The accessibility of the greasing points, filters and fluid level checkpoints means the operators are actually going to do it because they can do it easily,” he said.

The engine’s gull wing side cover opens 140 degrees with a gas-spring cylinder, allowing easy checking of the engine and auxiliary components. Daily maintenance items are centralized on the left side of the engine.

“The operator can pop it open and see everything. It’s easy to lean over. It’s easy to touch. Everything you need to do to that machine other than running, you can do standing on the ground,” Segal said.

Aguilar agreed, “The maintenance on these machines is very simple —everything is really easy to get to.”

Transportability an Asset

An important D39PX-21A KOMSTAT II feature to Segal & Morel is its ability to move the dozers from site to site as needed. According to Komatsu, the D39 is the only machine in its class that can be transported with the blade attached and not exceed the 8-ft., 6-in. (2.6 m) travel restrictions.

“Mobility is important to me because there are jobs that are small in scope, even though they may be difficult. I don’t want the expense of moving a big machine when the D39 is capable of doing the job.”

Segal noted that when his company did a spot lot house (a single house), he used the D39PX-21A KOMSTAT II to do everything from digging virgin ground to cutting the driveway to fine grading. “It was the best overall machine to be able to do every step of the project. I was very impressed,” he said.

“The D39 is the perfect size machine for maneuverability, transportability and productivity, and it’s the perfect machine for a novice operator,” he said. “There really isn’t anything that I’ve tried to do with the machine that it hasn’t been able to do.”