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Red’s Excavating Utilizes Hybrid Technology in Wisc.

Sat June 05, 2010 - Midwest Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Red’s Excavating Inc. is seeing what it’s like being green — at least for a few hundred hours. The Green Bay, Wis., company is using a Komatsu Hybrid PC200LC-8 excavator from Roland Machinery on several of its job sites.

Founded in 1951 as Richard Peters Trucking, Red’s Excavating considers itself a diverse company.

“Mostly we do custom home building and excavating, and we do the sewer laterals and all the excavating on site. So we pretty much cover it all — we can do the sewer, the water, and basements — anything that needs to be done. We do some commercial work. If the economy is turning toward apartments, then that’s where we go. If home building is on the upswing, then we hit the homebuilding hard,” said Mike Peters, president of Red’s Excavating.

“Our backhoes are the backbone of our company so we run them three seasons and then we turn them over. We’ve been with [Komatsu] for 23 years and it’s pretty much automatic,” said Peters.

“Production is key and Komatsu has produced for us,” said Russ Peters, Red’s Excavating vice president. “Right now I’m doing comps on two machines — the PC200-8 vs. the Hybrid PC200LC-8. I’m testing production numbers to determine the time it takes to do specific projects — to see if the hybrid machine still produces the same amount of product for you and yardage. But, with the hybrid, you will get fuel economy and that’s key. Fuel economy is a big thing in our future.

“So what I’m doing is seeing if I can do the same amount of yardage in a day. Because timing, when it’s busy, is important for us. An hour here and there really makes a difference. So if you’re saving $50 in fuel but it costs you at the end of the day because you moved 150 less yards, then it’s not worth it. But if you can move the same amount of yardage and save 20 to 30 gallons of fuel, that’s a moneymaker.

“I dug two basements — identical. I timed it and came up with two hours and 38 minutes with the one machine and I came up with two hours and 35 minutes with the new machine — the hybrid. So I was right there and you’ve got to remember it was a brand new machine so I had maybe five minutes of getting acclimated with it.”

“I didn’t notice any difference,” Mike Peters added. “[The PC200-8 hybrid] runs comparable to a regular 200. It reacts just like the conventional 200. You feel comfortable working within inches — I’m saying an inch — of a house and siding. It keeps it very uniform so you’re working right next to it and you don’t get any jerking over.”

Subtle Differences

According to Russ and Mike Peters, operating the Hybrid PC200LC-8 requires only a small adjustment.

“It’s just something new. You have to get used to the different sounds that it makes,” said Russ Peters.

“After a while operators will get used to a machine — it becomes a part of their body,” Roland Machinery General Manager Bob Weier added. “The way they feel — the sounds, the movements, everything. And when they get into something new it takes a little while for them to get acclimated to the feel of the machine. What Russ is mentioning is the fact that because of the hybrid and the way it is designed it’s taken him a little longer to get used to the noises, sounds and feel of that machine.”

So what causes these different noises and sounds? Armando Najera Jr., Komatsu product manager of excavators, who is spearheading his company’s launch of the hybrid, explained.

“This is the biggest difference on this [hybrid] machine,” began Najera Jr. “Traditional excavators, when you take the lock lever off, you’re live. As soon as you touch any controls, the engine revs up. At that point you have full hydraulic power. That’s fine and dandy when you’re on a conventional machine because they’re set up that as they lug down, they reach peak torque and give you more power. So if you’re digging and you lug the engine down, because you’re getting into something heavier, trenching or something, you can reach peak torque and get more power; you get more hydraulic power.”

The hybrid, however, has two systems that contribute to fuel savings —the main purpose of a hybrid machine.

“The hybrid system contributes most of the fuel savings,” Najera Jr. continued. “The rest is contributed by low-speed matching. This is a whole new engine controller logic that, instead of lugging down, it ramps up as you need it. So as the pressures in the work equipment and the boom and arm build up, the machine sees that and kicks up the engine RPM as it’s needed. You’re only producing the power that you need. As a result, the operator would normally expect to hear that engine sound lugging down during a high-power demand operation, but instead it ramps up.”

Najera Jr. compared the difference to a five-speed transmission on a car.

“After a while, you know when to shift without ever having to look at the tachometer,” he said. “The hybrid works and sounds different. You almost have to unlearn using the engine sound as an input used to operate the machine. Some operators have said to us that all they had to do was shut the door, turn on the radio and then operating the machine becomes more of a feel, so the different engine sound won’t throw them off. In a way, they become one with the excavator. What we tell operators is that the engine will have a different sound and you won’t be able to count on it the way you used to. Once you get past that, everything else will fall into place.”

These different noises, sounds and feel, however, do not affect the way the machine operates, as Russ Peters testified.

“It doesn’t change the way the machine operates in any way at all,” he asserted.

Twenty-Three Years and Counting

Red’s has been buying Komatsu equipment since 1987.

“Whenever we run into a pinch or anytime I need something, I don’t hesitate to pick up the phone to call Bob [Weier]. He comes through for me one way or another,” said Mike Peters.

“He gets on the line and locates something for me — it could be a compactor, wheel loader, backhoe — whatever it may be and he takes care of it. And the few times we had downtime, I get on the phone with Bob or [Roland Sales Representative] Joe [Stangel] and they have a technician show up right away — or another machine shows up right away. Our contractors are impressed with our ability to do that, which shows what Roland Machinery does for us. It keeps our downtime to an absolute minimum.”

In the Beginning

Richard “Red” Peters bought his first gravel truck in 1951, and with it Richard Peters Trucking was born.

Operated out of the family home until 1987, Richard Peters Trucking was incorporated as Red’s Excavating in 1968. Richard’s sons Mike, Mark and Russ took over the business in 1994 and currently run the operation.

Leading the Way Into the Future

“I’ve got to give kudos to Komatsu because they’re not afraid to take on challenges and try to make a machine that saves fuel,” said Russ Peters. “And they do it well. When you look at that machine and see what they did — it’s pretty clean and neat. They used the old platform and a different part of Komatsu technology and meshed them together — merged them and came up with something that saves fuel, yet is even further cost effective because production is the same.”

Red’s Excavating will continue to put the Hybrid PC200LC-8 through its paces until the end of July. As for whether or not the company thinks it may permanently add the hybrid to its fleet, Russ Peters said, “Of course, the economy has a lot to do with that, but we plan on budgeting for a purchase. It’s the future.”

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