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Wellons Construction’s VP Feels GPS Investment Drives Company’s Future

Fri November 11, 2011 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Seth Thompson, vice president of Wellons Construction, believes that his company’s investment in GPS and machine control equipment is driving its future.

“It is my goal to put as many Topcon systems on our equipment as possible,” said Thompson. “Our day-to-day operations have seen a major change since we purchased our first system three years ago. Like many companies, we have multiple generations working for us — and there is definitely a generation gap between the 50-year-olds and the 35 and younger guys. But once everyone sees the advantages to having GPS on our jobs, it speaks for itself.”

So much so, that Thompson has purchased a system every year since he first bought a 3D-MC2 system for a dozer in 2008, adding an additional 3D-MC2 system to a dozer and, most recently, a X-63 system to his excavator.

“Federal and state laws have changed in the last few years regarding the Clean Water Act,” explained Thompson. “With these changes we have seen the increased size and design for permanent sediment basins or BMPs. We needed an advantage when excavating these ponds to their strict design grades. Topcon’s X63 system has allowed us to grade these ponds one time. This system has taken a man and a machine out of the scenario when building these ponds, cutting cost and increasing production.

“It’s difficult to put a number on our increased productivity,” he added. “Let’s just say, it’s noticeable. When you can turn projects over for the owner in half the time, you know your productivity and efficiency are up. What used to take us two months to complete, now takes one. It has proven to be a very good move for us.

“We are seeing more and more owners and general contractors ask if we use GPS and machine control,” said Thompson, “All of our competitors have it and we know that it makes us more competitive on both schedule and pricing.”

By using the 3D-MC2 system Wellons is able to make more efficient use of its dozer. Along with speed increases, 3D-MC2 means fewer passes resulting in more work completed in less time. Less time equals less fuel and less machine wear. The X63 excavator system eliminates over excavation and allows crews to control material usage, saving time and money, according to the company.

Wellons currently is using Topcon’s HiPer Lite base and rover system, 3D-MC2 and X63 systems on the Harnett County Hospital Central Campus project in Lillington, N.C. The site measures 15 acres and will house a new 50-bed hospital slated for completion in the fall of 2012. Wellons contract is an estimated $1.8 million and includes grading and utilities.

“Utilizing GPS on the hospital project has kept us ahead of schedule from day one. It’s important on a project like this to stay as far ahead of the vertical construction crews as possible. Knocking out the grading quickly has kept us a solid two weeks ahead of schedule.”

Thompson asserted that using this technology has saved him countless hours in the field.

“Before we moved to the Topcon systems, we may lose a half day in the field waiting for a survey crew,” said Thompson. “Now, our downtime is almost non-existent. If we do need some help in the field, we pick up the phone and call Mike Gaillard with Benchmark and he can typically walk us through any issues we have over the phone. We may lose a few minutes, rather than that half day.”

The vast majority of Wellons’ equipment is Caterpillar, and Thompson is sold on the Topcon systems as well.

“Topcon systems are very easy to set up and use,” he explained. “We have had great product and technical support from Benchmark — their staff is hands-on, from the beginning. These guys absolutely know the ins and outs of each product, from the guy that sells it to you, to the guy who installs it on the machine.

“This business is built on accuracy,” he added. “From putting numbers down on your estimate to dropping curb on the job, you have to be accurate. Using these systems, I am able to be precise on my billing and to forecast schedules for our crews — now that it takes a grading crew half the time to do a job, I know that we can take on more work and I can double my production.”

Wellons Construction is based in Dunn, N.C. and provides full service site development and utility construction services.

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