Conventional wisdom would say a 66-ton (60 t) excavator is a tad large for utility work. A 49-ton (45 t) excavator or smaller is more customary for underground work. But for one Wisconsin firm, the Zaxis 600LC’s size, reach, and power works with all kinds of jobs and is the flagship of Carl Bowers & Sons’ fleet of seven Hitachi excavators.
Besides the 600LC, the Kaukauna-based outfit owns three 450LCs (mixed bag of EX and Zaxis (a Zaxis 22us LC reduced swing unit, and one each of the EX200LC and Zaxis 330LC.
Getting Down in the Valley
Fueled by the growth of area paper plants and an influx of supporting industries, the Fox Valley region of east-central Wisconsin is enjoying robust growth.
“I started this business with three others in 1957,” founder and President Carl Bowers, said. “We started out doing small underground utility projects geared toward the private sector. Gradually we shifted to more commercial and municipal utility work.
“Today, we have more than two dozen employees, and I’ve brought all three of my sons into the business.
Al and Carl Jr. handle most of the fieldwork for me while Bill runs the office side of things.
“We are always doing utilities for Lowe’s, The Home Depot, or some other large chain,” continued Bowers. “We get a lot of the bids because we get projects done on time, at competitive prices. A lot of our success can be traced directly to the job our Hitachi excavators do for us. Hitachi is the single most important reason we’ve been able to build and maintain a competitive edge.”
Bowers indicated it was the ability to tackle bigger projects that made them realize the benefits a larger machine like the Zaxis 600LC could bring to their operation. “We were laying a 27-inch line in nearby Darboy, Wisconsin. It involved a lot of deep work, so we contacted our dealer about a 600LC. We were already a dyed-in-the-wool Hitachi believer, so size — not manufacturer — was our only consideration. The 600LC was excellent on that job. Vern, our operator, was so good with it, we decided to use it on subsequent utility projects. It was one of the best moves we ever made.”
Bowers explained the Zaxis 600LC’s size and reach made it ideal for some of the more challenging jobs they tackle.
“Vern gets an additional 10 feet of reach with the Zaxis 600LC. That’s a big plus when you’re digging in soft or unstable soil. You don’t notice it much at five to 10 feet, but it really shines at 18 to 20 feet. It’s nice to be able to sit back on firmer ground and still get those depths. Plus, the longer reach means he can set the pile further away from the bank, which improves the overall efficiency of the job. On many of our projects, the 600 handles all the main work, while we rely on our EX450s for most of the feeder work. It’s a nice advantage to have.”
Staying With a Winner
Bowers’ commitment to Hitachi goes back to 1982 when he bought his first unit — a UH122. It proved such a solid performer that a year
later he bought a second. He’s been into orange ever since.
“Hitachi was fantastic to deal with from the start,” Bowers noted. “Back then, interest rates were in the 17 to 18 percent range. Hitachi was working to gain a foothold in this area, so they really gave me a good deal. Our current relationship with Brooks Tractor really rounds out the relationship. They’re excellent and make sure we have what we need.”
Bowers cited an example of how his early Hitachi excavators performed.
“We kept one of the UH122s around even after we moved into the newer Hitachi machines. We had more than 24,000 hours on it, and the only thing we ever did was pack the cylinders. We never changed a pump, we never switched out a valve — nothing. That’s pretty amazing. Hitachi has always been there for us and helped get us where we are. Why would I go with anyone else?”
Brooks Tractor, De Pere, Wis., provided services for Carl Bowers & Sons.
(This story originally appeared Hitachi’s “Breakout” magazine, Fourth Issue 2006.) CEG