Over 30 years ago Lee Farms Excavating Inc. of Onarga, Ill. started out on farm site clean-ups. With the support of their Cat® dealer, the company has grown into a successful demolition operation, taking down grain elevators all over the U.S.
“Years ago, my dad and I were just farmers who started a small family business doing a little demolition work on the side and we bought a used D7E tractor,” said owner Ken Lee. “Now we have a fleet of powerful Cat machines, and we work all over the country taking down old wood and concrete grain elevators and doing all the other site demolition tasks that come with it.”
Lee recalls being invited to Peoria, Ill. back in the 1970s to try out a used 325L Hydraulic Excavator. That first visit made a lasting impression on Lee, and by his own account, “got me going.” He never forgot the way the Cat dealer salesperson treated him, and to this day invests in only Cat equipment.
Encountering towering concrete grain elevators as high as 120 feet, Lee was in need of higher reach machines for many of the larger demo jobs at the producer operations. So he invested in the 385C L Ultra High Demolition (UHD). With its well-balanced counterweights, rugged, reinforced upper frame and designed-in tool cylinder protection, the UHD excavators are the most reliable machines for demolition applications.
Operator comfort and safety are critical in demolition applications. The UHD excavator models include a tiltable, high-visibility demolition cab and falling-object guard.
At a recent job for Cargill in Topeka, Ill., Lee Farms won a contract to tear down and remove eighteen 120-foot high grain bins. Though the sites can appear somewhat chaotic, they are far from it—and are actually precise, carefully orchestrated operations.
UHD machines begin by tearing down the tops and working about halfway down the elevator with the larger 385C UHD machine equipped with an MP 20 multi-processor and then switching to a 345C L UHD equipped with an MP 30 multi-processor. Two other excavators, a 345C L and 345D L equipped with claw buckets load the steel and other scrap materials into trucks. Meanwhile, the concrete is recycled on site.
Other Cat machines in the Lee Farms’ fleet include a 304 mini excavator, four 330’s, three 336’s a couple of D6s, a D8 and some scrapers on rental.
Lee Farms is proud of its outstanding safety record and the surgical precision of its demolition operations. “We meet every morning on the jobsite to conduct a daily, complete Job Hazard Analysis (JHA). Cargill involved their team members, too, as a safety-conscious partner. “Safety is an on-going learning experience and we strive to be as safe as we can,” Lee says.
A Cat 279C2 Compact Track Loader is dedicated to cleaning up the entire jobsite all day, every day. “It’s his only job,” Lee adds. Cleanliness is a high priority on Lee Farms jobsites, “to be safe, a site must be clean.” Work areas and access roads that are kept clear of debris also help prevent tire damage and enable safe, swift passage of work vehicles. As an added precaution, Lee Farms equips a Cat 320D L with a thumb and a magnet that sweeps the entire jobsite at the end of each day to remove any hazardous metal or rebar.
“As we move around the country, there’s always a Cat dealer close by,” Lee says. “That means we’re always assured of good service and parts availability no later than the next day. Cat dealer product support is excellent and it means the world to us to have that advantage. Whether it’s Saturday, Sunday or whenever, our salesperson is right there. We count on him. Along with his support team at Altorfer, they have made life easier for us.”