The construction industry has changed quite a bit over the years. Operators were once hired on experience and expertise, and there was a wealth of talent to choose from. As the talent pool continues to consist of younger, lesser experienced operators, technologies like Grade with Assist help companies continue competing in a very competitive market.
“We are basically having to make operators and train them ourselves,” says Brenen Newman, owner of J&B Excavating Inc. “Traditionally that takes a lot of time.”
With his son and other new operators starting at the company, Brenen turned to Cat® dealer Wheeler Machinery for a solution.
“Customers are open to technology more than they’ve ever been in the past,” says Chris Farner, Wheeler Machinery sales representative. “They are looking at us as a manufacturer and service provider to help them become more productive and efficient.”
So Farner presented Brenen with a new Cat 323F L excavator with Grade with Assist technology. This system is the first operator assist feature with semi-autonomous grade control available on Cat excavators.
“When this machine first came out, I was told what it would do, and I was hesitant if it was true,” Brenen says. “When I first got in and started working it, I was blown away that you could just pull the stick and the boom and bucket would go on their own and pull grade.”
Brenen was so impressed he let his 19-year-old son, Cannon, try it out while digging his very first basement by himself. “He dug a basement by himself without a grade checker, which I don’t think a guy with 20 years of experience could do,” Brenen says. “The footing guys said I don’t know who you have digging basements now, but that’s who we want in front of us for now on. It’s the flattest basement we’ve had in a long time.”
More new operators at J&B have also benefited from the technology. “My dad hired a new operator, named Chad,” Cannon says. “He had about two hours on a minihex when he came here. Our second day he was digging by himself. Pulling very fine finished product.”
Brenen continues to see value in this technology. “We’re looking for simple. And that’s what this machine is,” he says. “It’s 2D technology, but it’s all contained in the machine. There is no base station. No satellite. It’s a machine and a flat plane laser that’s used only as a reference. So it is simple to set up. It’s quick. It’s very easy for an operator to learn.”
But Cannon summed it up best: “It’s awesome.”