Contractor Embraces Innovation & Technology to Sustain Growth
Moving easily from total demolition of the nearly 100-year old Star Tribune building to development of a new park on the site in downtown Minneapolis is all in a day’s work for Veit & Company, Inc.
Work on the two projects spans nearly two and one-half years, as demolition of the complex old building requires Veit to dismantle and remove 50,000 tons of debris from the tight, heavily trafficked downtown location.
Construction of the Downtown East Commons follows immediately. It is a 4.2-acre site located beside new office and residential buildings, light rail and the new multi-purpose stadium. Part of the $420 million Downtown East mixed-use development, the Commons will serve the downtown community, workers, visitors and residents of Minneapolis.
A world-renowned team led by landscape architects Hargreaves Associates designed a welcoming greenspace that will serve as a neighborhood park and an entertainment destination.
Founded in 1928, Rogers, Minnesota-based Veit & Company is one of the oldest and best-known specialty contractors in the Upper Midwest with current revenues near $230 million. Veit is scheduled to complete its component of the two-and-one-half year project by the end of the 2017 football season, just in time for Super Bowl LII in 2018 that will be hosted at the new Minneapolis stadium.
Numbering 750 employees, Veit has four primary service areas—earthwork, underground utilities, demolition and deep foundations. Additional specialty services include commercial diving, hydraulic dredging, industrial cleaning and other unique services. Markets served include municipal, industrial and commercial.
With locations in North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, Veit works on multiple projects throughout the Upper Midwest.
Veit is known as an innovative contractor that can tackle multiple site challenges.
“The more complex the situation and site conditions, the better we shine,” says Chuck Geisler, Veit’s executive manager, sales and marketing. “Cat® machines and Ziegler Cat enable us to do that—deliver our projects with high quality, on time and on budget. Cat machines ensure we are on the cutting edge with our equipment.”
Cat machines in Veit’s fleet achieve 97% availability, setting the bar high for performance and durability.
Among its many projects, Veit is pioneering, excavating and constructing a 4.3-mile section of the Mississippi River Regional Trail (MRRT) that runs through the Spring Lake Park Reserve near St. Paul. The construction budget is about $8.9 million and includes the trail, bridges, rock cuts, overlooks, restoration activities and park amenities.
At the jobsite, a 44-ton Cat 336E excavator alternates between a single shank ripper and a rock bucket to break up and load out ripped rock as it cuts out a trail along the elevated bluff beside the river. The trail is part of a 120-mile system and will become a premier hiking/biking nature trail serving Minnesota’s many outdoor enthusiasts. Working at an elevation above the excavator, a D6T dozer equipped with GPS is pioneering a 20-foot wide trail section by dozing heavy, sandy soil.
Technology Is Vital
Veit operates a 600-piece fleet of Cat equipment, ranging from smaller skid steer loaders (Veit owns more than almost any other contractor) to large excavators like the 374, plus dozers from the D3 to the D8 size, wheel loaders, articulated trucks, telehandlers, motor graders and more.
“WE RECEIVE A LOT OF SUPPORT FROM ZIEGLER AND CATERPILLAR TO HELP US CUSTOMIZE THAT MACHINE’S TECHNOLOGY TO PRECISELY MEET OUR NEEDS, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT’S A NON-TRADITIONAL PRODUCT. THAT GIVES US AN ADDITIONAL ADVANTAGE IN THE MARKETPLACE.”
Led by 160 machines equipped with Product Link™, the technology is fully utilized by Veit’s work force to monitor fuel consumption, idle time, hours, location, geo fencing and troubleshooting for fault codes. Almost 100% of new machines are equipped with Product Link.
“When we add to our fleet,” says Veit President Greg Boelke, “we involve a full cross section of people to help make that decision of what’s right for Veit. We involve not only the managers and equipment managers, but we talk to the crew and the operators about what is working, what they don’t like, what they do like, what would make their job easier and what would make them more efficient.”
Veit operator Allen Newgaurd provides input on the technology in the 336E that he operates daily: “I can customize the display. I can customize the mode of operation. I can customize any of the interior ergonomics. And with the GPS system, I can customize all my displays as to what I want to see and where it’s located. It’s the most operator-friendly piece of equipment I have ever run.”
To aid production accuracy and efficiency, one result of the process has been that nearly every new piece of Cat equipment purchased by Veit is equipped with AccuGrade™ Grade Control. Cat Grade Control is factory-integrated, sensor-independent and features a suite of products that includes cross slope, sonic, laser, GPS and ATS technology for various machine applications.
“When it comes to Cat equipment, the technology that gives us the advantage is for efficiency, machine utilization, and for speed,” Boelke says.
“Furthermore, when we are looking to purchase equipment for a specific application—such as in our demolition group where we need a high-reach tool that we really think would give us an advantage—we receive a lot of support from Ziegler and Caterpillar to help us customize that machine’s technology to precisely meet our needs, especially when it’s a non-traditional product. That gives us an additional advantage in the marketplace.”
Every new machine Veit considers is measured by how much faster and more efficiently it can work. “And that’s what we look for in for the Cat machines that we invest in—whether it’s GPS on excavators, AccuGrade on dozers or even the quick-attach couplers that enable us to use multiple attachments on a single machine. We’re always looking for greater efficiency and higher utilization,” Boelke says.
“Besides the efficiency and utilization,” continues Boelke, “good technology brings good people. People like working with the advanced equipment. Not just in the machine but also in the shop. It’s more advanced. It’s more fun to work with. As technology brings better people, it gives us another advantage over our competition that results in a better overall team of people working in and on the equipment.”
Veit also utilizes Cat Financial on at least 50% of its new machine purchases.
Faced with many jobs in severe applications such as dusty demolition sites and abrasive landfills, Veit is diligent about maintenance and conducts preventive maintenance by model, by serial number. A mechanic touches each piece of equipment at least every 250 hours to examine it and perform any/all necessary service. That timing is well inside the recommended service intervals of 500 hours and protects the fleet against the harsh work environments Veit encounters on a regular basis.
Safety is inherent in Veit’s culture with its unique program entitled “Safe By Choice.”
“Veit’s safety program has grown tremendously,” says Boelke. “We chose to develop a safety culture that was second to none in the industry. We require that everybody embrace the program personally and ask that they be accountable to themselves and to each other for safety. We give them the tools and the opportunity to accomplish that, watching their fellow workers’ backs on the jobsites.”
The quality of its employees is what sets Veit apart, Boelke says.
“We do provide the tools for them to use to be more efficient and be better at what they do, and that’s important as well,” he says. “But I firmly believe that our people make the difference. Our competitive advantage is having a better team of people working in and on our equipment.”
Talk About ROI—How Does 40,000 Service Hours Sound?
It’s no surprise that Veit handles much of its own maintenance and machine repair work. What is surprising is Veit’s extraordinary machine rebuild capability.
The unusual expertise of Veit’s equipment staff combines with the inherent quality of Cat machines to enable Veit to totally rebuild a number of its Cat machines every year and realize significantly longer service lives from many of its Cat machines.
“GOOD TECHNOLOGY BRINGS GOOD PEOPLE. PEOPLE LIKE WORKING WITH THE ADVANCED EQUIPMENT. NOT JUST IN THE MACHINE BUT ALSO IN THE SHOP. IT’S MORE ADVANCED. IT’S MORE FUN TO WORK WITH.”
These machines are rebuilt from the ground up with all new power train components, new hydraulic cylinders, hoses, wiring harnesses, etc. The thorough process even goes so far as to completely disassemble/rebuild the entire cab—every machine gets a new seat, heater and air conditioning components and even a new coat of paint. When the operator gets the machine back, he’s basically got a brand-new machine.
Rebuilt machines are then placed back into everyday service on Veit jobsites and regularly achieve two or three times the normal service life. For example, D8 tractors will run 15,000 hours between rebuilds so that over their life, larger dozers can operate productively for 40,000 hours.
Only the rugged designs and highest quality materials used to build Cat machines assure the success of these rebuilds—key reasons Veit chooses to invest in Cat equipment.