A fleet of nearly 150 Cat® machines, a peak-season workforce of 400 and projects stretching across seven states can make operating at peak efficiency every day a challenge. By putting Cat Connect Technology & Services to work, Hemphill Construction found a way to improve site, shop and service performance. It’s a competitive advantage company leaders don’t plan to give up anytime soon.
“We are more efficient, more competitive” since implementing Cat Grade, Cat Link and Equipment Management Services, says Stephen Rula, vice president of the Florence, Mississippi-based contractor. “We’ll continue to invest in construction technology because it lowers our cost per hour. If you’re not using it, you’ll get run over in this business. We don’t plan on stopping.”
Grading work is a major part of Hemphill Construction’s business, and the company has seen big improvements in accuracy and production with the installation of Cat GradeTM technology on its machines. Project manager Brandon Brown estimates a 25-40 percent increase on mass hauling jobs and a 15-25 percent boost in fine grading applications since operators began using grade control systems.
“This technology has changed construction,” Brown says of Cat Grade, a dealer-installed GPS system that guides an operator to grade manually (using in-cab guidance) or automatically (by controlling movements). “We have more verification that our work is correct. We’re catching problems as they happen. It speeds our process up.”
Bo Clay, a Hemphill Construction dozer operator who’s been running machines for more than 30 years, sees the benefits of construction technology firsthand.
“The GPS simply takes the guesswork out of all of it,” Clay says. “You can complete something a whole lot quicker because you don’t have to go back and check. Once you set the GPS to the grade, it does it perfectly.”
For operators with less experience than Clay, that technology offers even greater value — giving newer workers a leg up as they learn the ropes.
“Now, you’re letting the machine do all the contouring and shaping,” Rula says. “For us, it’s a huge advantage in speed. We feel like we’re more competitive in the marketplace because we have it.”
In addition to cutting down on surveying costs and improving bidding accuracy, Hemphill Construction has seen another big benefit as a result of using Cat Grade — improved site safety.
“Safety is number one with us. We make sure we’re safe before we build anything,” Brown says. “What Grade does for us is put fewer people in harm’s way. People spend more time in the machines instead of around the machines.”
Another construction technology driving big efficiency gains for Hemphill Construction is Cat Link. The company was one of the first U.S. contractors to adopt this telematics system, which is made up of Product LinkTM, an onboard monitoring tool that captures data from a machine’s sensors and control systems, and VisionLink®, a subscription-based software that lets users view and analyze that data.
“It’s a tremendous tool that makes us more efficient,” Rula says. “We use it for location tracking, and we put it on any piece of equipment that has a motor — not just our Cat equipment, but our light plants, generators, air compressors, too. We know where everything is.”
That ability to monitor asset location in real time enables Hemphill Construction to make quick decisions to avoid downtime and production losses.
“If a machine’s down, we need to get it back up and running,” says Michael Guarino, the company’s equipment manager. “If a dozer isn’t pushing dirt, we’re losing money. So I’ll look on VisionLink to find the nearest dozer that’s not being used. We’ll bring it over and put it to work while the other machine’s being serviced. The crew doesn’t stop. They keep pushing dirt. And we all get a paycheck on Friday.”
In addition to tracking location, Hemphill Construction uses Cat Link to keep a close eye on equipment health. The system alerts Guarino and his team — as well as the team at Cat dealer Puckett Machinery — if there are any potential equipment problems.
“We’re looking for fault codes. We’re looking for anything abnormal,” says Dustin McCain, Puckett’s vice president of product support. “We try to be a good partner and help them keep a close eye on their assets, so they can focus on what they’re good at, which is building jobsites.”
Another way Puckett Machinery helps Hemphill Construction stay focused on its core business is by taking ownership of equipment management.
“With the number of pieces of equipment we have, we couldn’t service it all,” Guarino says. “We learned that years ago.”
Today, when Hemphill Construction buys a piece of equipment from Puckett, the company signs a Customer Support Agreement (CSA) with the dealer that covers service and maintenance at 250- or 500-hour intervals. CSAs are flexible, tailored arrangements that can range from simple Preventive Maintenance Kits to sophisticated Total Cost Performance Guarantees — with the goal of lowering costs per unit of production.
Hemphill Construction also turns to Puckett Machinery for Equipment Management Services, custom solutions designed to help the company stay on top of asset monitoring, maintenance and repairs.
“Hemphill has Equipment Management Services on all their equipment,” McCain says. “From the time they buy the machine until the time they trade it back into us, we’re responsible for servicing it for them — and they don’t have to worry about it.”
Relying on Puckett Machinery to keep maintenance on track — which includes regular fluid sampling — gives Hemphill Construction peace of mind that its equipment is always operating in peak condition. The results also show up on the bottom line.
“On the monetary side, our trade-in values are higher,” Guarino says. “Puckett services the machines. They know the equipment. So when it comes time to trade that equipment out, we get a higher value because we’ve worked on it together.”