Contractor gets ahead by embracing technology




Over the past three decades, Plateau Excavation has played an important role in the considerable commercial, residential and industrial growth across Georgia and the entire southeast.

Based in Austell, Ga., Plateau Excavation has become one of the largest and most technologically advanced site infrastructure contractors. Much of Plateau’s growth has resulted from its reputation for tackling large, complex site development projects that require careful pre-construction planning, prudent management, comprehensive experience, as well as the efficient use of a lot of large, high-performance equipment.

With a reputation for precision and speed, Plateau specializes in large-scale site preparation. Its roster of clients includes Amazon, Wal-Mart, Facebook, UPS and many other household names. In preparing the site of the new ballpark for the Atlanta Braves, Plateau hauled 50,000 truckloads of material offsite and moved a total of 850,000 cubic yards of earth.

Currently, Plateau has more than 80 pieces of equipment in its fleet of more than 600 machines that utilize grade control technology from Caterpillar.

“We’ve been a frontrunner in the construction industry as far as adopting new technology,” says Ryan Duke, vice president of construction for Plateau. “The constant application of new technologies in the field has enabled us to be more productive and get out in front of our competitors. 

“It started with our first machine in the early 2000s, and it has only increased with each passing year,” Duke says. “Essentially every dozer we buy now— or an excavator or a motor grader—has grade control on it.” 

Cat Grade with 3D works seamlessly with other technology features on Cat Dozers. The system uses a GPS signal to automatically adjust blade movements – both lift and tilt – to follow the design plan, saving time, labor and materials on all phases of the job.

Cat® Grade technology significantly increases Plateau’s production and profitability, Duke says. Grade control can accomplish more efficiently and precisely what used to be done with manual labor—setting up stakes in the ground. Now it's all done by an equipment operator following programmed settings in the machine.

“You can take an average operator and turn them into a finish-grade operator with the automatic grade controls and the touchscreen technology,” Duke says. “Before grade control technology became available, that was not the case—you had to be a finish operator to run a finish dozer.”

When it comes to winning bids, the ability to perform jobs faster gives Plateau the edge. Project completion time with the new technology is up to 10 percent faster, Duke says.

“Time is as important as price,” Duke says. “With the technology we have, we can definitely reduce time to completion, which plays a huge role in our ability to win bids and perform projects. The quicker you do a project and finish it, the less money is spent performing the work, which all goes to the bottom line.




“Now a machine has the ability to finish it as it goes, and the added productivity is tremendous.”

– Ryan Duke, Vice President of Construction, Plateau Excavation




“Another benefit that comes with the new Cat Grade technology is you have the ability to quantify what you're doing on a daily basis, and make adjustments if needed,” Duke adds. “Now a machine has the ability to finish it as it goes, and the added productivity is tremendous.” 

As crews worked in mid-October to prepare an 80-acre tract for a warehouse in Gwinnett County northeast of Atlanta, Plateau’s new Cat Next Generation D3 and D6 Dozers took less time to do more work, which resulted in greater productivity and less fuel consumption. 



“For us, it means less man hours on the job, and doing it one time versus having to go back and check it over and over,” says Plateau superintendent Richard McGuirt. “With the Cat Grade systems on these dozers, they're not over digging—they're digging right on grade. We blade it one time and we’re done. We're getting a lot more production out of these new Cat Dozers—up to 35 percent more.”



“For us, it means less man hours on the job, and doing it one time versus having to go back and check it over and over,” says Plateau superintendent Richard McGuirt. “With the Cat Grade systems on these dozers, they're not over digging—they're digging right on grade. We blade it one time and we’re done. We're getting a lot more production out of these new Cat Dozers—up to 35 percent more.”

As the company grows at an annual rate of 10 to 15 percent, Plateau purchases new machines each year as it replaces older equipment in its fleet. Cat dealer, Yancey Bros. Co., keeps the firm apprised of any new technology that becomes available.

“We have periodic meetings with Yancey,” Duke says. “During these meetings, they will advise us of any new technology from Caterpillar, Duke says. “Once it arrives, they reach out to us so we can demo it.”

For a large, growing firm like Plateau—it currently has more than 700 employees—having the latest technology is an advantage when it comes to recruiting.

“If you're trying to recruit an operator and you offer him a machine with the latest next generation technology, compared to an old, worn-out machine with no technology, you absolutely have an advantage in hiring operators,” Duke says.

Technical proficiency is also a selling point with clients. In addition to machine control, Plateau provides in-house surveying and drone mapping.

“Technology is a lot more important than it was 10 years ago—we think it’s essential,” Duke says. “So, I think that's an advantage for us, and something that our clients value. We show them how we can do jobs more efficiently, and at less cost. 

“And the increased production from our Cat Next Gen dozers definitely factors into that equation.”

Plateau Excavation Wins with Cat® Dozer Technology