Bobcat System Speeds Up Work
Excavator and loader combine to efficiently dig and move spoil
Samron Midwest Contracting employees operate an M-Series E80 excavator and a T320 compact track loader at the site of the new Southern Illinois University football stadium. The rubber track undercarriages made it possible for the machines to easily traverse the muddy conditions and keep construction on schedule.
When a construction company has projects that include some rather large numbers — 2,000 to 4,000 yards of concrete; a 235,000-square-foot parking lot and contracts that range from $1.5 million to $5.6 million — completing a portion of the job 30 percent faster can be significant.
Samron Midwest Contracting Inc. is doing just that by pairing a compact excavator with a skid-steer loader. The company, based in Murphysboro, Ill., was started by Randy Fricke in 2003. After a long career in construction, including many years in management, he quickly built the new company into the premier concrete contractor in southern Illinois. Samron began as a commercial concrete subcontractor, but over the years transitioned into a heavy industry general contractor as well.
Although a multimillion-dollar enterprise with 75 employees, the company maintains a family-business atmosphere, with Randy as president, Nancy Fricke as secretary, Jeromy Fricke as general manager of operations and TJ Fricke as project manager.
The Bobcat System, a combination of high-production equipment, is helping Samron provide concrete construction services for a variety of clients, including schools, hospitals and commercial buildings. The equipment includes a new M-Series E80, excavator a pair of T320 compact track loaders and 773 skid-steer loader, all purchased from the Bobcat of St. Louis location in Fairview Heights, Ill. The E80 replaced a popular brand of loader backhoe.
"The backhoe was used to dig all our footings and spacers, but we were getting into more situations where it would not fit," says Jeromy Fricke. "Plus, we were looking for something a little faster."
The company evaluated several machines before choosing the new M-Series excavator. The 8-ton-class E80 is the Bobcat® machine with the largest dig depth, reach and bucket breakout force.
There was some concern when the backhoe was replaced by the excavator. Did it have enough power?
"It's a horse," Fricke says. The E80 is just as powerful and has much better maneuverability. We can work in areas we couldn't take the backhoe. We can get our digging done about 30 percent faster, on average."
Pictured left to right: Family members TJ, Jeromy, Nancy and Randy Fricke operate Samron Midwest Contracting and FMC Trucks.
On big-box stores the footings are long and straight. Fast production is paramount.
"With the backhoe we had to dig with the backhoe bucket and haul the dirt off with the front bucket," says Fricke. "We spent half a day hauling off the spoil. Now with the excavator, working in tandem with one of our loaders, we can move the dirt as we dig. That's the most efficient way to do this type of work."
Having track machines benefits Samron in a number of ways — extending the work season, operating in poor surface conditions and eliminating the need to repair the ground. "The tracks keep us from disrupting the sub-grade," Fricke says. "With tracks we can get in, do a cleaner job and not have to come back to fix things."
The company would rather use its pair of T320 loaders to make money than do repair work. And with the laser-guided grader attachment, the track loaders turn into precision grading machines.
"For the past two years we have been using that system to put down rock before we do our flatwork," he says. "We can get the subgrade perfect. That enables us to control yardage and not have as many overpours. We estimate the amount of concrete based on engineering drawings, so if we go over, that's an added cost. And since on some of our bigger jobs, the concrete pour ranges from 2,000 to 4,000 yards, mistakes can be costly. The laser-guided grader system has saved us significant dollars."
Samron's T320 and E80 working in Carbondale, Ill., at the new football stadium for Southern Illinois University.
In recent years the company has been involved in some very high-profile projects, including:
- Improvements at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. The company is in the process of installing concrete for the arena renovation and new football stadium.
- A coal storage facility along the Mississippi River. The assignment included a concrete reclaim tunnel and foundation installation designed for poor soil conditions due to the site's proximity to the river.
- Two Wal-Mart Supercenters. The complete concrete installation jobs included the installation of integrally colored, mechanically polished floor slabs per stringent specifications by the customer. One of the buildings was 130,000 square feet, the other 190,000 square feet.
- A new automotive dealership. In addition to the design and placement of a cast-on-site tilt-up wall panel system, the job also included 50,000 square feet of interior concrete slabs and a 235,000-square-foot concrete parking lot.
The contracts for these projects ranged from $1.5 to $5.6 million.
"We work on a very tight schedule," Fricke says. "Getting our work done on time impacts plumbers, framers and all the finishers. We cannot afford to fall behind."
Reliability is one of the reasons the company operates two Bobcat compact track loaders. At one time they had another brand of track loader working side-by-side with a T320.
"The undercarriage of the other machine was not as good as the Bobcat undercarriage system," Fricke says. "Rock and debris would get thrown up into the track system and lie in between the rollers and tracks and groove the rollers. There was really no good way to keep this from happening. The T320 undercarriage did a much better job of keeping debris out of the tracks. Since we were running both machines together we could see the difference. The Bobcat machine kept working — and making us money — and the other was often down for repairs. Replacing it with another T320 was a wise choice. So was adding the E80."