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April 2004

Loader Attachments Expand Possibilities in the Concrete Industry

The popularity of compact equipment in the concrete industry, including skid-steer loaders, compact track loaders and mini excavators has drawn attention to the value of attachments. The versatility and maneuverability of the skid steer has quickly made it the most indispensable construction machines ever developed. Attachments lower individual project costs and improve contractor's equipment utilization by eliminating the need to haul single purpose machinery to the jobsite. Attachments also reduce labor expenses and increase productivity by eliminating the amount of work completed by hand.

There are very few attachments that a concrete contractor could not find useful at one job or another. However, there are a wide variety of attachments specifically designed for the concrete contractor. Besides buckets and pallet forks, the most popular attachments used by concrete contractors include augers, breakers, sweepers, backhoes, combination buckets and grapples.

Concrete contractors primarily use augers for digging footings, pier placement and other ground preparation work. Hydraulic breakers, drop hammers and rippers break up and penetrate concrete or asphalt for site preparation for new concrete. Backhoe attachments offer a quick economical solution for digging foundations, trenches and footings. Sweepers and angle brooms are used to keep the site free of tire damaging debris and to clean the site when finished. The versatility of combination buckets allow contractors to use them for grabbing concrete forms or broken concrete, as well as dozing, leveling, digging, loading and dumping. Grapples are an excellent tool for picking up and loading broken concrete.

The use of attachments in the concrete industry is not limited to the most popular attachments. There are also concrete mixers for mixing, transporting and dumping concrete to virtually any site the concrete trucks can not go. Planers can mill down concrete curbs, cut drainage in parking lots or shave off high spots to level the surface. Wheel saws are used to cleanly make cuts in concrete or asphalt to repair damaged areas. Compaction attachments such as vibratory rollers, and trench compactors are used to compact the soil prior to the pour. Even land clearing attachments such as brush saws and rotary cutters are used for initial site preparation.

Leroy Manger, owner of M & S Builders, Inc. in Hastings, Neb., says his breaker attachment is vital to the company’s concrete demolition work. “We mainly use it to tear out paving and driveway, as well as sidewalks, porches and sometimes walls,” he says. “It always gets the job done and I’d hate to go without it. It’s really a nice tool.”

Greg Rostberg, a Bobcat Company marketing manager, says many concrete contractors purchase their first attachment upon buying a skid-steer loader. “Most purchase a set of pallet forks for their skid-steer loaders to move forms, rebar, trowels and other items around the jobsite,” says Rostberg. “As their business grows, so will their attachment fleet. Augers and breakers are usually the next attachments they buy.”

Not only do attachments help save capital and space, but they can also cut down on the number of people it takes to complete a job.

K+L Construction, Inc., headquartered in Moorhead, Minn., employs about 50 people and specializes in commercial concrete work. Project Manager Josh Krieg says he uses a laser–equipped grader attachment to level sand. “It’s not unheard of for one worker to single-handedly level 6000-sq-ft. in 45 minutes. It would take about a half dozen guys a couple hours to do about the same chunk without the laser grader,” he says. “It definitely saves us time and manpower. We use it once or twice a week and wish we could use it more.”

The Bobcat® grader attachment offers a laser control package — like the one Krieg has — for more precise grade control in concrete flatwork. The laser system automatically moves the blade up or down to keep the base material within plus or minus .25 in. of grade.

Rostberg recommends that concrete contractors that do a lot of flatwork should consider purchasing a grader attachment or box blade with a laser control system. “These attachments can quickly pay for themselves within a couple of pours because the precise control function saves time, concrete and labor,” says Rostberg. “Jobs that once took a half-day with three or four people can now be more accurately finished in little over an hour with only one person.”

A sweeper attachment is another popular item among concrete contractors who use it to quickly and efficiently clean up jobsites, according to Rostberg. “It allows the contractor to collect debris like rocks, concrete rubble and dust in the bucket and remove it from the jobsite,” he says. “The sweeper gives the contractor the option to dump the debris in a dumpster, truck or pile it off the work area.”

Steve Sumner is a construction estimator for Commercial Ready Mix Products, Inc., a Winston, N.C.-based concrete production company. He says he rented a 60-in. sweeper attachment and liked it so much that he bought one. “We saw some people using them, tried it out and ended up getting it. We use it about two hours every day at our seven concrete plants. It’s saved us some tires by keeping stone off the concrete, and it really helps to keep the dust down and control run-off.”

Sumner says he also rented a hydraulic breaker attachment in the past, but doesn’t own one. “You really have to put your pencil down and see how many times you used an attachment before you buy it,” he says. “If you pay more in rent than you would in a payment, then it’s clear that you’re better off owning the attachment and having it at your disposal.”

Rostberg says it’s smart to rent attachments prior to purchasing them. “A general rule of thumb is that if you find yourself renting an attachment more than 25 to 30 percent of the time, then purchasing the attachment will likely save you money,” he says.

A new attachment that Rostberg claims is sure to be a favorite among concrete contractors is the drop hammer. “The drop hammer attachment offers contractors the ability to break large amounts of concrete they wouldn’t have even considered breaking in the past,” he says. “It can demolish concrete and asphalt up to 18 inches thick without displacing the surface, allowing the loader to roll over the area until breaking is complete. When compared to a hydraulic breaker, the drop hammer is much quieter and emits less vibration to loader and operator. The other great thing about this attachment is that it can stand upright independently when it’s detached.”

One thing is clear: The more compact equipment contractors purchase, the more companies like Bobcat will create and produce attachments to enhance jobsite efficiencies. Bobcat is continually soliciting customer feedback to consider new attachments, not only for the concrete market, but general construction, landscaping, agriculture, grounds keeping, and many more.

Rostberg says Bobcat expects to unveil at least one new attachment for the concrete industry later this year.