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Spring 2007

Minimizing Concrete Costs

Dave Brockpahler

Dave Brockpahler likes the accuracy his Bobcat laser-controlled grader achieves.

DayCo Concrete Co., Inc., Chanhassen, Minn., has been using Bobcat® loaders with a laser-controlled grader attachment for commercial and industrial concrete flatwork for the past 13 years.

Previously, the company used a Bobcat skid-steer loader or a dozer with a bucket and a grade rod and laser or transit to periodically check grade throughout the grading process. Today the company operates two 7-foot-wide Bobcat grader attachments, mounted on Bobcat compact track loaders with a laser system. This equipment is used on concrete flatwork projects ranging in size from 25,000 sq. ft. to about 250,000 sq. ft.

Setting up the laser system involves adjusting the location of the receivers on the masts mounted at either end of the blade of the grader attachment to the desired height. Then the operator begins making passes over the area as the laser system automatically controls the height of the blade.

"A grade checker will double check the grade with a grade rod and a laser once or twice after that, but that doesn't take much time," says Dave Brockpahler, president of the company. "Normally, an inexperienced operator working with someone who knows how to use the equipment can become pretty good at using this system in just a few days. The equipment is pretty much maintenance-free. In fact, we’re still using our first laser system."

Originally, the company switched to laser-equipped Bobcat grader attachments to save time preparing the base prior to pouring the concrete floors. "Once you get the grader and laser set up, it's a pretty simple and efficient way to grade," says Brockpahler. "With this equipment, we can grade two to three times as much area in the same time as we once did the old way." However, he soon discovered that the increased accuracy of laser controlled grading offered even more valuable benefits. In the past, he and his crews were able to reduce concrete overage to within about 5 percent of projections. Now, they've reduced that to about 1 percent or less—a significant difference.

Bobcat Grader Attachment

Bobcat Grader Attachment

"On a 5,000-cu.-yd. project, a 5-percent overage represents an extra 250 cu. yd., while a 1-percent overage amounts to only 50 cu. yd." Brockpahler explains. "With the price of reinforced concrete running from about $80 to $100 a cu. yd., that difference really adds up. As concrete prices continue to rise, the accuracy you can achieve with a laser system becomes more and more important."

Laser precision also means a much more uniform thickness when pouring a concrete floor. "A floor with no thin or thick areas is the strongest," he says. "It was difficult to achieve this using a grade rod to check then grade."

The Economics of Precision Grading

"With this equipment we can grade two to three times as much area in the same time as we once did the old way."
— Dave Brockpahler, DayCo Concrete Co.

"The quality of our floors has gone up tremendously. When we tell a customer the floor is five inches thick, it's exactly five inches thick."
— Ferrel Nachatelo, Nachatelo Construction

"With the laser system, one operator can grade in a day what it would take us two to three days, or sometimes more, to grade using two people with hand surveying techniques."
— Linn Lower, Lower Bros. Co.

"Our laser grading system is fantastic. It saves the city some major capital expenses."
— Dudley Jones, City of Springfield, Mo.