Creative Specialty Contractor Combines Teamwork, Technology and Tenacity to Deliver Industry’s Most Challenging Civil and Environmental Endeavors
Customer Profile: In business for 26 years, New England-based Maverick Construction Management Services is a full site utility and environmental contractor.
Business Challenge: Complete challenging environmental cleanups, demolition and marine applications with speed, accuracy and efficiency.
- Trimble Earthworks Grade Control Platform
- Trimble Business Center
- Trimble SPS986 GNSS Smart Antenna
- Trimble T7 Tablet
- Trimble R750 Modular GNSS Receiver
- Precision positioning of excavator attachments
- Precise underwater work, avoidance techniques
- Faster task completion
- Mapped as-built conditions
As its name suggests, Maverick Construction Management Services, based in Oxford, Massachusetts, has its roots in construction management—from a nonconformist perspective. Since it was established in 1997 by John Fiore, the company has had an interest in and willingness to take on unique and challenging projects.
Within a few years of its founding, the firm transitioned from managing projects to self-performing full site utility and environmental work, largely because of its can-do attitude.
Still a relatively small company – just 20 people – Fiore and his team perform in excess of $10 million of work a year, with a customer list that includes names like Monsanto, DuPont, Aquafina and multiple Departments of Defense (DoD), state and local agencies.
Fiore believes it’s his firm’s unique combination of tenacity, skills and technology, along with a focused emphasis on partnerships, that turns his small firm into an industry problem solver.
Maverick’s heavy civil and environmental focus naturally makes equipment central to the company’s operations. The company started with about a dozen machines, primarily dozers and excavators, and is now up to 29. To maintain these machines, the firm has an especially close relationship with Milton Cat, a Cat dealer servicing the Northeastern United States and upstate New York.
For Fiore, adding technology to the equipment, namely GNSS, was an obvious step. “Pretty much as soon as we started buying equipment, we looked to GNSS,” he said, “and that was over 18 years ago.”
However, as technology needs continued to grow and projects have become more complex in both scope and scale, Fiore realized he needed a technology partner—not just a technology provider.
“Technology today is amazing and we’re all in,” Fiore said. “But we also recognize that it’s not something that we can just plug and play. Support is essential. We wanted and needed the same relationship we had with Milton Cat with our technology provider.”
About 18 months ago, Maverick partnered with Trimble and SITECH Northeast to better shape those connections. Today, all dozers and 80% of the company’s excavators are equipped with Trimble Earthworks. His field crews also rely on a Trimble SPS986 GNSS Smart Antenna, and a Trimble R750 Modular GNSS Receiver.
Fiore said, “Besides the tight Cat/Trimble relationship, there is a reliability aspect to the Trimble solutions. We haven’t had a single problem—even on projects that pose some out of the ordinary requirements.”
Anchor rods beneath a dual drawbridge spotlighted the importance of that relationship.
As part of its construction of a drawbridge in North Hero, Vermont, Maverick installed a steel cofferdam that was tied to anchor rods at the bottom of Lake Champlain. The rods are located some 15 feet or more below the surface.
During final inspections, the client called Maverick to help resolve a discrepancy between the state of Vermont and the U.S. Coast Guard specifications, which was holding up the bridge permit. The U.S. Coast Guard required that the eight anchor rods be cut 12 feet below the mud line or the bottom of the lake.
The conventional method would have been to tie string lines to the rods, but at that depth, accuracy was limited. “We could be off by multiple feet, which would limit our efficiency,” Fiore said. “I told the owner we could build a model and get this done with precision. He was skeptical.”
Fiore called his Milton Cat and SITECH Northeast experts. Together, they used GPS to first topo the underwater rods that needed to be cut using the Trimble T7 data collector. Then, the SITECH Northeast team created a model of the anchor rod positions and the tip of the shear. Fiore installed a steel sheer (essentially a big pair of scissors) on his 60-foot-long stick excavator equipped with Trimble Earthworks. With the 3D model in the Trimble Earthworks system, the operator knew exactly where the tip of the shear was on his screen. He moved it to the rod locations and set the shears and snips.
“The customer thought it would take two weeks to cut these rods. We did it in two days,” Fiore said. “That success is entirely enabled by our close working relationship with the team at Trimble, SITECH Northeast and Milton Cat.”
A sensitive dry dock construction project would create another opportunity for creativity, innovation and teamwork.
Docks, Rocks and Underwater Dilemmas
As part of its Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program to revitalize the nation's four public shipyards, the U.S. Navy is constructing a multi-mission dry dock. The project includes an addition to the shipyard’s Dry Dock #1 which will consist of two bays. The construction includes pumps, caissons, crane rails and utility access.
Maverick is handling the dredging and specialty work. One of its first tasks was to remove 17,000 cubic feet of rock. Using the surveyor control points, plus a few more points and contours gathered with the Trimble SPS986 rover, Fiore had his third-party modeling partner develop a 3D plan. That model was sent to the Cat 349 hydraulic excavator equipped with a 15k hammer.
“We beat the schedule by weeks,” Fiore said. “It was unbelievable how well our digital map lined up with reality.”
Maverick also serves as an onsite problem solver. For instance, during a sonar check of the marina, the JV contractor found a 16-inch diameter pier sticking up three feet from the bottom of the marina that could potentially hit the bottom of a barge. They called in Maverick to remove it, thinking it would take several days to locate and remove the pier. Fiore took the sonar coordinate data from the surveyor and loaded it into the Trimble Earthworks software on the Cat 340 long-stick equipped with a hydraulic thumb.
“We got as close as possible to the area, turned on the machine control system, lowered the boom and picked up the pier—all in the first try,” Fiore said.
In another case, some underwater concrete needed to be removed near a dry dock.
“We needed to prove to him that we can put a cutting wheel or grinding wheel on the end of an excavator long stick and use the GNSS to guarantee our position to ensure we’re nowhere near the dry dock door,” said Fiore. “Building our models requires a little more upfront data collection, but we use the avoidance capabilities built into the machine control system to set boundaries. The Navy approved the process, and we were able to cut six months off our client’s schedule.”
As part of the same drydock project, one of the JV contractors is casting precast modules at its yard in Brewer, Maine, which is about three hours from the Navy yard. The modules will be lowered into the water to form a precast barrier. Fiore recalled, “These modules are so large and heavy that we had to dredge the dock area to ensure sufficient clearance in the Penobscot River.
“We again worked with Milton Cat and the SITECH Northeast team to develop a beautiful system that mapped the area in real time,” he continued. “The customer had a company do a sonar survey once a week while we were there. Every day, we would compare our contours to theirs. It was unbelievable how well they lined up. And we had no shoals (piles of material). The customer was blown away by the accuracy and efficiency of our work.”
The Everett Wetlands in Boston presented Fiore and his team with an entirely different challenge—and another great opportunity to demonstrate the ROI of GNSS. The project entails a stormwater restoration of a highly contaminated mixed waste site, which included low, radioactive wastes and some compound waste, such as gasoline, as well as metals like lead, arsenic and chromium.
Per EPA specifications, all of this waste must be shipped off site for disposal. The cost for disposing of the soil ranges from $40 a ton to $3,500 a ton depending on the level of contamination. Maverick petitioned the EPA to set grids to better manage contamination types.
“To give them assurance about the process, we did a pilot test using the GNSS to demonstrate horizontal and vertical accuracy,” Fiore recalled. “We used the client’s 3D model to develop a sampling plan and to generate grids. Then, they put that model right into our Trimble Earthworks on the machine.”
In this case, sampling is based on a tonnage or yardage. Every 500 cubic yards, for instance, has to be sampled. To accelerate the project while carefully controlling soil management, Maverick used its 3D cut and fill model to develop a site sampling grid of the site.
For waste removal, the team used the same grid plan to mark distribution locations for waste materials. For instance, Sub Area X is designated for a local landfill while Sub Area Y might be a state landfill. Fiore continued, “Once again, we had the data to show our clients that contaminated waste was removed and sent to specified disposal locations. On the ground, those same grid plans allowed us to take that soil directly to trucks for removal. No double handling and no piles.”
The same 3D site maps helped the Maverick team support landscaping of the site, which called for 150 new trees. Maverick used the landscaper’s CAD file to create a work order documenting every tree’s proposed location and uploaded to the machine control system. While working the site, the operators could see where to cut out deeper holes for the trees and then add quality topsoil.
“Even though this is not the most advanced project, between the sampling, the soil characterization, disposal, general excavation and landscaping—all to a specified horizontal and vertical accuracy–it’s a project with a lot of pieces. Our technology enabled systems added a great deal to the project in terms of organization.”
Also, the GNSS-enabled workflows saved Maverick time and money in potential rework. Fiore concluded, “We can show them the models and the tolerances that we’re working to, but they’re still going to check the final as built with a licensed surveyor. We had to prove to them what was being done and achieve the grades—and we did on the first try. I estimate we saved the client $15 million on this project.”
The success that Maverick has realized from its full adoption of GNSS and grade control solutions from Trimble is impressive—and they’re not done. Fiore believes it’s important that he stays on the leading edge of technology advancements and trusts his industry partners to inform and guide him.
For instance, one area that he is working to improve in his current workflow is takeoff and modeling, specifically with Trimble Business Center. Fiore explained, “We’re already using it for cut-and-fill reports and generating our estimates, but I think we can do more in the way of managing ongoing projects from within this system. For instance, I would like to know truck counts on jobs and monitor other work on the site. That kind of data will facilitate our continued improvement.”
Maverick’s use of technology is also getting noticed from clients and partners. “Interestingly, in many cases, project partners are learning from me. In one case, a very large prime contractor wasn’t using machine control or GNSS technology because they thought it was too costly. Once they saw how fast and efficient I was, they quickly pivoted.”
One aspect of Maverick that surprises many is the company’s low overhead, a fact that Fiore believes makes them more agile. “It’s basically me and my operators. We don’t have an engineer and no support staff. We’ve shown that technology can really lift a small company like ours to a different plateau of capabilities,” he said.
His advice to others in the industry is clear. Fiore concluded, “The technology gets a small company to grow into different building projects. Don’t be intimidated by the technology or the cost. Small contractors can take full advantage of GPS. You can reduce overhead, increase productivity, and show your clients a better final product in a shorter amount of time. We do it every day.”