On the GO! with One Small Midwest Contractor’s Grade Controlled Compact Machine
Customer Profile: LK & Sons Excavating, LLC is a family-owned excavation company founded by Lonnie Koffer in 1985. Based in Laura, Ohio, the company has transitioned to the second generation, Lonnie’s sons Bronson and Jason, providing services to commercial and residential projects in and around Dayton, Ohio.
- Easy to install
- Improved site safety
- Minimized rework
- Attachment versatility; saved profiles
- Highly accurate slope and grade results
Family owned and operated LK & Sons Excavating, LLC in Laura, Ohio has been in business since 1985, founded by Lonnie Koffer to provide excavation services to commercial and residential customers within the Dayton, Ohio metropolitan area. The small firm, just three people, is representative of small companies in the Midwest—hard working, service driven and cost conscious.
Lonnie’s son, Bronson Koffer, now co-owner of the company with his brother Jason, recalled, “In the early days, my dad had one machine and would dig ditches for a local plumbing company. In our teens, my brothers and I would help in the summer as his company began to grow with more clients in both the residential and commercial space.”
Today, the firm is well known in the region for quality work on everything from parking lots and building pads to storm sewer ditches. Its fleet includes three different sizes of excavators, a dozer, two skid steers, a soil compactor and a dump truck. Like many firms of similar size, LK & Sons Excavating’s ability to invest in technology such as grade control has been limited. The challenge is that much of today’s field technology is tied to other technology. For instance, grade control platforms often require an additional investment in base stations and other related positioning solutions.
“We’re a small company and we don’t do enough work to make the investment in big machine control systems, which usually require base stations and other connected technologies,” explained Koffer.
That all changed three years ago, when the firm had an opportunity to demo its first grade control platform on a compact machine through an unexpected opportunity.
Profiles of flexibility
LK & Sons Excavating’s first chance to invest in grade control came while doing some work at the Trimble Dayton facility. During the project, Koffer’s general contractor, D&M Excavating, Inc., mentioned that Trimble was looking to demonstrate a multi-attachment grade control system for compact machines.
“I talked with a machine control product manager at Trimble,” said Koffer. “The following year, we bought a new skid steer with a box blade and signed up for a one year demo of Trimble Earthworks GO!.”
Trimble Earthworks GO! is a 2D high precision laser-guided grading platform with an onboard computer and IMU for box blades on skid steers. Highly portable, the box comes with magnetic mounts (no cutting, welding or bolting). Among other features, the software saves machine profiles, so the operator can easily switch between attachments with no extra setups.
Koffer is in year three with Trimble Earthworks GO!, and it’s used on almost every job he takes on, especially parking lots, driveways and building pad projects.
On a parking lot project, he would typically prep the area, add dirt, level with a dozer and then follow up with the skid steer equipped with a tooth bucket, initially, and then finish with a roller attachment. Now he gets the job done with the Box Blade and Trimble Earthworks GO!"
“The Trimble Earthworks GO! slope sensor is my favorite feature,” he said. “I just dial in the slope I need and I can operate like a dozer. It will hold whatever slope I set—it’s dead on.”
The technology has also come in handy on a few unusual projects. Koffer recalled a recent go-kart track construction project. “I built the track with the dozer and came in with the Trimble Earthworks GO! skid steer to roll it. I was able to shape a 3% slope on the straightaways, a 10% slope on one end and 6% on the other. Now the track looks good and feels good,” he said.
Faster, safer, quality results
While Koffer hasn’t calculated ROI exactly, he knows the grade control solution has improved his workflow significantly.
“I am faster with Trimble Earthworks GO!, for sure,” he said. “In the past, a paving project, for instance, would require two people and two pieces of equipment. One of us was always having to jump out of the cab to check grade and then use hand signals to indicate up or down. With Trimble Earthworks GO!, I know I’m right on grade.”
He said that the best validation is customer satisfaction, adding, “I’ve had lots of compliments about our finished work. I know they’ll tell others, and we’ll get more work.”
The versatility of Trimble Earthworks GO! is another advantage he appreciates. When asked about installation, Koffer said, “I follow the steps in the app; it’s very easy, quick and self-explanatory.”
Looking ahead, he sees more investment in similar easy-to-install, affordable solutions. “The grade control-equipped skid steer and its multiple attachments goes on just about every job we have,” he said. “If the machine is there, I find a task that it can do better than anything else we have. I’m all in with Trimble Earthworks GO!.”