Radial lift pattern and greater rated operating capacity/lift capacity in a mid-sized CTL prove to be a winning combination for South Carolina landscaper.
Chapin, South Carolina is going through significant growth — as a suburb to the capital city of Columbia, and as an attractive destination for growing businesses and tech companies, the region is expanding to build home sites and commercial properties in previously undeveloped areas.
It’s a great opportunity for enterprising business owners like Kody Duke of Precision Landscaping. The evolving new home and commercial construction markets have helped push his business to new capabilities and heavier work. As many of the new developments in the area are moving to more secluded and varied terrain — and as more homeowners are placing value on outdoor living spaces — the demand for skilled hardscaping has increased significantly.
“They’re building on harder lots now, harder areas, so retaining walls are definitely more common than they were in the past,” says Duke. “And we’re seeing more interest in outdoor living packages. People really want to have a good space in their yard to grill and have fun.”
As his business has grown, so have Duke’s equipment needs. Long-term, he sees his business expanding even more into total site development, serving as a turnkey service provider that can take a site’s earthwork from its original terrain all the way to the finished landscape. As such, his equipment focus has zeroed in on compact track loaders adept at performing both earthmoving and material handling (specifically, large pallets of brick and retaining wall block).
The company has worked closely with Columbia-based Hills Machinery to standardize on CASE TR310 compact track loaders for production and hardscaping operations. The TR310 (3,100 pounds rated operating capacity at 50 percent tipping load) is ideal for these crews for a number of reasons:
- Wider tracks (15.75), excellent torque and a breakout force of 8,680 pounds provide powerful performance in a mid-sized platform.
- The radial lift pattern is ideal for earthwork, and the rated operating capacity is more than enough to handle large pallets of retaining wall blocks, etc.
- The radial lift pattern and low rear hood also allow for excellent 360-degree visibility around the machine, improving sightlines and communications with coworkers on site.
- At 74 horsepower, the CTL requires no fluids and no liftetime filter service to meet emissions regulations.
“I’d say they have the best breakout force, and pushing power out of any machine in that class, from lifting heavy pallets of block, heavy sod, it never bogs down,” says Duke. “It never has any problem picking up anything we have.”
The company also relies on CASE TV380 compact track loaders for initial pad work and site grading before the landscaping crews come in. The TV380 is a vertical lift machine, which Duke relies on for its truck loading capabilities.
“It’s a very good machine to get in there and actually dump in the back of the truck — the vertical lift machine is perfect for loading trucks,” says Duke.
Job sites with the landscaping crews are more crowded than ever — a side effect of residential neighborhoods being built on more challenging terrain is that homes and hillsides and workers are all on top of one another. The visibility of the CASE CTLs stands out to Duke as a factor that keeps his workers more confident, productive and ultimately safe.
“The visibility is unmatched, especially for these tight lots we’re dealing with,” he says. “They’re building houses closer and closer, so visibility is very important to see where the machine needs to be, and not be [in terms of avoiding obstacles]. The visibility’s great. It’s easy to get in and out of, and it keeps them busy. All my crews are happy with them.”
Duke outfits all of his CASE CTLs with electro-hydraulic controls that allow the operator to switch between preferred operating patterns with the touch of a button, and give them the ability to match machine and boom/bucket speeds to their preference and the tasks of the job.
“I think it’s a more efficient way of running the machine,” says Duke. “Keeps operator fatigue down — we’re running these things nine hours a day, all day. They’re easier to run, easier to train newer operators. In my opinion, it’s the only way to do it.”
Duke also recognizes the auxiliary power of the CASE CTLs as being important — the ability to operate attachments ultimately increases the performance and profitability of each machine.
“The auxiliary hydraulic performance is great on these machines,” he says. “We’re trenching in irrigation at every site we’re at — it’s rare that we find a piece of dirt that’s not diggable. We use augers for digging trees, and haven’t had a problem — auxiliary power is very strong.”
When it comes time to perform service checks at the beginning and end of each day, Duke also appreciates that each machine makes it easy for his field staff to check regular service points.
“It’s very easy to access points that need to be serviced, and obviously, Hills Machinery was a big factor in switching, too, because they stepped up and got us what we needed.”
Duke credits the first demo he did on a TR310, and the following attentiveness from sales and service staff from Hills Machinery, as the reason he’s dedicated so much of his fleet to CASE.
“The main thing that stands out about Hills Machinery is the service department,” says Duke. “When we have something go down, they are immediately out to repair any issue we have. If there’s something that requires us to wait on a part, they’ll give us a loaner machine. They’ve always been there to make sure that our job sites have equipment on them and that we’re always working with a piece of machinery.”
“Landscaping is a tough business — always having the right piece of equipment on the job is a key factor. On every job we have there’s going to be a track loader. That’s the only efficient way it can be done in my opinion. That is the key, is having good equipment to get the job done.”
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Additional Business Wisdom from Kody Duke
On Social Media
Social media is a powerful tool for growing, service-oriented businesses. It not only empowers business owners to more directly promote their services to the public, but it also puts added scrutiny on the work you do in the field. Duke sees this as an excellent motivator for his crews to stay ahead of quality and productivity.
“With people being able to put reviews by the touch of a finger on their phone, it keeps us on our toes and keeps us really wanting to make all of our products and services better for the customer. It’s key that we make sure the customer is always happy — [social media] is a great way we stay on that.”
On the Growth of His Business
“We started cutting grass. Now we have a lot more construction crews than we do maintenance crews. I’d say the biggest step from that is just getting out there and putting in bids. Just getting work done by trial and error. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to have problems, but you fight through and do the best you can. And you can achieve anything. I think really just trying to do something and putting your mind to it, and you can succeed in any way. And a positive attitude to get it done — always knowing you can do it is the very key that helped our company grow.”