“We are about 20 to 30 percent faster with intelligent Machine Control”
Parents try to give their children good advice, and Phil Schmidt’s parents were no different. When his father suggested he go to Alaska to find work in the mid-1970s, he listened. There he met his wife, Jessica, and together they started their family and formed an excavation company. Jessica was the President, and he was the Secretary/Treasurer, and it is still the same today.
They grew the business from a two-person operation and small projects, to a crew with more than 20 employees doing million-dollar projects before the market crashed in the mid-1980s. When that happened, they moved back to Idaho. Phil finished his business management degree at Lewis-Clark State College, and the couple opened a frozen-yogurt store. When a friend asked them to do some work for his construction firm, they decided to re-open their construction business and sold the frozen-yogurt store.
In 1995, the couple moved to Cedar City, Utah, which serves as their home base for work throughout southern Utah. Schmidt Construction, Inc. does excavation, concrete, crushing work; gravel sales from its pit; and utility work and development projects for a variety of governmental customers, including federal, state, county and city, as well as private developers. The company has an excellent reputation and is known for the quality of its work. Jobs range in size from small projects to $9 million contracts.
The Schmidt family is prevalent in the company. In addition to Jessica and Phil, their three sons all work there. Burt is an Operator/ Foreman, Zach is the Office Manager, Chad is a Mechanic/Foreman and Matt Merdes, the Schmidts’ son-in-law, is the Crusher Foreman and Mechanic.
Schmidt Construction has a solid core of people who have been with the company ranging from a few years to two decades. Keeping loyal employees is something the Schmidts value. To do that, they make sure everyone shares in the company’s success.
“They are part of our family,” Phil explained. “We expect our employees to go to their family members’ activities. We set up a calendar so that people can request their days off in advance, and we can plan accordingly. We also try to reward them. One year, we took 55 people on a cruise. If we’re doing well, we want to share it because they have helped make us what we are.”
Embracing technology and Komatsu’s SMARTCONSTRUCTION
When GPS technology made its debut, Phil was an early adopter. His first experience with GPS involved an airport project that saw the company move nearly 900,000 yards of dirt. He used an aftermarket-GPS system on his grader to complete the job and finished within a quarter-inch of the project’s specs without using stakes. He was hooked.
Schmidt Construction continues to embrace the latest in GPS technology and employs a fleet of Komatsu intelligent Machine Control equipment to complete projects. The company rents a PC490LCi-11 excavator, a PC210LCi-10 excavator and a D61PXi dozer from Komatsu Equipment Company (KEC) and Territory Manager Trent Baxendale.
“If you don’t embrace new technology, you might as well go home,” Phil observed. “The integrated GPS is nice and clean, saves us time and it works great. We’ve invested a lot in GPS research, and it’s clear that Komatsu is leading the way.”
In order to get the training they needed, the Schmidt Construction team turned to KEC. Through SMARTCONSTRUCTION – a one-stop-shop for training, traditional and drone surveying, jobsite set up and 3-D modeling for intelligent Machine Control equipment – KEC provided Schmidt Construction the services and training to maximize the benefits of its new machines. KEC also incorporated the machines seamlessly with the rest of the fleet’s existing Topcon and Trimble systems.
“They do an excellent job,” stated Phil. “I can call Trent at any time, and he has an answer for me. KEC’s Technology Solutions Expert Neal Rogers and Construction Project Modeler Austin Pack do a great job for us, too. They go the extra mile.”
KEC is also helping Chad with the finer points of building GPS models. “Chad is learning how the process works,” said Phil. “They are doing a good job of teaching him. He’s really into the technology part of the business, so this is great for him and us.”
Schmidt Construction used its PC210LCi-10 excavator to dig footings for the Deserete Industries building, a 41,000-square-foot structure in Cedar City. The KEC SMARTCONSTRUCTION team helped design a GPS model for the intelligent Machine Control equipment used on this project.
“There were many step-outs and things like that on this project, and the model was spot-on,” said Phil. “Normally, it would take us a week to paint it all out, plus a few more days to dig. Then if we missed something, who knows how long it would take. With the PC210LCi, we were done in two days, and our edges were perfect.”
The Deserete Industries job was the first time Schmidt Construction used SMARTCONSTRUCTION exclusively on a project, and Phil says it won’t be the last.
“We had a large parking lot project for Southern Utah University this summer, and we used the Komatsu system and intelligent Machine Control equipment on that as well,” Phil said. “It’s great for us. I think we are about 20 to 30 percent faster with intelligent Machine Control than without it. The grade is dead-on, and we can operate with one less person.”
Speed and precision were on display when Schmidt Construction used a Komatsu D61PXi dozer on a project that involved grading a 15-mile stretch of Interstate 15 north of Beaver, Utah. The job was challenging because it required grading around several bridges.
“We had a model made of the project and took off,” said Phil. “We were able to cut and fill, place road base and final grade without waiting for the construction staking. That saved days, which was a good thing because the paving contractor was right behind us.”
“This is an excellent example of how SMARTCONSTRUCTION can help customers meet various needs,” said Baxendale. “We helped Schmidt Construction incorporate the new technology in their Komatsu machines, deliver training, build a model and continue to provide support throughout the project.”
Renting makes sense
Schmidt Construction has weathered numerous changes in its 37 years. Before the 2008 recession, the company employed 80 people and routinely performed multimillion dollar projects. Like many business owners, the downturn gave Phil time to reflect and evaluate the best way to operate.
One area where he focused was his equipment. Instead of purchasing, he decided that renting from KEC was the best way to grow his fleet. In addition to the intelligent Machine Control equipment, Schmidt Construction is renting a PC290LC excavator, a PC210LC excavator, a WA380 wheel loader and an HM300 articulated truck.
“We were hit pretty hard with the recession, and we believe renting is the best option at this point,” said Phil. “KEC and Trent have been instrumental in this decision and are helping us out.”
Phil points to KOMTRAX, Komatsu’s telematics system, as a huge factor in the decision to rent. “KOMTRAX has made billing a breeze. Trent can pull up a machine on the computer and send us a bill. KEC has been very flexible with us on that.”
Phil is optimistic about the direction his company is taking. The Cedar City area is on the upswing, and he notes that the region has offered more projects in the last 18 months than it had in the previous eight years combined. Phil has completed the steps to ensure that the company is ready to handle those projects now and as his sons prepare to lead the next generation.
“We’re cautiously optimistic about the future,” Phil declared. “We have a solid reputation and strong relationships. I think we are in a good place for continued growth. Plus, the boys are working their way up. Matt does a great job as Foreman, and Burt is an excellent Operator and works as a Foreman on some projects. Zach is teamed with Jessica so he can take over her responsibilities, and Chad is learning the GPS system and starting to run projects as well.”
Phil says he’s proud that his family is so involved in the company. “We are really close; we still have dinners together on Sunday. Jessica and I have worked side-by-side for 37 years, and I’m proud of that. Soon it’ll be the boys’ turn. It’s a process, but they are ready.”