Mini-Excavators Add Productivity and Profitability

Alabama plumber reaps money-making return on investment
Mini-Excavators Add Productivity and Profitability
Josh Jackson of Fayette Drain & Sewer uses a Kubota mini excavator to replace a water line at a home in Fayette, Alabama. Photography by Jeff and Meggan Haller/Keyhole Photo

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Mark Vice can cite three good reasons why he invested in two mini-excavators made by Kubota Tractor Corp.; reliability, ease of maintenance and productivity.

“We have very few breakdowns and they’re very low-maintenance machines,” says Vice, who owns Fayette Drain & Sewer Inc. in Fayette, Alabama, with his wife, Melissa. “We’re constantly digging in our area, so they’re crucial money-making pieces of equipment. At least 50 percent of what we do is digging to repair or install plumbing and septic systems … and these two machines are the most efficient money-makers we own.”

Vice started with a small backhoe that was inexpensive – and very slow. In 2006, he bought his first Kubota mini-excavator, which quickly proved to be a difference-maker.

“The speed of the hydraulics and the amount of work they do is incomparable to anything else,” he explains, noting the advantage of the machine’s 360-degree swing radius. “It can move dirt around so much more efficiently than a backhoe, which can only push dirt to the sides.

“With their zero-turn radius, these excavators can get right next to, say, a house very efficiently and do what needs to be done with much less shovel work,” he adds. “And more speed translates into better profitability.”

Another operational advantage: The excavators can be equipped with a dozer blade that, combined with its small footprint and weight-distributing rubber tracks, enables crews to quickly “dress up” yards after a job with minimal damage to lawns and sidewalks.

“We can have a yard looking nice and neat in half the time it used to take guys with shovels and rakes,” Vice says. “The rubber tracks don’t leave an imprint on grass. Lots of people judge the quality of their plumbing work by how neat the yard looks when we’re through … and people are very happy when we’re finished.”

Maintaining the machines is easy, too. Vice says all he does is keep the machines properly greased and changes the oil regularly. And aside from normal wear and tear on the tracks, the excavators just keep on running, without any engine problems.

“They’re very well-engineered machines,” he says. “If the tracks lose tension, for instance, we can adjust it in five minutes. And all the grease fittings are easy to access.”

Vice says that in his business, profitability stems directly from doing quality work as quickly as possible.

“With these units, we do things in one day that used to take one-and-a-half to two days. And we need fewer employees on job sites, too. I’d say that about 75 percent of our jobs now require only two people, where before we required three.”


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