By John Krantz
Portland-based contractor Northwest Demolition has roots in the construction industry dating back to the 1950s. Over the past 20 years, the company has progressed from a small, local contractor focused on commercial demolition jobs to a highly sought after international firm focused on high profile industrial decommissioning and environmental remediation projects. Its growth has been made possible by being highly selective in the types of customers and partners it works with, as well as incredibly creative in the way it’s customized its fleet of equipment.
“If you want to work with us, safety and quality better be your highest priorities,” says David Williams, president at Northwest Demolition. “We’ve built the best fleet and the best team of people to do the safest, highest-quality work, and the customers we work with are the ones who are willing to pay for a job being done the right way.”
Nothing is off-the-shelf in the company’s fleet. Northwest Demolition’s excavators in particular are highly customized and purpose-built to be able to take on a variety of demolition tasks.
“We’ll often take a standard excavator and put an additional $200,000 into it to make it specifically suited to one of our jobs,” Williams says. “Having a machine that can dig a 100-foot-deep hole one day and be shearing steel the next is what ensures our machines and our people are never underutilized.”
From highly specialized booms and sticks, to shears, hammers and wrecking balls — one machine may be outfitted with a combination of aftermarket options from multiple manufacturers. Under normal circumstances, purchasing, financing and maintaining such highly customized machines with multiple third-party attachments can become a very complex and convoluted process. However, Williams is just as selective with his equipment dealers and financing sources as he is with his customers — and he looks for organizations that can provide a consultative, one-stop shop to finance and build his customized fleet. That’s why he’s worked with Volvo construction equipment dealer PacWest Machinery and captive finance company Volvo Financial Services (VFS) for the last decade.
Up for the challenge
Ed Kanable, a sales representative for PacWest, has been working with Northwest Demolition for more than 15 years, during which time he’s been consistently challenged to come up with some very unique solutions to meet Northwest Demolition’s needs.
“Northwest Demolition is an incredible group of guys to work with. They’re young, smart and out there to make their mark in the world — and they always give us a challenge,” Kanable says. “We do some really different things for them. The more unique the better. And we always make sure it meets their needs and their budget.”
Unique equipment for unique jobs
One such example of a job dictating a highly customized excavator is one at a nuclear facility in Eureka, CA. The job required a Volvo EC220 excavator to be outfitted with remote exhaust, including stainless steel high-temperature pipes with blowers that extract exhaust and heat away from the nuclear facilities.
“That’s a really unique setup, just due to the nature of the site,” Kanable says. “If any issues arise with the machine, we actually have 150 feet of ABS cables that are hooked up and run underground to a bunker where we can connect the computer to the machine. If we have to go in and make a repair, it requires suiting up in full-body PPE equipped with video cameras and monitors.”
Another ongoing remediation job is located on Midway Atoll, an island in the Northern Pacific Ocean that is home to a World War II naval facility where the company has been hired to tear down buildings in support of the albatross (a threatened species of oceanic bird) population. The fleet consists of four Volvo A30 articulated haulers with extended dump bodies and two EC290C excavators, which are equipped with MB jaw crushers that scoop up concrete from the buildings and crush it inside the bucket finely enough to be used as recycled beach material.
The company’s most recent equipment acquisition included the purchase of a new Volvo EC480E, which was once again highly customized with the help of PacWest.
“We took the EC480E base and outfitted it with a demo package, including heavy-duty doors, front corner guards, catwalks, underbelly guards and a really unique cab lift, which raises up the cab and extends it forward by eight feet, so it really looks more like a scrap handling machine,” Kanable says. “It’s a spectacular piece of equipment.”
Additionally, the EC480E was outfitted with a custom boom foot to allow Northwest Demolition to quick couple a previously owned 95-foot boom onto the machine and still allow for converting it back to a standard boom as needed.
Needless to say, a lot goes into building a machine for Northwest Demolition — multiple manufacturers and parties are involved. But thanks to PacWest’s approach, Williams has just one point of contact.
Kanable takes it upon himself to contract the aftermarket customization from third-party manufacturers and acts as the single point of contact, representing all parties when making a sale to Northwest Demolition.
When it comes to maintenance and support after the sale, PacWest is also the main point of contact, making problem-solving a seamless task.
“We do 80% of the maintenance support and work,” Kanable says. “If something goes wrong with an attachment we can’t fix, we have the manufacturer take care of it, but my customer only has to deal with me.”
PacWest’s one-stop approach extends not only into equipment purchase and support but also financing.
Industry experience preferred
A typical financing scenario entails the equipment dealer filing an application with multiple institutions; the one with the most attractive offer is the one presented to the customer to close the deal. But Northwest Demolition’s deals are anything but typical.
“A lot of financial institutions are only into financing equipment when the construction industry is doing well and poses less risk — so knowledge of the equipment is somewhat limited,” Kanable says. “When you start to look at more specialized applications like demolition, and when you start adding in multiple third-party attachments, it becomes almost impossible to get financing from a single vendor unless you go with a captive finance company.”
“Captive finance” is the term given to companies with a primary purpose of financing for a parent company’s OEM equipment — meaning they not only understand the equipment and the industry, but they’re dedicated to serving that industry through all market conditions. Such is the case with VFS. In the case of Northwest Demolition, however, VFS exceeds the conventional definition of “captive finance.”
“In addition to financing the excavator base from Volvo, we’re working with PacWest and their aftermarket manufacturers to come up with a blended rate that results in only one payment structure for all the up-fittings involved,” says George Weimer, district sales manager at VFS.
Not only does this approach save the headache of working with multiple parties, but it ensures quicker turnaround time.
“Turnaround time is huge for us and contractors like Northwest Demolition,” Kanable says. “If you have a new job coming through, and then you have to explain to multiple financing organizations exactly what your equipment and attachments will be used for, and then wait for them to do risk and pricing analysis before getting you an answer — that can be the difference between a job won or lost.”
Down the road
Being selective on the jobs it takes, creative in the way it builds its fleet and leveraging the support of its longterm product and financing providers is a recipe that has worked and will continue to work for the company, in Williams’s eyes.
“We’ll keep relying on the approach that has made us successful up until this point,” Williams says. “PacWest and VFS have been a big part of that.”