S1.E5: Contractor’s Smart Investments Recruit Just the Equipment Support His Company Needs

Small earthmoving contractor Ballmann Earthworks continues to grow well beyond its owner/operator stage with the leader’s commitment to enlisting dealer fleet support so that he can nurture his business.

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Jon Ballmann has driven consistent growth of Ballmann Earthworks for more than 20 years – even through the toughest economic times – with an iron rule: “the customer’s always first.” And he takes “always” to mean no matter who he has in the operator’s seat of his machines or what condition those machines are in. He makes sure he has the best of both resources in order to minimize distractions from discerning customers’ needs and translating them into finished grades.

Starting out as an owner/operator, then-24-year-old Ballmann spent his money on machine reliability because he knew he couldn’t afford to take his eyes off customer service to deal with worn equipment. His first big purchase was a new track loader, dump truck and trailer, as much to secure warranty coverages as to minimize breakdowns as he was pioneering a new, bigger market for his company’s services.

When the Earthworks fleet had grown to a dozen or so machines and Jon decided he needed more time to nurture his business, the opportunity to hire a childhood friend as a mechanic popped up and he jumped on it. The fleet has grown four-fold since then but even with mechanical expertise on staff, Ballmann recognizes the risk in letting preventive maintenance slip.

“Reliability is just as important today as it was back then but now, keeping all this equipment reliable has its challenges,” he says.

Ballmann embraces the connection between preventive maintenance and preventing breakdowns, and he’s thoroughly proven willing to invest in making sure maintenance gets done. Committing to conservative service intervals – 250 hours – keeps the company mechanic busy with the work.

“We had a short experiment where we were using a pretty expensive brand of oil that really pushed to go to this 500-hour interval,” he remembers. “However, what we started to see is tooth tooth wear, track wear, tracks out of adjustment, belts, dirty filters. We’re in a dusty environment – all that stuff has to be maintained. Not that we couldn’t do those things at 250 hours and not change the oil, but when we’re at the machine, I like to do it all.”

At 48 machines and the company growing at 5% to 10% per year, he’s investing to outfit the entire equipment fleet with telematics to make sure services get done on time, primarily. Once again, Ballmann is willing to spend a little to share that responsibility with his dealer, Fabick Cat. Service contracts commit Fabick to watch hours on the Earthworks fleet through VisionLink and deliver appropriate service kits for machines as they approach 250 hours.

Have look at this short video to find out more about the key investments that weave a sturdy reliability net under the Ballmann Earthworks fleet from in-house maintenance expertise interlaced with Fabick’s resources. Ballmann explains how he tracks the return on that investment.