Project Profile: Artistry in the Field

March 15, 2013

BSB Development is an Illinois land improvement and excavating contractor whose equipment operators take particular pride in the quality of their work. From its base of operations in Spring Grove at the far northwest suburban reaches of the Chicago area, BSB relies on its operators’ diverse skills to survive during a tough economy.

“A couple of our guys finished pretty well up there in the recent Case Triple Threat Rodeo,” owner Terry Becker says of his BSB crew. “Every one of my operators is trained on every machine we have. Some tend to focus on one more than the others. A couple guys do more sewer and water work, for instance. Others run the wheel loader for snow, things like that. It all works out for planning’s sake. But it really helps with a company our size to have people who can get jobs done in a variety of ways.”

As for which machines are best used on a particular job, Becker says, “We always try to choose the machine that will give us the best bang for the buck. You do tend to go with something that’s a little oversized for what you’re doing, because it’s better to have a little more machine than you need instead of less.

“So when you’re renting machinery like we did to work on an Army base down in Quincy [IL],” Becker continues, “you try to find a good rate on something that’s very productive. For that job we were stripping dirt and developing retention basins, but there wasn’t a ton of technical work or close quarters. So it made bidding and doing the job a little easier. Then it’s up to our guys to make the best use of the equipment we choose.”

Fresh out of high school, Becker started his career as an excavator operator. “I learned how to operate equipment, and I really liked it. But then the company I worked for didn’t last, so I went off and did some other things.”

At some point, the calling to get back into the construction field gripped Becker again, and he started up BSB Development in 2005. The firm now owns four Case excavators: a CX210B, two CX160B models, and a CX130. Becker’s firm also owns and runs a Case 850L dozer, a 621E wheel loader, a 721E wheel loader and a 440 skid-steer.

From Specs To Reality
The foremen at BSB use their equipment operating skills to turn blueprint specs into reality. “We use old-fashioned skill to get the job done,” says Becker. “Everyone here has learned through doing. And we’re teaching those skills to our current apprentice operator right now.”

Becker views their work as something of an art. “A top-notch operator will use any piece of equipment he’s given to get the job done. So skill and knowledge of your equipment definitely comes into play, along with planning out the job on the site,” he says.

“Of course some equipment is better for some jobs than others. It’s all about keeping it sensible and using your equipment the right way for what you need to do.”

The benefits of choosing the right equipment are not just anecdotal. With dollars at stake and profit at risk, a contractor shouldn’t take on a job without an efficient plan, Becker advises. The equipment Becker chooses for his firm is noted for its own operating efficiencies. He says Case excavators deliver more horsepower than competitive models while still economizing on fuel. That can translate into big benefits for an excavating firm, including an estimated $10,000 per year per machine in combined fuel savings and increased productivity.

Minimum swing radius models, such as the Case compact excavators that BSB has rented for certain projects, excel at digging and lifting in tight work areas, a benefit Terry Becker has learned to exploit to his firm’s advantage. In the last couple of years, Becker’s firm has taken on some particularly challenging jobs working in tight urban spaces. “We do a lot of work in the city of Chicago,” he notes, “sometimes on sites less than an acre in size. Then you’re dealing with traffic, sidewalks, buildings, and where to move material with a flow so you interfere as little as possible with the area where you’re working. That’s where skilled operators are really important.”

Thanks to the diverse skills of its operators and its productive, efficient equipment fleet, BSB has taken on an increasing number of marquee projects in Chicago, including jobs at such high-profile locations and landmarks as 111 West Illinois, the 161 W. Kinzie Residential Tower, and 465 N. Park Drive, all as subcontractor to James McHugh Construction, Chicago.

As evidence of its diversity in grading and excavation, BSB also has worked on projects for Benito Juarez High School, the Chicago Fire Department Co. No. 70 building, Lane Tech High School Stadium, Great Lakes Naval Base, the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field, and Lakeside Field at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

The meld of fine machinery and operating skill is helping BSB Development accomplish projects with considerable artistry in its field.