Randy Pitts, owner of F & P Construction in Reno, NV, is no stranger to the challenges of mass excavation. His current project in the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center called for moving more than a half-million yards of rocky soil to prepare a pad for a 703,000 square-foot warehouse. Pitts needed to break through about six feet of sun-baked hardpan and deal with many large boulders and cobble embedded in the soil. At 104,000 acres, the Center is one of the world’s largest industrial parks. F & P Construction has been working here since 2005, building roads and railroad beds, digging sewer and water trenches, and preparing sites for new buildings.
Initially, Pitts relied on a dozer/wheel loader combo for moving material, with the dozer pushing materials to a wheel loader that would then load six articulated trucks. This was effective, but Pitts aimed to increase his productivity by adding a mass excavation unit to the site. To do so, he brought in the 463-horsepower, 153,400-pound CX700B from CASE Construction Equipment-an excavator with a 5.91-cubic-yard bucket dedicated to mass excavation. The overall speed and power of the machine has allowed Pitts to increase his productivity by 46%-and to do so without adding any additional equipment.
“The CASE excavator is a one-man machine that can dig and load. So I have an excavator operator and a truck driver compared to a three-man operation for dozer, loader, and truck,” explains Pitts. “Before we bought the CASE CX700B, we moved around 7,500 yards a day. With the new excavator that jumped to 11,000 yards. I could use my current fleet of trucks, [and] I could fill them up a lot faster.”
Tough Performance, Easy Operation
Pitts considered a variety of excavators for the project, but decided the CASE CX700B presented to him by Sonsray Machinery of Sparks, NV, would provide the right combination of performance and cost. “Price is one part of it, financing, weight class was a big part of it. I knew I wanted a good, heavy strong machine.”
“It’s all about volume,” he continues. “The bigger the machine, the bigger the bucket. But we’re also very impressed with the cycle times. It’s a really fast swinging machine and the faster you swing, the faster you load your trucks. I’d bet it’s about 15 to 20% faster than other excavators we’ve used.”
Speed and power are hallmarks of the CX700B thanks to a combination of hydraulics and engine power, which also helps improve fuel efficiency (calculated in mass excavation applications by yards of material moved per gallon of fuel). The CX700B gives the operator complete control over engine output and hydraulic power through three operation modes, which optimizes engine output to meet the application demands. Features such as regenerative hydraulics on the boom, arm, and bucket, and large-diameter hydraulic cylinders provide everything from increased breakout forces to the faster cycle times that have helped contribute to the increase in productivity.
Pitts’ son Dayton is the field superintendent on the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center project. Like his father, Dayton is impressed with the cycle times of the CASE CX700B. “You know the biggest eye opener is the speed for such a large excavator. It cycles very fast. We’ve had it next to other machines and it beat them hands down.”
F & P Construction matched the excavator with three 40-ton articulated trucks. Rather than adding additional trucks, the company simply split its existing fleet of six between the wheel loader/dozer combo and the CX700B. This allowed the company to more efficiently cycle its trucks throughout the site and increase its production by 3,500 yards-per-day without adding new trucks or drivers-a significant increase in production without an excessive addition of equipment.
Besides high capacity and faster cycle times, the machine has also proven easy to operate. The large climate-controlled cab provides ample space and comfort for the operator. And the ability to flip control patterns (through an optional control pattern selector valve) allowed the company’s primary operator to run the new excavator without a learning curve.
“Our operator couldn’t run the one hydraulic pattern-he ran an opposite pattern,” says Randy Pitts. “The idea was to flip the controls over to the other type of a pattern that he could operate. It made a big difference to where he could run it. I know machines on a job that he can’t run because they don’t have the ability to flip their hydraulic pattern.”
The relationship with Sonsray Machinery was also an important part of the equation. Randy Pitts has been buying CASE equipment since he started his business, but had not bought anything the size of the CX700B.
“I’ve always been a CASE backhoe guy,” he says. “I’ve always owned a lot of CASE backhoes and 570s and a couple of loaders. I’ve owned a small CASE dozer at one time. I’ve dealt with CASE and Sonsray for the last 23 years. This is the first time that I’ve ever got a machine this size from Sonsray-they’re bringing the larger CASE machines to town.”
Dayton Pitts is glad they did. “I thought, wow, I didn’t know CASE made anything that big, so I had to play with it-compare it to the other big excavators. It was very impressive.” He adds, “With all these rocks, we still haven’t found anything that can stop the CX700B. It pulled out some really big boulders that stopped other big excavators.”
Speed and Versatility Mean Greater All Around Performance
Pitts’ crew had 10 weeks to complete the main excavation of the site. They did it in six. But they weren’t done there:
“We’ll put on a smaller bucket to dig and install 20-foot deep sewer lines and 15-foot deep storing drains,” says Randy Pitts. “When you have to set 36-inch pipe and drag shields, a big machine like the CX700B really makes a difference.”
“Our real forte is mass grading,” concludes Pitts. “With my mining background, I’ve learned to move dirt and materials fast and [with precision]. To do that out here you need big excavators, big loaders and big haul trucks.”
“Once we got the CX700B out here, our production rate really picked up.”