Contractor resurrects masonry business with Cat®
Three years ago, Dean Fence was for all intents and purposes, out of business. The once-thriving land development company with 600 employees — like many — was a casualty of the recession, as housing development in the Valley of the Sun ground to a halt in 2009.
But before it ceased operations, the Phoenix area company had developed an excellent reputation for building walls around residential developments, and former customers continued to call Dwayne Dean to the point where he decided to resurrect the business.
In early 2013, Dwayne’s daughter, Shannon, reopened the business by working from card tables in a leased 15 x 20 storage locker. Shortly thereafter, Dean met with his Empire Southwest representative Mark Snow, who arranged a line of credit through Empire, thereby enabling the new company, Arizona State Masonry, to rent equipment and get back in the game.
“Once Empire got on board and opened up a line of credit for rental equipment, that created the ability for us get on jobsites and once again prove what we’re able to do,” Dwayne said. “A big part of our success is that we have no downtime with our Cat machines.”
100 and counting
Now, two years later, the Gilbert-based firm has rebuilt the business back to over 100 employees, and is still growing.
Arizona State Masonry (ASM) installs perimeter walls and retaining walls for new housing developments. The company excavates the often rocky ground and digs the trenches for the wall footings, installs rebar and pours and finishes the concrete. Once the foundation has been established, the company installs block masonry wall systems, wrought iron fencing, and also builds retaining walls.
Crews dig trenches for the walls with a Cat 420F Backhoe Loader. They use a hammer and pallet forks to haul stone and block used in wall building.
“With this Cat Backhoe Loader, we handle all of our excavating, grading and material handling needs with one machine,” Dwayne said. “We’re able to excavate our footings and remove old concrete footings with the hammer. We have a large front bucket, and we can mount pallet forks on it for moving pallets of block, brick, stone and other materials. So really it’s a five-in-one piece of equipment, plus the power ratio is just absolutely phenomenal. We love this machine.
“With the backhoe we not only excavate and backfill, but we can also replace the soil,” Dwayne continued. “We use it to load up the piles of materials that we have accumulated on the site, cut down weeds and load up the haul trucks. We also perform all of the lot grading once we get done working on these sites. So this 420F Backhoe Loader with the extend-a-hoe has just become a very versatile and valuable piece of equipment.”
For bigger jobs, ASM utilizes a Cat 446D Backhoe Loader. The machine has greater lifting and digging forces, with high-tech components that reduce sound levels and increase fuel efficiency. At a challenging site north of Phoenix, the 446D Backhoe has dug footings for well over 250,000 lineal feet of retaining walls. Due to large concentrations of rock, over half of that job had to be broken up with the Cat H110ES Hammer, Dwayne said, adding that “everything has worked absolutely perfect” in the past two years utilizing the machine-hammer combination.
Speed, efficiency win jobs
“The way we win bids always starts at excavation, and it takes reliable equipment to handle the excavation so we can begin our concrete and rebar processes,” Dwayne said. “Nobody can beat the speed, efficiency, and the fuel economy of the Cat machines. This is why we feel that we win the bids, it’s because we can get in, and we can dig faster than anybody else. When we take on a bid, we know with Cat equipment we can turn the soil faster than anybody, because we count on our equipment that much.”
ASM is sometimes called on to build boundary theme walls around master-planned communities on a turnkey basis. Measuring from six to eight feet tall, the decorative walls with colored masonry have a concrete foundation and rebar in grouting per the structural specifications. ASM installs the stone and precast concrete caps.
“We install wrought iron systems, and all the gate systems with opening and closing mechanisms, so there’s a lot to do at one of these communities,” Dwayne said. “And when we have the versatility of the 262D Skid Steer Loader outfitted with the pallet forks, which we use to pick up the pallets and move things quickly from place to place, it’s just a great source of speed to efficiently mechanize these daily jobs.”
Since restarting the business utilizing rental equipment, ASM has purchased the new 420F Backhoe Loader as part of a lease-purchase agreement. In other instances, the company has purchased used equipment with low hours that also comes with a warranty.
As it expands, ASM has utilized Cat Financial to help it acquire additional pieces of equipment.
“Cat Financial has many different ways to structure acquisitions,” Shannon said. “We can lease-purchase, rent to own, buy outright brand new, buy leased equipment, or buy used equipment — so the options are just fantastic and it has worked very well for us.”
Enlisting dealer help
ASM enlists the help of Empire Southwest to maintain its machines, which enables it to concentrate on the work at hand.
“Empire takes care of all the maintenance, and it works absolutely perfect,” Dwayne said. “In the long run, it represents a big savings for us. They arrange with us when they’re going to come to our jobsite for the PM. They arrive after work hours, so it’s like they were never here. They never interfere with our work schedule, and that has worked absolutely perfect for us as a construction company.”
ASM has installed Product Link™ on its purchased equipment. Advantages include having the ability to monitor the location of machines at all times, as well as equipment usage and other data.
“We can check the data through our smart phones, and it’s telling us many things: where the product is, how many hours it’s being run through the day, and if the RPMs are running too hard. There are a number of parameters that we can monitor. It also tells us what time the backhoe starts and what time it shuts off, so it helps identify our crew hours out on our site. We can get minute-by-minute updates if there is a problem, and Empire technicians are behind the scenes and able to monitor and tell us what is wrong. It’s a great, great innovation.”
Dwayne reiterates that ASM couldn’t have revived this business without the assistance of Empire Southwest and the superior edge provided by Cat equipment.
“The performance of their equipment, supported by the technology, far exceeds the brands that other people use, in our opinion,” he said. “This is why Shannon buys Cat equipment and the dealer product support that comes with it.
“I credit our ability to come back to Empire and Caterpillar, because they have the equipment, the manpower and the safety training.”
WHAT THEY LIKE ABOUT CAT EQUIPMENT
“With the newer backhoe equipment, we’re probably saving at least 20 to 25 percent on fuel because the engines don’t have to run at full speed,” said Dwayne Dean, manager of Arizona State Masonry. “You can just use the throttle as you need it. When you set up to dig, it’ll automatically pull and dig and grab the horsepower that it needs so you don’t have to sit and run it on 1800 RPMs all day long. As soon as you reach out to dig, it’ll speed itself up to the required power based on the hardness of ground and other factors. So it’s just a great piece of equipment — the performance and the fuel savings are paramount.”
WHAT THEY LIKE ABOUT THEIR CAT DEALER
To be successful in business, it pays to have a partner you can count on, said Dwayne.
“Because of Caterpillar and the relationship we’ve had with Empire Southwest for nearly 30 years, it was an easy choice for me to reconnect in 2013,” Dwayne said. “If we have a piece of equipment that goes down and we need service, they are there night or day. It’s actually a match made in heaven. We love it.”