At a Glance
Site development and utility installation
More than $8 million
Playing in the dirt takes on a whole new meaning when you’re moving large amounts of earth, but when you have good people and the latest technology behind you, it’s an easy undertaking. Just ask Gene Lowder, owner of Lowder, Inc., a full-service site contractor based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “Our strength lies in our employees and our equipment, both of which are top-of-the line,” he says. “As a result, we’re able to take on more difficult projects, including storm-water-management systems, biocells, underground retention systems, and athletic fields.”
Founded in 1953 by Gene’s father, Charles Lowder, the company incorporated in 1986 and started out primarily working in residential grading. In the 1990s, Lowder, Inc. transitioned to more commercial and industrial work and experienced a lengthy period of growth and profitability, but the past decade has presented some challenges.
“We had several difficult years, but I committed to paying down the company’s debt, a step which proved vital to us surviving this recession and maintaining our bonding capacity in difficult times,” Lowder says. “More recently, I also decided we would only bid on work close to home because it allows us to more successfully manage our projects. As a result, we have remained profitable and our sales have been steady since 2007.”
Top 5 Pieces of Site-Development Equipment from Lowder, Inc.
1. CAT 621F Scrapers are designed for large-scale earthmoving. A cushion hitch on the 621F absorbs road shocks, allowing the operator to run the machine more confidently at higher speeds.
2. CAT D7R Dozers are fuel-saving machines with almost a decade of development behind them. These dozers can handle many heavy-grading functions.
3. Komatsu Excavators handle earthmoving, loading, and trenching. Newer machines are equipped with LCD screens, improved noise insulation, and suspension cabs.
4. Mack Tri-Axle Dump Trucks are used to haul earth, stone, and debris. Driven by powerful and fuel-efficient engines, these trucks deliver high horsepower and low-end torque.
5. Moxy MT-31 Articulated Dump Trucks are used for on-site hauling. This new generation of dump trucks is able to haul faster at the lowest cost per ton, increasing the return on investment.
When it comes to best practices, Lowder, Inc. prides itself on fulfilling its commitments on schedule with safe, high-quality workmanship and staying ahead of its competitors by investing in the latest technology. “We like to be out front,” Lowder says. “In the ’80s we were the first in this area to utilize digitizing software and, in 2008, to purchase multiunit Trimble GPS equipment from Spectra Integrated Systems, LLC.”
Using sophisticated technology to help move dirt around may seem odd, but the GPS equipment not only tells the equipment operators where they are on-site; it also identifies the elevation, and elevation “is everything,” Lowder says. “The operator has to know the grade to determine the proper amount of soil to cut or fill. The biggest mistake you can make is to overcut or overfill, so knowing the exact elevation eliminates errors, making us more productive and efficient.”
Lowder, Inc. has invested approximately $500,000 in GPS technology for its mass excavating equipment, but Lowder considers it money well spent. “The decision was made after careful consideration of different products,” Lowder says. “It became apparent that with this technology, we could offset some challenges within our labor force, and I was prepared to give our employees better tools to help them become better operators and managers.”
The equipment also has made Lowder, Inc. more competitive because the company now can often complete projects in less time because there are fewer “re-dos.” The company has been awarded several expansive projects, including the Kernersville Medical Center, a $7.5 million contract with Brasfield & Gorrie General Contractors that was completed in 2010. Lowder, Inc. provided the complete site package for the 80-acre, 70-bed hospital, including excavating, sanitary-sewer work, and storm drainage.
“Brasfield & Gorrie asked us to help map the foundation as well because of our GPS equipment,” Lowder says. “We also contracted with Larco Paving, the premier local paving contractor, on the project. Quality is as important to Larco as it is to Lowder, Inc., so we always know we can count on their work.”
Impressed by Lowder, Inc.’s work in Kernersville, North Carolina, Brasfield & Gorrie also chose the company to work on Moses Cone Hospital in nearby Greensboro. The project is a major expansion requiring deep excavations and backfill of foundation walls with an expected completion date in 2012, which is looking to be a good year for the company.
“Our plan going into 2012 is to maintain our current level of employees while growing our business by becoming more efficient with our machine fleet,” Lowder says. “By continuing to leverage our investment in GPS and maintaining our level of quality, we believe it will be a very busy year.” ABQ