Kingston Services Shortens Curb Completion Time with First 3-D Stringless Paver in Iowa
For the last four years, Kingston Services LLC in Des Moines, Iowa, has used a variety of technology - including robotic total stations and millimeter GPS - to increase accuracy and efficiency in their concrete and underground work. Earlier this year, the company invested in the first 3-D stringless curb machine in the state of Iowa.
"There are only a few of these in the entire world right now, and we have one in Des Moines," said Kevin Arens, Marketing Coordinator for Star Equipment, Ltd., in Des Moines, where Kingston Services buys their GPS technology.
With the stringless GOMACO GT-3600 Slipform Paver, "We eliminate a complete day of set-up," said Charlie Bowman, Vice President of Kingston Services. For instance, at the mixed-use Jordan West Office Park in West Des Moines, Iowa (where Kingston serves as a subcontractor to general contractor Ryan Companies of Clive, Iowa), they tackled 1,000 feet of curb in one day.
"We set up and poured all in the same afternoon," Bowman said. "Before we used the stringless machine there was a full-day set up, then the second day we poured, then it took a day to tear down. Now we cut three days' work down to one."
The stringless technology uses a digital 3-D model with virtual stringline instead of traditional stringline hardware. The machine operator chooses on the digital map where to pave. In addition to reducing labor and hardware costs, the stringless technology eliminates human error that can occur when setting stringline and avoids the hazard of stringline displacement during construction.
The GOMACO GT-3600 also provides flexibility. "We can go from doing a 2-foot curb and gutter, and in a day we can transform the machine to do a 10-foot bike trail," Bowman said.
The precision and reliability of the technology make the young company more competitive, said Dan Hutton, President. "We don't have decades of experience; we can't do what other guys spent their whole lives doing and be able to perform it like they do. Being younger, we rely on innovation."
The stringless curb machine is just the latest technology investment for the company. For road work, Kingston Services uses another stringless slipform paver, the SF-2700 from Power Pavers Inc. That machine allows the flexibility to go from 12-foot to 33-foot-wide.
For their bulldozers, box blade, and Laser Screed, "We run robotic total stations that give us complete site control - elevation as well as alignment - whether we're working on a curb line, parking lot line, sidewalk line, or underground utilities," Hutton said. The total stations provide more accurate survey measurements when using a 3-D model to guide equipment.
"All that comes across when we engineer via a CAD file," Hutton said. "We load it into our equipment and we know where everything is located. We transfer that over to GPS using the same CAD file and use that to install pipe and grade a parking lot, then we use millimeter GPS for fine-grading." The millimeter GPS, which can control multiple machines at once, provides greater accuracy that results in fewer passes to reach finish grade.
Kingston Services' technology comes from Topcon, purchased through Star Equipment. "Topcon's technology enables us to lay in the dirt, then lay in the rock using the same program, then box blade the rock with the tractor to within 1/16th of an inch," Bowman said. "Then we put that same program in our Somero SXP Laser Screed to ensure an accurate, level finish."
With the precision provided by the 3-D GPS and total station technologies, "We brought our yields down considerably from when we first started," Bowman said. Now Kingston Services averages less than 2 percent yields, as opposed to industry standards of 5 to 7 percent.
Kingston Services also uses Fleetmatics GPS technology in their trucking fleet, enabling them to know exactly where their vehicles are in real time. "With that technology, we ensure our units arrive exactly where and when needed," Hutton said.
Kingston Services was established in 2009 as a mid-level concrete company; in 2012 Hutton and Bowman took over management of the company. They met five years before that when they both worked for Star Equipment. "I was doing rental sales and Charlie was the Topcon representative; we'd go out and train people together," Hutton explained. "When we decided to go into business together, it just made sense to purchase the technology we'd already been trained to use. We've both had computers since we were five years old, so technology on the jobsite comes easily for us."
Now the company covers central Iowa with a staff of almost 90, including office employees and field crews. In addition to concrete, their work expanded to include erosion control and restoration, underground utilities, crushing, grading, and trucking.
"We're pretty diversified," Bowman said. "We try to self-serve so when we bid on a project, we can bid as much of the package as possible."
For instance, "It made sense when we bid parking lots to put the utilities in underneath and perform our own subgrade prep," Bowman added. "When the work gets divided, it's rare for the contractor handling the dirt or rock underneath to use exactly the same program as the guy doing the concrete. We could come in and be an inch off on the concrete. If it's not thick enough and we need to redo, that costs money; if it's too thick, that costs money in yields."
With Kingston Services' integrated technology, they ensure accuracy and cost savings. "We handle any job, big or small," Hutton said. "Our collective experience, coupled with state-of-the-art technology, allows us to get the job done on time and on budget and deliver results every time."
The company's technology focus also aids communication with customers, Hutton said. "With these programs, we can go out and shoot some points on the actual property, go back to the computer in the office - or truck, in Charlie's case - and build a 3-D model of that parking lot right there. We put it on a thumb drive and hand it to our customer."
In the near future, Kingston Services plans to add drones to its arsenal. They recently became the first company approved by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for the use of drones in Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) inspections.
Because of their technology investments, Hutton and Bowman anticipate their company continuing to grow in the next few years. "We adopted the motto "˜Helping build communities through innovation,'" Bowman said. "I think if contractors don't start getting on board the technology bandwagon, they'll be left behind in the next five years. Clients want their yields; they don't want to waste a bunch of material or hear there's a bunch of dirt to move. They look for the perfection and excellence that technology provides."