If you have traveled the highways and byways of Oklahoma or its surrounding states during the past decade, it’s likely you were on a roadway or bridge that Manhattan Road & Bridge has constructed.
Since the renaming of M.J. Lee Construction in March 2009 (following the acquisition of Southern Pavers in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and Muskogee Bridge Company in Muskogee, Oklahoma), Manhattan Road & Bridge has completed approximately $1 billion worth of work across multiple market sectors. Its primary focus has been heavy-highway construction in Oklahoma and Arkansas.
With a staff of more than 400, the Tulsa-based firm runs multiple projects at once. Earlier this year, it began construction for a new stretch of road that will connect Interstates 44 (Turner Turnpike) and 40 at a point east of Oklahoma City. The 400-day contract for the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority involves Manhattan Road & Bridge moving nearly 500,000 yards of earth to construct ramps that will lead to and from Interstate 44.
“This is the first phase of building the connector, which is known as the Eastern Oklahoma County Turnpike,” explained Rex Slaughter, Superintendent of Dirt Operations. “There are approximately 427,000 yards of cut and fill and another 80,000 yards of pure excavation.”
Tackling jobs of that size is common for Manhattan Road & Bridge, which is always looking for ways to move dirt more efficiently and cost effectively. The company decided that the Eastern Oklahoma County Turnpike ramps would be ideal for its initial use of Komatsu intelligent Machine Control equipment that features factory-integrated GPS grade control from rough cut to finish grade.
“We knew this would be a big job and that we needed good production,” shared Rich Horrocks, the company’s Vice President of Operations for Oklahoma. “We wanted to see what Komatsu intelligent technology could do, so we contacted our Kirby-Smith Territory Manager Dan Rutz, and he set up a demo.”
After that test run, Manhattan Road & Bridge acquired a PC490LCi-11 excavator, as well as D65PXi-18 and D61EXi-24 dozers. “The benefits were obvious right away, starting with the fact that there are no masts or cables because the system is integrated,” stated Slaughter. “The time it would take to set up and take down those items at the beginning and end of each day translates to increased production time.”
Minimizing Overexcavation, Undercarriage Wear
Operators perform mass excavation with the PC490LCi-11, which limits overdigging. During boom or bucket operations, the equipment automatically stops when the bucket edge reaches the design surface. No matter how hard the operator tries to dig below target elevation, the excavator won’t allow it.
Slaughter said that feature is a distinct advantage. “It saves time and material, which, in turn, lowers costs. When the operator finishes a dig, I don’t have to send a dozer to that area to clean up dips, undercuts or overcuts or add unnecessary fill. It’s spot-on to where it should be.
“Our usual operation would be to mass-excavate to a certain point with an excavator, then use a dozer with an aftermarket GPS system to reach final grade,” Slaughter continued. “With the intelligent excavator, the need for a dozer is minimal, if at all – maybe a quick pass to slick things up. That frees the dozer to work in other areas and increases overall production.”
Grade control on the PC490LCi-11 lets operators know where they are in relation to target elevation at all times. “That knowledge makes a world of difference,” explained Ryan Haney, Vice President of Fleet Management. “They don’t have to guess or get out of the machine to check grade, which slows down production.”
Manhattan Road & Bridge makes some heavy cuts with its D65PXi-18, and also uses it to push and place fill. The D61EXi-23 primarily handles the latter. Haney says the dozers have another standout feature – minimized track slippage. The intelligent Machine Control system accomplishes this by sensing blade load, and if it gets too heavy, the machine automatically raises the blade.
“That response reduces undercarriage wear,” reported Haney. “Undercarriages are a big expense throughout the life of a machine. Any savings make a huge difference in operating costs.”
Making Operators Exceptional
In addition to reducing time and materials, the Komatsu intelligent Machine Control excavator and dozer are lowering labor costs for Manhattan Road & Bridge. The operators’ ability to see where they are in relation to final elevation reduces or eliminates the need for a grade checker.
“The operators have nearly all of the information they need right at their fingertips,” said Slaughter. “There is no need for someone on the ground to tell them where they are and if a certain spot or area needs to be filled or cut. The accuracy is fantastic, whether you are on flat ground or a slope.
“With the automatic grade control, the operator basically points the machine in the right direction and lets it do the work,” he continued. “Right now there is a lack of skilled operators in the market. These machines can make most operators exceptional.”
Just the Beginning
The use of intelligent Machine Control equipment marks a new era in Manhattan Road & Bridge’s already long history with Komatsu and Kirby-Smith Machinery. The relationship dates back to 1999, with the acquisition of M.J. Lee Construction Company by Rooney Holdings (before the acquisition of Southern Pavers and Muskogee Bridge Company).
“We have been a longtime Komatsu user because of its reliability and innovation,” said Haney. “Another reason is the outstanding support Kirby-Smith provides. When we set up the demo, Dan took the time to understand what we were looking for and how much production we needed. He helped us choose the proper size of machines to meet those needs. The turnpike project got us started with intelligent Machine Control equipment, and I think we’re just at the tip of the iceberg of what we could be doing with it.”
This article originally appeared in the Kirby-Smith Connection Magazine, which is produced by Construction Publications, Inc.
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