JD King Corporation Brings a More Balanced Approach to Business
Approximately five years ago, Chad King took stock of his business and decided to make a dramatic shift. At the time, he was mainly focused on pipeline projects for oil and gas customers with a little civil site work mixed in to round out JD King Corporation’s resume.
“Oil and gas services accounted for roughly 95 percent of our total projects,” said King, who is Owner and CEO of the firm as well as its sister company, Royal Rental Supply (RRS). “I thought we were missing a golden opportunity when it came to site work outside of the oil and gas market. I ramped up that area, and we have been growing it nearly 30 percent each year. Now, we have a more even split between our Pipeline and Heavy Site and Civil Divisions.”
Similar to the Pipeline Division, JD King Corporation’s civil construction entity offers a comprehensive list of services that includes everything from clearing to finish grading. A large percentage of the work is now concentrated on new housing subdivisions within a 400-mile radius of the firm’s headquarters in Seminole, Texas. Five years ago, the company developed close to 150 home sites annually. Last year, the total reached almost 4,000.
“We show up when the trees are still standing, and when we leave, the customer is ready to build houses,” King noted. “We take care of mass excavation, subgrade prep, curb and gutter installation and asphalt paving, as well as some minor utility installation.”
JD King Corporation’s Pipeline Division continues to perform new installations, replacement and rehabilitation of pipe, trenching and directional boring, custom fabrication, hydrostatic testing, cathodic protection, hot tapping, and plugging. Additionally, it constructs compressor and pump stations, meter and regulator sites, gas-treatment facilities, large turbines, and tank farms.
“From the beginning, the Heavy Site and Civil Division handled earthwork for oil and gas customers, such as building frac pits and well pads, and it still does some of that,” said King. “However, with the shift in emphasis, that side has gone from approximately 60 employees five years ago to nearly 150, and we’re running upward of 20 jobs at any one time, the majority of which are now residential and commercial in nature.”
A burgeoning housing market factored into King’s decision to steer his firm more toward site work outside of the oil and gas arena. He said another reason was advances in construction technology, including GPS grading systems.
“They allow us to complete jobs faster and more accurately, which, in turn, improves our competitiveness,” said King. “Technology in the construction industry has grown by leaps and bounds during the past few years, and we have fully embraced it because of the time and cost savings. GPS grading has virtually eliminated staking, and it has actually gained us access to more employees. There are a lot more video-game players today than there are sledgehammer swingers, and the technology appeals to the video gamers.”
King uses technology to build GPS models, as well as track production more accurately. He generates reports that are shared with customers during weekly progress meetings.
“We show before and after comparisons, existing contours and more,” King said. “Customers appreciate the detailed information, and it has garnered us a lot of repeat business. In fact, everything we have coming up in the foreseeable future is for an existing client who wants us to do more projects. The housing market has been very good. We’re booked solid through the rest of this year.”
‘Wow’ Moments with intelligent Machine Control
At the forefront of JD King Corporation’s technological revolution is equipment from Kirby-Smith Machinery, including Komatsu intelligent Machine Control D51EXi Dozers with a factory-installed, fully integrated machine-control system that works from rough-cut to finish grade. JD King starting using the dozers three years ago when Kirby-Smith Machinery Territory Manager Brent Snapp contacted King to schedule a demonstration.
“We had tried a Komatsu intelligent Machine Control dozer previously, and it did not go well, mainly because we were using another GPS system and the communication didn’t work,” said King. “When Brent called, I was reluctant to try it again, but he assured me that we would not have the same concerns this time around.”
King agreed to the demonstration, and he and his crew along with Snapp set up a side-by-side comparison of a D51EXi to a competitive dozer of the same class size equipped with an aftermarket GPS system.
“We put the machines on a hillside cut and ran them for close to three hours,” King recalled. “Then, we switched the operators and ran the dozers again for another three hours. The D51EXi was about 30 percent more productive. It was a real eye-opener. I thought, ‘This is one instance. What if we applied this to the entire fleet?’”
JD King Corporation is working on making that happen. The company has since brought on additional units, including a D65EXi and a D155AXi. “The accuracy is always spot-on with the intelligent Machine Control dozers,” said King. “Overcutting is a thing of the past. They carry the optimal blade load, and there is little to no track slippage. The fact that you don’t need to install and remove masts and cables at the beginning and end of every day makes the dozers safer and increases production time.
“I also like that the dozers alert you in situations where you can increase efficiency,” he added. “On one site recently, I was doing some heavy cutting with the D65EXi, so I had it in the Cut and Carry mode. Then, I moved to another area where I was basically just dressing things up. The machine told me to switch to Economy mode to save fuel. The difference was definitely noticeable. It was another ‘wow’ moment.”
Kirby-Smith Offers It All
JD King Corporation and RRS count on Snapp and Kirby-Smith Machinery for additional technology and equipment. RRS recently purchased a Komatsu GD655 Motor Grader with a Topcon aftermarket system. JD King Corporation also acquired a Wirtgen SP 15 Slipform Paver for curb and gutter pours.
“At some juncture, we will have the SP 15 set up for stringless paving, and we’re looking at a Vögele paver with GPS and joint-matching technology,” said King. “We‘re also considering smart compaction. Fortunately, Kirby-Smith carries everything we are looking for.”
Kirby-Smith Machinery and JD King Corporation’s relationship dates back to when King started the business in 2010. He has owned and rented several pieces of Komatsu equipment during that time, including standard dozers, wheel loaders and articulated trucks as well as NPK hammers, Hamm rollers and JLG aerial lifts.
“Everyone at Kirby-Smith is excellent to work with,” said King. “I can say with certainty that we would not be where we are today without them. They took a chance on me when others would not, and I appreciate that.”
A Proven Good Move
King has his eyes on the next step in the company’s evolution, which is expanding its Heavy Site and Civil Division’s services to include more utility installation.
“We certainly have the knowledge and capability,” said King. “Our aim is to bring over some of our pipeline group during the next couple of years. That will further allow us to control scheduling. This more balanced approach increases our ability to better weather the ups and downs of the markets. It’s a move that has been really good for us.”