Intelligent Equipment Increases Efficiency for Hess Services
The Right Equipment Leads to Success: Hess Services Finds Value and Versatility in Intelligent Machine Control
From fabricating oil tanks to earthwork operations to building structures, Hess Services of Hays, Kansas, does it all with aplomb.
“Construction is a small part of my business,” says Dan Hess, President and Owner of Hess Services of Hays, Kansas. “Overall, the company is the most diverse.”
The conversion of a 40-acre hilly pasture into a full-service truck plaza – with wash and service bays and lodgings – has been a successful project thanks to the right equipment. Hess Services used a BOMAG RS 650 Recycler to grind and remove rock, excavating about 12 feet to prepare the site for hotels and restaurants. The recycler breaks the rock into manageable sizes that can be screened in a Screen Machine Industries Spyder 512T.
“I did not expect the rock to be as thick and solid as it was,” Hess says. “That’s the biggest challenge.”
Crews used scrapers to bring most of the rock to a 27-foot-deep gully on the job. They are using a blade to level the site. Two BOMAG BW213 Rollers compact the dirt and rock. The intelligent Komatsu D61PXi Dozer lets the operator know when the proper grade is achieved with accuracy. Hess Services used an intelligent Komatsu PC390LCi Excavator to dig the utility lines, foundations, and cut to grade.
“The intelligent machines save time,” says Dan Basgall, Dirt Foreman on the project. “It’s awesome.”
A digital 3-D design of the finished project is uploaded into the dozer’s controller, explains Jon Berry, President of the company, adding, “The blade on the dozer automatically raises and lowers to move the material to match the design as the operator drives forward and backwards. In theory, the fewer times you have to ‘touch’ the dirt, the more efficient you can be and therefore the more profitable.”
Hess adds, “Because I use CNC [Computer Numerical Control] machines in my metal fabrication business, I see the value and cost saving in automation. Not only does it save labor and time, the level of accuracy cannot be duplicated consistently with anything else. I can save money and do a better job using that intelligent equipment. Like CNC, I see it being a good fit for the dirt.”
Hess estimates the company will save about 500 hours on the truck plaza project by using the intelligent machines, not needing to stake or restake.
Hess Services is also installing the metal buildings at the truck plaza site. The company began the truck plaza project in May and will finish it this fall. Subcontractors will put down concrete supplied by Hess Services’ ready mix plant. The company brings in rock from North Dakota after hauling tanks to that state.
“Rain was a factor, but with rock and the rain, it packs up nice,” says Basgall, who has worked for Dan Hess for five years.
“He’s a good guy,” Basgall says. “I can go right to him. He tells me what needs to get done, and I get it done.”
Additional equipment on this project included four scrapers, three twin engines, a paddle scraper, packers and a mixer to mix up the rock, which Basgall says makes it easier to pack.
“Dan is extraordinary, because he keeps his hands on all of the different facets of his business,” says Larry Briand, Salesman at Berry Tractor Whitestar Machinery in Garden City, Kansas. “He is involved with every bit if it.”
Hess Services makes oil field steel and plastic tanks, owns a cement plant and fabrication shop, and operates cranes, trucks and other equipment.
“He is not pigeonholed into one thing,” Briand continues. “I admire him.”
Briand considers Hess one of the largest and most successful contractors in the area.
An Important Dealer Relationship
Hess Services owns a fleet of more than 20 pieces of machinery, plus cranes and the tank services. Much of the equipment has been purchased from Berry Tractor. The equipment company was founded in 1958 and now operates out of four locations in Kansas and Missouri. It sells new and pre-owned equipment, rents machinery and provides service.
“Larry has taken good care of us,” Hess says.
Hess Services has purchased both new and pre-owned equipment from Berry Tractor. “He likes Komatsu and other equipment we sell,” Briand says.
Basgall adds, “Berry Tractor has been super awesome. We’ve had really good luck with them. If anything happens, they are here as soon as they can.”
Thirty Years of Growth
Dan Hess founded Hess Services in 1989 as a metal fabricator and machine shop, with no employees. During the years, the company evolved into construction work, primarily oil field equipment, steel tanks, pressure vessels, and crane services. The company has expanded over the years as opportunities presented themselves and will now handle just about all aspects of construction projects, subcontracting out dry walling, and pouring concrete.
The company now employs more than 360 full-time, year-round employees and has locations in Kansas and North Dakota. Hess Services remains a family business with his brother, Mark, also employed by Hess Services. Dan’s children work for the firm as well.
“I always make sure there is something in the winter to do,” Hess says. “I never lay anyone off.”
Hess had worked in a machine shop out of high school, before founding his company at age 20 years. He taught himself how to run all aspects of the construction business.
“I always wanted to have my own business, and knew that early on,” Hess says. “I did it, and if there were questions, I would figure it out. There were hard times, but I never had any doubt,” Hess says.
The Correct Balance
Through the years, Hess has found a weak point in contracting is relying on other companies to have the same sense of urgency that he has. That is why he entered into the cement business, and other facets of the trade, that make his jobs more seamless and avoids delays waiting on other businesses to handle their side of the operation.
Hess reports his employees are problem solvers, who are committed to delivering a quality job and stand by their word. Matt Orr runs the shop and Bill Hand is a long-term employee.
Hess Services provides tank services for the petroleum industry across the country and Canada. But the construction side of the business is limited to Kansas and surrounding areas. Hess reports few other dirt contractors are working in the western Kansas area, and those existing are small and do not invest in intelligent machines. He plans to start tackling larger jobs, to expand the fabrication buildings, and to purchase more equipment.
“I have to watch that I do not take on too much,” Hess says. “I’m always busy. I like the challenges of taking on something different.”