Expert Excavator Grading Techniques, “Like a knife through butter”
When Randy Ellis and his wife, Trisha, prepared to build a home on the family’s ranch, he was shocked at the price to purchase 300 loads of dirt for the pad. Instead of paying for the material, Ellis bought a dump truck and a rubber-tire backhoe, dug a pond on his property and used the dirt for the house pad.
While he didn’t realize it at the time, this was the origin of what today is a successful earthwork and pipeline business, R&T Ellis, Inc. More than a year ago, R&T Ellis purchased its first Komatsu excavator, an intelligent Machine Control PC490LCi-11.
“We already had used Topcon aftermarket GPS, so I liked that Komatsu integrated it into its intelligent Machine Control products,” said Ellis. “It saves us time and money by eliminating the need to put up and take down the masts, and we no longer worry about them getting damaged or stolen.”
R&T Ellis put the PC490LCi to work on a project that involved digging a canal from a river to a treatment plant in preparation for bringing a new supply of drinking water to a major U.S. city. The company’s role included clearing 350 acres, building a six-and-a-half-mile gravel access road to the canal, installing piping and moving more than 650,000 yards of earth.
“It’s like a knife through butter,” shared R&T Ellis Operator Sergio Bellestros about his experience in digging with the excavator on the canal project. “With the built-in GPS, I can get to grade without worrying about overcutting or having to leave it at a certain elevation for a dozer to finish.
Plug in Plans and Go Rule Excavator Grading Techniques
The excavator utilizes 3D design data loaded into the machine’s monitor to accurately display machine position relative to target grade. When the bucket reaches the target surface, automation kicks in to limit overexcavation.
“What stands out (about the PC490LCi) is the increased production and efficiency. We simply plug the plans into the machine and go to work. With minimal staking, we can put everything to grade faster and without the concerns about overcutting or needing someone to constantly check grade,” noted Ellis.