Business: Western Earthworks
In business since: 2015
Location: Florence, Massachusetts
Doosan equipment: DX140LC-3, DX140LCR-5, DX170LC-5, DX235LCR-5 and DX350LC-5 crawler excavators; DL220-5 wheel loader; DA30 articulated dump truck
Doosan dealer: Barry Equipment
Jack Henderson-Adams’ obsession with equipment began at a young age.
“Really it started out with toy machines on the living room rug of my childhood home,” Jack says. “It moved outside to the sandbox and from there to driving a lawnmower. I’ve always kind of gravitated towards engines and things that make noise. If it’s got wheels or tracks and a motor, I’m usually all over it.”
Hailing from a family of teachers, Jack bucked family tradition and chose an equipment-focused path. He worked at a farm and at landscaping companies in his teens. After stints grooming snow at a ski resort and working in construction and land clearing, he jumped into a career selling heavy equipment before striking out on his own six years ago at age 32 to launch Western Earthworks. A common theme of all his jobs? Equipment.
“I’ve always stuck to this because I don’t know what else I’d want to be doing,” he says. “It’s about solving problems, and the feeling you get after you complete those tasks. That leads you from one project to the next and leaves you kind of hungry for more.”
Western Earthworks offers a variety of construction- and site-related services. The company’s services include the following: solar development, residential construction, road installation, land clearing, septic system work and landscape construction.
“We kind of cover the whole gamut,” Jack says. “We have a softer touch, I think, than many other big commercial construction companies because some of the wetland areas in these projects are extremely fragile. You need to approach them as such. We’re at home with these specialty projects.”
SPECIALIZING IN SOLAR
Jack says his company has been taking on more and more solar projects, bringing knowledge and expertise to the job. A recent project that required Western Earthworks’ special touch was a new 3.5-megawatt commercial solar farm installation in Lunenburg, Massachusetts. Lunenburg, pop. 11,657, is roughly 45 miles northwest of Boston and prides itself on offering community solar power for its residents.
The first step in solar farm construction? Preparing the land. Western Earthworks cleared and prepped 12 acres for Lunenburg’s new solar farm. Jack noted that, as with any project, this one presented some unique challenges.
“Working near wetlands in Massachusetts, we face strict guidelines and regulations,” he says. “Some of these wetlands in our project areas are fragile. We need to approach them as such.
“We strive to become a leader in this field. We welcome the challenge. Although these challenges can make our job difficult at times, it is 100% there for our future. And it’s for the wellbeing of our ecosystems that we work around.”
I can basically work my way across the jobsite and do it all with one machine.
CLEARING, GRADING AND EXCAVATING
To kick off the site preparation stage of the solar farm project, Jack and the Western Earthworks crew first built an approximately 3,000-foot access road from the nearby street, which involved navigating a sensitive wetland crossing. Next, they cleared the area of existing trees and foliage and stacked the felled trees. Both projects relied on the power of a Doosan® DX170LC-5 crawler excavator with a dangle harvesting head attachment.
“The equipment needs to be flexible,” Jack says. “The dangle head hangs and freely swings from the excavator’s quick coupler. It’s paired with a bucket-thumb combo, which allows us to fell and buck the wood onsite.”
A second Doosan excavator, a DX225LC-5, lifted and fed the knocked-down trees into a horizontal grinder for processing into mulch, which the crew then placed in strategic areas around the property for erosion control purposes. The DX225LC-5 also went back over the land to remove the remaining tree stumps using a bucket and thumb. When the operator grabbed and pulled the stumps, most of the dirt fell through the thumb’s tines, speeding up the stump removal process and minimizing the need for material handling.
“I like how stable the machine is,” says John Hansberry, an operator on the Western Earthworks crew. “I can reach really far. It curls out and has plenty of height to load a haul truck. With the thumb, we can handle things like grindings, moving sticks and pulling stumps. I can basically work my way across the jobsite and do it all with one machine.”
With the land clearing complete, the Western Earthworks crew switched into excavating and grading mode. After performing a 5,000-yard cut and a 5,000-yard fill, they laid 6,000 cubic yards of topsoil onto the site using a DL220-5 wheel loader. They then cleared the area of any stones larger than six inches in diameter before grading the land to the project’s specifications.
“I’d say this machine is very precise,” John says. “The joysticks are pretty solid. I definitely feel in control. I don’t worry about hitting anything I don't want to. I don't have to track backwards to pick something up.”
Next, the DX170LC-5 and the DX225LC-5 joined yet another Doosan excavator — a DX235LCR-5 — to trench the area for underground utilities using trenching and digging buckets. Once the trenching stage was done, the crew had completed about 3,000 feet of trenching to support the solar farm utilities.
“The DX235LCR-5 excavator’s reduced tail swing is great for digging around panels and racking,” Jack says. “When we trench, this is our go-to for maneuverability and breakout force.”
After completing the land clearing and dirt work, Western Earthworks wrapped up their portion of the solar farm project by pouring several thousand feet of concrete and hydroseeding 550,000 square feet of land for erosion control purposes.
FINDING THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT PARTNER
Jack started his company with another brand of equipment, but after experiencing poor rental rates from the other manufacturer’s dealer, he began looking for a new equipment partner.
“I’m an up-and-comer — no one’s giving me the time of day,” Jack says. “I’m in my mid-30s saying I have an excavating company.”
Jack knew a few of the employees at Barry Equipment, his local Doosan dealer, so he gave them a call. He rented a DX140LC for a job and was impressed at the price, reliability and quality of the machine, so he signed a lease agreement.
“The leasing program really allowed me to get my hands on equipment that I could call my own,” Jack says. “On top of that, I got a chance to go out to The ROC (Real Operation Center). I met some of the techs out there. They wanted us to tell them what we liked about the equipment. They wanted to hear feedback from the people out in the field. They wanted to make those changes. I got behind that immediately because that very much relates to a lot of my background with experiences I’ve had with equipment.”
Today, Western Earthworks leases seven Doosan machines to take on their various projects. Jack appreciates the equipment’s fuel efficiency and quality construction.
“I’ve found that despite being large-frame machines, the craftsmanship, the construction, the way the machines are put together — there’s not one thing on these machines that isn’t well thought out,” Jack says. “Sprockets, idlers, chains, pads, they all look like they just left the factory. Despite how rough our jobsites are, it’s not a concern that I have.”
Jack prefers leasing to buying because it allows for a more predictable cash flow and equipment flexibility for his business, and he prefers leasing to buying used because he knows he’ll be in a brand-new machine with no hidden issues.
“If I want that machine, I’m going to buy it,” Jack says. “I know where it’s been. I know how I took care of it. I know every little nook and cranny, scratch, ding and dent, and I own it. It’s mine. There are no surprises. It makes me feel safe.”
Jack has full confidence in his Doosan equipment, but if he does have an issue come up, he knows his sales specialist, Joe Barry, and the rest of the Barry Equipment team have his back.
“If I need parts or if I have problems, Barry Equipment is going to be here,” Jack says. “I’m just the little guy. To have someone come out, service your stuff, pick up the phone when you have a question — that means a lot. When you have confidence in the people behind you and the equipment underneath you, it gives you a lot of confidence going at new projects because that’s one less thing that you have to worry about.”
Jack places a high value on keeping the Western Earthworks crew safe on the job.
“Safety is really important to me,” Jack says. “The guys that I have working under me I consider family. They’re my responsibility. They’re my crew. The communication is really what it comes down to. In this working environment, you can’t take anything for granted and you cannot assume anything.”
HERE ARE FIVE WAYS JACK HELPS HIS CREW PUT SAFETY FIRST:
- Regular safety meetings: “We meet every Monday and usually have a safety meeting for 45 minutes to an hour. We touch on a lot of different principles.”
- Reviewing safety incidents: “I watch what goes on in the nation and if there’s a big accident that happened, I like to have an after-action review with the guys to line up how these accidents happen and then what precautions could be taken to avoid them.”
- On-the-job instruction: “If I see something on the job, I use that as the best way to train. I’ll stop everybody and bring everyone over. We’ll look at what’s going on and what’s not safe about it or what will happen if people continue. I have a young crew. It’s talking it over so they understand why that happened and how it can be avoided the next time.”
- Morning kickoff meetings: “If we’re driving an hour and you get to the job, you’re taking a huge risk when you jump out of that vehicle and jump into the machine and just go to work. We take time in the morning for us to have a tailgate meeting, switch gears and get everyone on the same page.”
- Cameras on: “From a business owner’s standpoint I make sure that if our guys are in any sort of confined operating area, the equipment cameras are on. It’s a no-brainer. It comes down to safety and it also saves a few bucks for damage.”
“The five minutes that it’s going to take you in the morning to discuss with your guys about where you’re at, what you're doing, why you’re doing it and the dangers that are incorporated with it, that triggers thinking and that puts them into a place where they’re thinking about it,” Jack says. “The smallest little thing on a jobsite — there’s no need for that not to get explained to the guys because at some point over the course of the day or the week or the project in its entirety, that small little thing could be life or death.”