Mueller Excavating — Three Generations Of Success

Story by Mike Larson, Editor | September 28, 2010

Mueller Excavating, Campbellsport, performs a wide range of site-preparation and utility work for customers in east-central Wisconsin.

Founded in 1953 by Harold Mueller, Mueller Excavating is today owned by one of his sons, Nick Mueller, who has worked in the business for 33 years.

The company's 21 employees also include Nick's brother, Tom, who heads the grading crew, and Nick's sons Dustin, who is a field supervisor, and Nathan, who handles the estimating and office.

Founder Harold, now in his 70s, still joins the crew to operate a bulldozer during summer. And many of its other highly skilled employees have served the company for more than 20 years.

Mueller Excavating's primary working area covers about a 50-mile radius from its Campbellsport headquarters, which sits about 20 miles southeast of Fond du Lac.

Mueller's frequent customers include municipal and county governments, utilities, developers, private industries, and general contractors.

Its primary work includes site grading, sewer and water installation, road grading, gravelling, and excavation.

Owner Nick Mueller says, "We pride ourselves on being professional, doing excellent work, and giving our customers 100-percent effort. We answer their calls at any time and will work Saturdays and Sundays ... whatever it takes to get the job done right."

If a customer wants, Mueller will act as the general contractor for a project, doing the site and utility work itself while subcontracting the concrete work, landscaping, electrical, and other specialty segments.

Says Dusty Mueller, "Many customers seem to appreciate our ability to take on a project that way. They like dealing with just one supplier who can make the whole project happen smoothly and on schedule."

Mueller's extensive fleet of equipment — including scrapers, haul trucks, bulldozers, hydraulic excavators, compactors, road graders, and loaders — is supplemented with rentals as projects require.

The fleet includes equipment from a select group of leading manufacturers, and all the equipment is five years old, or newer.

Says Nick Mueller, "When we're looking for a new piece of equipment, we carefully evaluate equipment from all the major manufacturers to determine which unit fits our needs best. Our experienced operators, my sons, and I all have input into the decision."

"One reason we keep our fleet up to date," he says, "is that the newer machines give us better reliability and productivity. A second reason is that we are professionals who do professional-quality work, so our equipment should look professional, new and well maintained."

The newest piece of equipment in Mueller's fleet is a brand new Deere 750J bulldozer that it purchased in April from Brooks Tractor.

Although Mueller has other dozers and graders equipped with GPS, the Deere 750J is the first Deere bulldozer in Wisconsin to be purchased with a factory-installed Trimble GPS system.

Nick Mueller explained, "When we wanted to add a dozer to our fleet, several of us, including five operators, went to the testing grounds near Phoenix, Arizona, and tried different brands and models. All of my operators agreed that the 750J was the best, so that's what we bought. Factory installation of the Trimble system made sense because we knew the dozer would arrive all dialed in and ready to go."

Son Nathan, who handles estimating and is the company's CAD expert, says, "Importing a designer's electronic plan drawings to our computer system simplifies job planning and estimating. And loading them into a GPS-equipped dozer improves productivity, efficiency and accuracy. Because of the GPS system's electronic-staking capability, we can do whole jobs without putting a single stick in the ground."

Says field supervisor Dusty, "With GPS, when you work 10 hours a day, you get 10 hours of production, not eight hours of production and two hours of staking. It saves about 25 percent, time-wise. We've been using GPS for about a year and a half, and it's always been right on. In fact, other contractors working on jobs with us have had us use our GPS to double-check their manual staking."

Mueller put its new GPS-equipped Deere 750J dozer right to work on a major project near Rosendale, WI, where Mueller is doing all the site preparation for a 100-acre dairy farm that will support 8,000 head of cattle. It is the largest dairy farm in the state.

The work includes excavating, grading, utility work, and gravelling. The job entails moving 1 million cubic yards of dirt, all of which is staying on the site, thanks to balanced cutting and filling.

Among Mueller's work on this totally stakeless job, which began in April and is due to finish in August, are grading and excavating of the foundations for two 1,340-foot-by-400-foot barns and milking parlors, digging three manure pits with a total capacity of 74 million gallons, digging feed bunkers that measure 300 feet by 400 feet and 800 feet by 600 feet, digging a 100,000-cubic-yard stormwater pond, and laying three miles of pipe.

Because of the size of the project, Mueller has dedicated three scrapers, five offroad haul trucks, five dozers, four hydraulic backhoe excavators, two compactors, a road grader, and two front-end loaders to work on it.

On working days, Mueller has moved an average of 12,000 cubic yards of earth. That kind of productivity has enabled them to stay on schedule despite not being able to work for two weeks in June because of heavy rains.

Says Nick Mueller, "Part of the reason we've been successful is that we know our craft and will do whatever it takes to make customers happy. Part of doing a good job is taking advantage of advances in technology. You have to stay current to stay competitive. The factory-installed Trimble system just makes it easier for us to do that on the Deere 750J."

He also says that his company appreciates the support it receives from Brooks Tractors' team. "The same way we go all out to please our customers," he says, "Brooks goes all out to support us. That's the kind of team philosophy that leads to excellent performance."