Smaller Contractor — Big Capabilities

By Jeff Winke | September 28, 2010

As the crow flies, Burlington, Wis., is easy to get to. For wingless mortals, it's a bit more difficult.

The 9,936 residents of this southeastern Wisconsin community don't seem to mind. In fact, they seem to relish being out of the way, since a fair number of them have lived there for generations.

One such long-timer is Wanasek Corp., an excavating and utility contractor that has roots dating back to the early 20th century. Over the years, the original Wanasek blacksmith shop and horse shoeing business evolved into a trenching and utility-pole drilling service ... and most recently into a mid-size earthmover specializing in site-prep work for the expanding residential subdivision market.

"We got seriously into excavating about five to eight years ago — starting out with parking lots and other small jobs, which led us to purchase the first of several scrappers, which allowed us to get into mass excavating and finish grading," said Nick Mianecki, civil engineer technician with Wanasek Corp.

Subdivision to fit with nature

At its summer peak, the company employs a little more than 80 and targets work within about a 50-mile radius of its Burlington headquarters. A significant current project is the Fox River Landing subdivision at the Murphy Farm. Nestled along the fast moving Fox River, Wanasek was instrumental in designing the site plan to preserve the natural habitat. "We built some wetlands and preserved the environment along the river, since most people choosing to live in this area appreciate the indigenous wildlife," Mianecki said.

Started in July 2005, the Fox River Landing site-prep project was divided into four distinct phases with target deadlines. The phases correspond to completing different areas of the overall site, with erosion control being one of the phases. Erosion control includes a detention pond, a retention pond and an overflow area in the rare event of the Fox River overflowing.

The first phase was slated to be completed by last fall, with the curb, gutter and binder pavement completed prior to the start of the harsh Wisconsin winter. Resumption of the other three phases was to begin in spring 2006.

Completed in half the time

"With the help of a mild winter and GPS-based grade control, we were able to knock out all four phases by the fall," Mianecki stated. "Now that winter is gone, we're just completing the finish grading. The developer was bothsurprised and pleased with our accelerated progress, and homes are already being built well ahead of schedule."

Mianecki added: "In addition to the warm winter, attribute our ability to complete everything so far ahead of schedule to having the Trimble® GCS900 Grade Control System. With the GPS-based system, we have tremendous flexibility and can move from one area of the job site to another with the operator knowing exactly what needs to be done and what already has been completed in relation to the plan's specifications. I can't say enough about the system — especially when youconsider that we'll complete this project in literally half the time."

Two Caterpillar track-type tractors — a D6N LGP and a D5G LGP XL — are equipped with the Trimble systems. The pair of machines will be moving 400,000 cubic yards of soil when all is said and done. Most of the 80-acre Fox River Landing subdivision site was former farmland, although there were some unforeseen natural wetland areas that posed challenges.

Wanasek is responsible for building the 130 pads for the new homes, which will be placed on the picturesque hilly terrain. "I like it that the slope iscalculated right off the dual antennas on the dozer and not some box located in the operator compartment," Mianecki said. "We're not seeing any compromises in the calculations."

Mianecki uses a Trimble Site Positioning System rover to set up the job site. "Whatever surveyors do, I can do the same with the Site Positioning System," stated Mianecki. "The rover allows me to do multiple tasks. I can set up a dozer, complete a topo, and create complete site layouts."

Management is happy

"You know we're still relatively new to the GPS-based grade control technology and the Trimble Site Positioning System rover," Mianecki said. "What sold my management was the productivity gains, combined with the desire to remain competitive in this market — where bids can be separated by pennies per yard.

"Additionally, attending Trimble Dimensions last year was a great experience. It was awesome to meet other guys that had been using GPS-based grade control and learn how the system was working for them. The event was very worthwhile," stated Mianecki.

Of particular help on the project, according to Mianecki, is the Trimble MS980 smart antenna. "The advantage of the smart antenna is that it compensates for slopes. The blade is at the base of a flat plane and it doesn't have to compensate on its calculations once you tip the blade. We love it for grading all kinds of slopes since it has true corrections without any error. This feature helped us tremendously when we had to excavate the ponds and the basements on some of the home sites, which have some pretty steep slopes."

Done, gone, out of here

Wanasek plans to be done, gone and on to a new project well in advance of the promised deadline.

"We honestly couldn't have done this without all the technology," Mianecki said. "I developed the digital terrain model siteplan myself using trimble Teramodel® software. I did all the set up with the Trimble Office Suite, so I have seamless integration of data coming from the office computer going to the machine and the rover. I can see exactly what's happening before it hits the actual site and is being put to use. The machine operator has the digital siteplan and all the data to complete the job right the first time with no rework. Plus, because of the Trimble GCCS900 Grade Control System, the operator is empowered to move from one completed task to another without any hesitation. The whole package is doesn't get any better."