Faced with a huge site development project and a very tight window of completion, David Brady, Jr., did what a lot of his fellow site work specialists might do: He opted for adding larger iron to maximize productivity in the earthwork portion of the job. Unlike some of those same colleagues, however, Brady knew that a larger machine is only as good as the GNSS-based machine control solution that drives it.
So when he learned that the new Cat D6N dozer he was taking delivery of could be equipped with 3D-MCMAX, the latest version of machine control from Topcon, he jumped at the chance to be the first in central Florida to boast that system. Today, that daunting development project has been tamed, the work schedule is suddenly a doable affair and Brady Construction finds itself at the forefront of new GNSS technology.
On Top of It
The project mentioned above that drove Brady to upsize his earthmoving effort was the ongoing expansion of “On Top of the World,” one of the oldest of the many active adult communities proliferating throughout Florida. These developments, often only open to residents aged 55 or older, offer a complete, self-contained lifestyle for those who choose it. Featuring everything from theaters to recreational facilities to retail shopping to the requisite golf courses, adult communities are enjoying a huge upsurge in popularity, according to Brady Jr., vice president of Brady Construction of Ocala, Inc.
“The combination of the economy getting better and the fact that Baby Boomers are retiring at record numbers now, has been great for developments like On Top of the World,” he says. “Almost every one of these communities in the state—whether it’s this one, or The Villages, or any of the Del Webb communities—is growing to keep up with the demand, so companies like ours are working hard to help make that growth a reality for them.”
The Brady Bunch
According to Brady Jr., though they are a prime client, On Top of the World is a fairly recent addition to the Brady client list. In fact, the company—started in 1978 by David Brady, Sr.—actually has its roots in land clearing. After a few years in business, he purchased a motor grader and began tackling small road projects, shifting the focus away from the clearing effort. Shortly afterwards, the burgeoning thoroughbred horse industry in the Ocala area beckoned, and Brady Construction answered that call.
“From the early ’80s through the early ’90s, my father did a lot of work creating horse training tracks and doing site work on area farms,” says Brady Jr. “But when that business started tapering off, rather than going back to clearing, he began taking on subdivision work. I joined my dad in the business in 1990, and that continues to be the bulk of our business today, some 26 years later.”
The company continued an upward trajectory until the economic slowdown, which hit Florida particularly hard. By that time they had about 47 employees, 11 dump trucks, and an impressive fleet of heavy equipment. “When the recession hit, we downsized both people and equipment and were fortunate to be able make it through the toughest times,” he says. “Then, a few years back, we had a streak of some very good luck, first landing a site project for a new Publix grocery store, then, shortly afterwards, getting out first work for On Top of the World. We’ve been out here ever since, working every day—they always manage to have something for us to do. So when they call saying they need a project done quickly, we respond.”
A Big Switch
Brady got just such a call recently from On Top of The World, which was looking to further expand one of its subdivisions, an area called Avalon. The fact that the developer was hoping to have work on the new 98-lot community started by mid-July and completed by year’s end prompted him to consider making an additional capital investment.
“We knew we wanted a Cat D6N, which comes with a 13-foot, 5-inch blade—perfect for the size and scope of the work we needed to get done,” says Brady. “And, over the years, we’ve become firm believers in Topcon 3D-MC2 machine control for all of our site work, so we wanted that as well. However, the D6 shipped was already equipped with a machine control system of its own. So we contacted Roger Croft at Lengemann of Florida, the regional Topcon dealer we worked with for all our previous purchases, to see what we could do.”
His preference for the Topcon machine control solution was based on side-by-side comparisons with a competitive system. In 2006, when he purchased his first two dozers with machine control—a Cat D5 and John Deere 650—one came with Topcon 3D-MC2 and the other with an alternative system.
“We found that the Topcon system was faster and smoother, and provided much better reception around treed areas,” says Brady. “Luckily for us, when we took delivery of the D6N, Lengemann was just introducing 3D-MCMAX, the newest machine control solution from Topcon. Because I’m always looking for ways to take our operation forward, I had Lengemann install the 3D-MCMAX. It was an excellent decision on our part—the pairing of the new system with the added capacity of the D6N was just what we needed out here.”
A Cat D6N equipped with TopCon’s 3D-MCMAX
Work at the Avalon site included clearing and grading more than 80,000 cubic yards of soil for the home sites, grading for roads, and creation of several sizeable retention ponds. Brady says the D6N running the new mastless machine control system impressed them right out of the gate.
“We’ve always been extremely happy with the performance we get out of the machines running 3D-MC2—we use it on two of our other dozers and a motor grader,” he says. “But we weren’t prepared for what 3D-MCMAX brought to the table. The combination of the D6N’s larger push capacity and the speed and accuracy of the Topcon solution got our attention very quickly. Once my operator was in full swing he was outperforming the other two dozers combined.”
According to the company’s chief operator, Brian Rogers, the new system offers performance advantages far beyond expectations. “Unlike other systems in which the pointer can only indicate the blade’s center and edges, the Topcon solution allows me to place that pointer anywhere on the blade,” he says. “This machine has a 13-foot-wide blade, and if I am in a 7-foot-wide swale, other systems would have a tendency to read the grade beyond the corner of the blade. With MAX, by moving the pointer off the corner of the blade, the system can zero in on the slope of the swale. And all of this can be done right from the screen; there is no having to dig deep into ‘advanced settings’ as with other control software.”
Lost in all the numbers and results is the fact that 3D-MCMAX is a mastless system. For Brady, that feature was a big part of the decision to go with the new Topcon solution.
“Not having to climb up to install and take down the antennas—then being able to just leave it all at the end of the day—is great for us. And because there is just one cable, anyone looking at the machine would not even know it has GPS on it, so the risk of theft is reduced,” he says.
Freed From Lines
Additional advantages cited by Rogers include the system software’s ability to manipulate line work as needed. He says that, should he find himself working an area with a curb indicated onscreen and there is also line work for a storm sewer or other feature conflicting with that curb, he can easily remove the storm’s line work and just follow the curb.
“With other systems, if you bring in a dozen sets of lines, you have no choice but to look at them,” says Rogers. “With this one, I can bring in as many lines as I like, but if I want to turn off half of them and only view the remaining half, I can easily do so. That’s a great feature to have.”
Though Brady’s 3D-MCMAX system is markedly faster, he insists that smart site work is about more than just speed. “My dad found out that, because Florida sand is extremely abrasive on steel, if you run a dozer slower but push a bigger blade, you will be more productive and maximize the life of your machine. We’ve proven that out in a big way: while most people get 2,500 to 3,000 hours on their tracks, we are regularly getting 5,000 hours.”According to Brady, the Avalon project is currently waiting on the utility contractor to wrap up their work, at which point his crew will come right behind them and start building the roads. “On Top of the World has been a dream project for us,” he says. “It is perfect for a company of our size, and having the capabilities we do now makes it even better for us to provide the service our clients expect.”