That amazing transition was made possible through equal parts old-fashioned Midwest tenacity and innovative 3D LPS technology. While his new staff is only a fraction as large as that of his “previous life,” the technology he employs has allowed him to take on more work – and do it faster and better – than others in his field with a much more robust workforce.
“There’s no denying we were a successful business,” he said. “However, we grew to a staff of about 40 and when you get that big, the size of the headaches and challenges, overshadows any added profits. Eventually, it became more than I wanted to handle. Around 2016, I did some research and found two things: first, no one was doing mechanical screeding in this area, and second, a Ligchine laser-guided screed seemed to be the best way to go. So, I reached out to representatives from the company, purchased my first unit – a Ligchine ScreedSaver Max – and Elite was born.”
Today, largely because of that and subsequent Ligchine purchases, Elite has grown to a staff of only three people yet performs between 200 and 300 projects per year, ranging in size from small to very large. In addition, seeing an opportunity to expand, if not their ranks, at least their capabilities, they’ve added grading services to the mix, making them an even more formidable player in the Des Moines-area paving market.
“LPS opened up a whole new world for us,” said Eischeid. “We were now able to tackle bigger, more complex jobs, be more efficient on them, and even increase the level of accuracy we brought to the job site. The Ligchine screed, which was already a powerful tool for us, was instantly made even more valuable.”
Elite’s Ligchine 3D LPS paving system utilizes a fast-tracking Topcon GT Series robotic total station to register and maintain screed position from a machine-mounted prism and sonic tracker. Height adjustments – transmitted to and from the screed at a rate of 10 times per second – maintain even the tightest accuracies. Using LPS, Elite was now able to quickly and accurately place concrete on grade, slope, dual slope and 3D contours.
“Because we were no longer limited to working solely with flat floors or even flat slopes, it literally changed the game for us,” said Eischeid.
“What made the Level Best the best possible choice for Matt and his team was the fact that they already had the Topcon grade control solution they needed on their Ligchine screed,” said Bickner. “It was a simple matter of switching the components over to the Level Best and, working off a single 3D model, getting the same degree of accuracies for grading.”
Once grading is complete, the system can be easily moved back over to the Ligchine and the concrete facet of the job can begin. “It’s fairly inexpensive to get into grading if you already have the 3D system,” said Eischeid. “In essence, we now have the best of both worlds.”
“This project was outstanding and the system more than proved itself,” said Eischeid. “With the 3D solution, on average, one person in one machine can generally grade between 7,000 to 10,000 square feet per hour while maintaining accuracies to within a 1/4-inch. Similarly, after grading with the 3D LPS, we can almost always get our concrete yields on our pours down to within 2 percent. Both were the case here.”
That last point, concrete yields, is extremely key in today’s highly competitive construction landscape. In fact, according to Topcon Solution Store’s Bickner, lack of subgrade accuracy can dramatically affect the profitability of any pour.
“Creating an accurate subgrade is huge,” he said. “Being even 1/4-inch off on a 100,000 square foot pour can result in $20,000 to $30,000 off your bottom line. That’s why customers like Elite value the Topcon 3D LPS solution so much – it allows them to keep that subgrade on the money and eliminate the risk of bad yields. Couple that with the fact that it is easily movable between the grading and paving machinery and it’s easy to see why Matt is so pleased with it.”
“If the general contractor chose to grade that parking lot themselves using traditional means, it would have easily taken them a full day to grade it,” he said. “Using the Level Best with 3D, I did it in roughly two hours. The screeding part of the job presents different but equally compelling advantages. While there are cases in which manual screeding is better – accessing hard-to-reach areas, for example – the Ligchine running 3D LPS is far more accurate, produces a better product and doesn’t suffer from heat exhaustion or backaches as a crew yielding a 2x4 can.”
He added that their fleet – any component of which can run the Topcon 3D LPS solution – has served them well and allows them to do the volume of business they currently do.
“While we have the potential to grow the business, I’m content where we are right now. I’ve run a large company and doing so again doesn’t appeal to me at all. My guys and I work hard, we get great service from our equipment and the team at the Topcon Solutions Store and we have more than enough work. I’ll take that all day long.”