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Forestry Mulchers Essential for Ga. Company: Southeastern Clearing Systems Relies on Specialty SUPERTRAK Machines
Georgia Company Relies on SUPERTRAK Machines
By Diane M. Calabrese
Date Posted: 4/1/2008
CONYERS, Georgia — Build it and they will come. The aphorism gets a lot of play. But before any building can start, land must be cleared. That’s where Southeastern Clearing Systems enters the picture.
Southeastern Clearing Systems (SEC) clears vegetation rights-of-way that encompass easements, sewers, electrical lines and other projects. It cuts down the herbaceous and woody material and grinds it, usually leaving the grindings behind, spread evenly over the site. Stumps stay in the ground.
“On very rare occasion, on a sewer easement, we’ll have it logged,” said Lee Jarvis, operations manager for SEC. “We’ve found our niche,” said Lee. The company specializes in land clearing services that are required in challenging terrain – swamps, creek beds and steep slopes.
When Lee talked with TimberLine in early March, a SEC crew was going strong at a brush-clearing job at the perimeter of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. What made the job a challenge was “some very steep slopes,” he said, nearly 2 feet of rise per 1 foot of run.
To tackle the airport job, Lee sent two of the newest pieces of equipment in the SEC lineup, a SUPERTRAK SK140STR custom steel track mulcher and a SUPERTRAK SK450PP custom excavator power pack. Both are mounted with forestry mulchers. The company bought the SUPERTRAK SK140STR custom steel track mulcher just after Christmas; the SUPERTRAK SK450PP custom excavator power pack has been in service for about 18 months.
SEC depends on its machines to work autonomously. In other words, it uses machines that can fell the vegetation and also grind it into mulch. The forestry mulching attachments must be able to do the whole job.
When SEC bought a Fecon FTX440 from SUPERTRAK a few years ago, Lee got to know Tom King, president of SUPERTRAK, and John LePage, technical services manager for the company. As he got to know the men, he told them about his idea for an excavator with a forestry mulcher.
“We went to them with the idea of building this first SK450,” said Lee, who envisioned it with a separate motor – a ‘pony’ motor — on the back for the cutter head. SUPERTRAK and SEC staff conferred back and forth, and Lee visited SUPERTRAK headquarters in Punta Gorda, Fla. a few times. Ultimately, SEC and another company in Alabama got the first SUPERTRAK SK450PP custom excavator power pack machines at about the same time.
Using Caterpillar® components, SUPERTRAK manufactures land-clearing equipment and vegetation management machines. The machines are custom built to match the conditions they will confront.
The SUPERTRAK SK450PP custom excavator power pack proved to be just what SEC needed. It’s the “primary machine for clearing” now, said Lee. SEC uses it frequently to clear land for highway easements.
The SUPERTRAK SK450PP custom excavator power pack can take down a tree of virtually any size, said Lee. The operator normally cuts the tree 15-20 feet above the ground, then uses the cutter head to grind the rest of the trunk from the top-down.
“It’s more environmentally friendly,” explained Lee. The machine does not have to maneuver much so it causes less disturbance to the ground. The wood mulch helps prevent run-off, and as it decomposes over time it returns nutrients to the soil.
SUPERTRAK offers machines on tracks or wheels. The SUPERTRAK SK140STR custom steel track mulcher, for example, has a track carrier. It is a popular, versatile model that illustrates the SUPERTRAK approach. The major components of the machine, like those of nearly all SUPERTRAK machines, are from Caterpillar. Local Caterpillar dealers as well as SUPERTRAK can provide service and support.
The cutting head on the SUPERTRAK SK140STR custom steel track mulcher is a Fecon Bull Hog®. The base unit is a CAT® 287B skid-steer loader. Bigger machines also are matched with a Fecon Bull Hog, but the base unit is larger; for instance, the SUPERTRAK SK400 uses a modified CAT 533 feller-buncher as the base machine.
SEC transports its equipment to job sites with a company-owned low-boy trailer. In addition to the equipment from SUPERTRAK, SEC also has a Hydro-Ax 864 cutter and three Shinn Systems cutters. The Shinn cutters and the Fecon FTX 440 are track machines; the Hydro-Ax is a wheeled machine. A mix of wheeled and track machines gives SEC flexibility.
James King Jr., owner of Southeastern Clearing Systems, founded the company five years ago. (James is not related to Tom at SUPERTRAK.) SEC has a sister company, DeKalb Pipeline, which James also owns.
Both SEC and DeKalb Pipeline are headquartered in Conyers, Ga. The town of 10,700 is located about 25 miles southeast of Atlanta. SEC does most of its work within 100 miles of Atlanta.
James’ father started DeKalb Pipeline in 1960. James took over in 1985 when his father fell ill and James was in his early 20s. Pipeline construction work is complex. Because employees work in confined spaces, it requires leadership on safety and procedural issues.
Eventually James began thinking about starting a second company, one that would focus on land clearing. He called Lee when he was ready to start SEC. At the time, Lee was running a Shinn tractor cutter in Alabama, and James was looking for someone who could operate a Shinn. A salesman put the men into contact with each other. “When I came in, it was me and one machine,” said Lee.
That has all changed. Before the economy slowed, SEC was so busy its crews often worked seven days a week. Business has slowed, but they still work six days a week.
Lee no longer operates equipment but manages the company’s operations. He sells and bids on new jobs and monitors work in progress. The jobs vary with the type of vegetation and the terrain. “We have seven machines,” said Lee. “Each machine can clear about 1,000 feet per day.”
One machine stays out of service on almost all days. “We keep a machine here as a spare,” Lee explained. “We’ve got one that sits here in the yard.” Should something go wrong with a machine on a job site, it can quickly be switched out.
DeKalb Pipeline and SEC share their maintenance team and shop, which handle routine and major service. “We have mechanics on site,” said Lee.
Five great operators keep the equipment moving, said Lee. They are Todd Matthews, Alan Ross, James Wood, Rexanne Trantham and Robert Hart.
“We grind everything in place and leave it there,” said Lee. SEC’s goal on every project is to use equipment that is as friendly to the environment as possible.
Two other goals for each job are to get the job done quickly and control costs. Processing vegetation into mulch helps control costs because it eliminates hauling and disposal.
The multi-tasking machines on the SEC equipment roster make it possible for one machine to clear as much as one acre per day. Utility, right-of way and development sites make up most, but not all, of SEC jobs. Nature trails have also emerged thanks to the power of its machines.
The versatility of SEC is paralleled by the versatility of SUPERTRAK. The custom units SUPERTRAK offers see service not only in land clearing but also for municipal and commercial applications, agricultural development, creating fire breaks and fuel breaks.
SUPERTRAK offers custom mulching machines as its primary production units. Through the years, SUPERTRAK has been involved in special projects, including trenchers, monorail work tractors and custom utility equipment. SUPERTRAK represents a number of attachment companies as well.
SEC is a member of the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA) and the Georgia Utility Contractors Association (GUCA). James served as president of GUCA in 1993 and 1994 and he just completed a year of service as president of NUCA.
DeKalb Pipeline and SEC both put a huge emphasis on safety. The focus on safety begins with thorough training of all employees and continues with regular training. DeKalb Pipeline won a NUCA annual safety award for 2004 and 2007.
All of the equipment in use at SEC merits high marks for safety. The SUPERTRAK SK140STR custom steel track mulcher, for example, has front halogen work lights, an electrical engine monitoring system, emergency engine shut down system, side window screens and a 12,000 pound hydraulic winch and bumper kit. The cab is enclosed with air conditioning and heat. A Lexan windshield provides a formidable safety barrier to protect the operator.
Safety and continued learning are integral parts of the business at SEC. Reliable equipment simplifies both because it contributes to a safe work environment and allows ample time for planning.
Lee is currently serving on the board of the GUCA and chairs an active education committee. “Members go out to high schools and talk to students,” said Lee. “We have career expos.” At the expos, students get the opportunity to run machine simulators.
A native of Alabama, Lee moved to Conyers to work for SEC. “I enjoy going out and meeting the customers, the whole estimating process, putting the numbers together,” said Lee. He also welcomes the great relationship that he and his team have been able to develop with customers. Lee spends his free time with his family and also enjoys golfing.
The customers know what to expect from SEC. ”They know we’ll do what we say,” said Lee. The SEC crew arrives as scheduled and works as promised. That consistency is as important to SEC as it is to customers.
Although SEC restricts its work to specific above-ground, narrow right-of-way clearing projects, there are exceptions. Sometimes a sewer construction crew that has removed some stumps will call SEC to come in and grind them.
There are other variants, as well. “Sometimes on DOT right-of-ways, if it’s heavily timbered, they’ll want us to haul grindings away,” said Lee, because of the large volume of material.
During his years on the community service committee of GUCA, Lee worked on several projects for Habitat for Humanity. One of them involved clearing for a small subdivision.
More recently, SEC played a role in an ABC Television Extreme Makeover Home Edition project in Atlanta.
SUPERTRAK began in 1986. A commitment to putting together durable component equipment in a way that matches the needs of its customers is the hallmark of the company. For SEC, the result is the SUPERTRAK SK450PP custom excavator power pack.
For other SUPERTRAK customers, however, the result is something completely different and may be slightly off the beaten path of wood products. The Las Vegas monorail system, a Fortune 500 entertainment park, the Los Angeles County Fire Department – Heavy Equipment Division and a Florida-based utility company all have benefited from the technical know-how of SUPERTRAK and its creative use of OEM (original equipment manufacturer) components. SUPERTRAK has even built mechanical citrus harvesting equipment.
SUPERTRAK equipment has proven a good match for SEC. It’s tough and fast and predictable, the same qualities that SEC strives to replicate each day.
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