Quick Q&A: We Discuss Economy Grade Control Attachments and Technologies with Level Best

Level Best makes some of the top grade control attachments for skid steers and track loaders in the industry. Its new Precision Grader Blade works with any guidance system, which is a big deal. Level Best has partnered with John Deere to sell grade boxes and has one of the most diverse offerings of precision grading attachments in the skid steer/track loader marketplace. The folks at Level Best understand grading attachments and machine control systems — especially economy grade control applications (a common theme we’ve been covering) — so I reached out to Jack Herr, executive vice president at ATI Corp., maker of Level Best Precision Grading Equipment.

I threw a few questions at Herr, and he threw these back.

Compact Equipment: Jack, we appreciate your time in talking with us today. Let’s start off with your entry-level grade control system offerings for compact track loaders. Explain the capabilities of these systems. What kinds of jobs can they perform?

Herr: A laser-guided grade control system is the most cost-effective system for compact track loaders. A laser-guided system is ideal for flat surfaces with single or dual slopes. Keep in mind that a laser-guided system will only be able to grade a single plane with the same slope at any one time. Any changes to the slope or the plane will require a different setup for the rotating laser to accommodate the change in grade.

Let’s take grade boxes. Single-mast grade boxes are normally used with the most basic laser-guided grade control. Despite their lower cost, single-mast machines are very productive, accurate and easy to use. The single-mast PS-series Level Best grade box with laser controls grade surfaces to a 1/10th of an inch on both level and sloped planes. A single-mast laser system can even grade slope in both the X & Y axis but requires more operator discipline to be most time efficient. The single-mast grade box’s downside is that it tends to create terracing on grades with slope. An attentive operator will work in figure-eight patterns or large arcs to prevent the terracing effect. Single-mast grade boxes are best suited for pads with larger square footage since the loader has more move to maneuver in the figure-eight patterns. Installation is easy and daily set-up requires just a few minutes to bench the system each day.

The dual-mast PD-Series Level Best grade boxes are the most popular grade control machines for compact track loaders. Dual-mast models vastly outsell single-mast units. The question is why? Dual-mast grade boxes provide greater accuracy across the cutting edge and are more productive than its single-mast sibling. Dual-mast grade boxes can work in straight lines and in tighter areas since the machine can adjust within itself to match grade no matter which direction its grading. Dual-mast grade boxes are also able to be used in 3D grading applications which makes them the ideal entry-level grade control attachment because it easily grows with your business.

Our new GB-108 grading blade is very similar to a dual-mast grade box in the grade control configuration. The advantage of a grader blade over the grade box is that it adds the features of blade angle to windrow material and blade side shift to move around utilities and obstacles. The grader blade also provides a flexible platform that can grow with your business.

How much can an entry-level grade control system cost for compact track loaders? Can you give us a range? Are there options?

Entry-level grade boxes begin just over $18,000 for a laser system on the single-mast PS-Series Level Best grade box. The dual-mast PD-Series grade boxes add another $11,000 over the single-mast model due to the added components and complexity of the attachment. The dual-mast model is far and away the best seller of the Level Best grade boxes due to its ability to be upgraded to 3D grading and its greater efficiency over the single-mast models in tight jobsites.

The Level Best GB-108 grader blade with a basic 2D laser system begins around $36,000. The grader blade can accomplish similar accuracy and performance as the less-expensive box blades. The grader blade has the added benefits of better cutting, the ability to windrow material and side-shift the blade. In short, the grader blade delivers added versatility in function and which broadens the type of jobs it can do.

Level Best precision grading products work with the major brands of grade control equipment and virtually all the brands of compact track loaders for an extremely flexible platform.

How easy is it to upgrade grade control systems for compact track loaders? How can contractors ensure when they invest in a grade control operation that they can upgrade it later if they need to? What’s the next step up from the most basic systems?

Level Best precision grading products are designed with future upgrades in mind. This is one of the reasons why our dual-mast grade boxes are more popular than the single-mast boxes. The dual-mast machines allow for much more flexibility as grade control technology advances. Level Best’s goal is to make upgrades to our precision grading machines as simple as possible for the contractor. Making the leap from 2D laser controls to 3D grading can be as little as a couple hours for our grade control dealers who offer 3D options. Plugging in the new systems’ hardware only takes minutes and then getting the 3D system calibrated by the technician is the most critical part. Level Best precision grading products can routinely switch between 2D and 3D applications as the contractor’s jobs change.

What sort of operational insights can you share with a contractor looking to invest in an entry-level grade control system? How much training is involved? What should a professional always keep top of mind when operating these more basic systems?

Involve your technology dealer from the very beginning. Technology is constantly changing and improving, so having an in-depth, introductory conversation with a technology dealer is essential. Talk about the future. Explain to your dealer where you think your business may be headed. Your grade control technology dealer will help you to lay the foundation for cost-effective upgrades in the future. Listen to what the dealer has to say since they are working with customers like yourself daily. Your dealer will have plenty of examples of what has worked for other contractors. Often a little more investment up front will help to save money down the road.

What sort of regular maintenance or calibration is needed on these entry-level grade control systems to keep them up and running efficiently? How often is this done?

Technology components installed on Level Best precision grading machines are generally maintenance-free with proper care. Learn the basic methods of good care and housekeeping of the components being used. Make them a daily habit. Teach other members of your team the same methods. Handle the technology components like you would a laptop computer by keeping them clean, dry and avoid rough handling or drops. The technology components are sold with carrying cases which should be used and kept from major swings in temperature.

The rotating lasers and 3D equipment often require periodic maintenance and calibration to keep its accuracy. Your technology dealer will be able to make recommendations for the items you purchase.

For more info on Level Best attachments, click this link.

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