Based in Aspen, Colo., Stutsman Gerbaz Earthmoving is known throughout Colorado’s picturesque Roaring Fork Valley as one of the most competitive and respected earthmoving companies in the region. The family-owned company has completed excavation work for a range of notable projects throughout the area, including Aspen High School, the Aspen Square Building, the Aspen Meadows Resort, and the Norway Lodge in Snowmass, which the company excavated in 1961 and still stands today.
Founded in 1960, Stutsman Gerbaz is Aspen’s oldest earthmoving company, and since day one, company leaders have prided themselves on being on the cutting edge of technology. Today, that means finding new ways to use the latest in GPS machine control, which is improving productivity and safety across the company’s projects.
“I’ve always been interested in finding ways to use GPS technology to do our jobs better and more efficiently for customers,” said Shay Stutsman, vice president of Stutsman Gerbaz. “Last summer we started talking about how great it would be if we could use the GCS900 machine control system on our track loader. I reached out to our partners at SITECH Rocky Mountain, and together, we brainstormed a way to make it happen.”
SITECH Rocky Mountain adapted a wheel loader kit to work on a track loader. On the loader, the GCS900 system works by using GNSS receivers and angle sensors to measure the precise 3D position of the tip of the bucket with the 3D site plan. This information is then displayed on the control box in the cab of the machines where the operator can excavate and cut to grade precisely.
Soon after the GCS900 installation, Stutsman Gerbaz was hired for a waterline replacement in downtown Aspen across from the new Aspen Police Station. Stutsman Gerbaz was hired to complete the excavation and grading work, including meeting a tight grade tolerance for a six-inch road base, after the initial contractor needed help meeting the job’s tight deadlines. Using their new machine control system, the team cut to grade perfectly on the first pass. The track loader also allowed the operator to work in the tight space provided, with limited disruption to the roadway, other businesses and traffic patterns. The team completed the job in less than a week; Stutsman estimates his team finished the work in 1/3 of the time compared to traditional grading that requires a survey and setting, and re-setting stakes.
“This was a very high-profile job for us right in downtown Aspen. We were working under a microscope with the hustle and bustle of downtown all around us, and we had to work diligently to minimize any negative impact to people and traffic,” said Stutsman. “Engineers, geo-techs and quality control people from the city all agreed that our grade passed with flying colors. The GCS900 proved itself 100 times over on that job. They were surprised at first, and then very pleased with how efficiently we could do this work and meet the extreme accuracy that was demanded of us.”
Another significant benefit of using the machine control system is that the 3D model, loaded onto the in-cab control box, allows the operator to see where the current utility lines are placed. This saves tremendous time and costs once spent surveying and staking out existing utility lines.
“The ability to know where all the existing utilities are in real-time allows for much faster production because we don’t have to wait on surveyors or field crews,” said Stutsman. “Our operator can just jump in, pull up the correct design file and get to work, picking up where he left off.”
Stutsman believes the successful completion of the waterline replacement helped the team earn the grading job for the city’s new police station and new sheriff’s building, also near downtown Aspen. The company was awarded jobs with two different contractors for the construction, grading and renovation work of the two projects. The project involved some demolition work as well as excavation for a 30,000-sq-ft building, most of which will be an underground parking garage for police vehicles. The project also requires underpinning the building for added stability before the excavation of 13,000 cubic yards of dirt is complete.
At the start of the project, Stutsman Gerbaz moved the Trimble Cab Kit to its larger dozer. The added flexibility of moving the machine control system gives the team greater options when planning and executing projects across the valley. With the positioning system on board, Stutsman estimates earthworks for the police and sheriff stations will take about 45 days to complete. The grade control system also helps keep the two jobs separate by allowing the operator to simply select the correct design file designated for each project. With the GCS900 machine control, Stutsman believes his team can cut off about two weeks excavation time.
“Having machine control on our dozers allows us to bid projects in and around the Aspen area and be a lot more competitive,” said Stutsman. “We are able to give our clients a better product in a timelier fashion, which helps us stand apart. And, going forward we’ll definitely realize a financial return on our investment as we continue to add more projects.”
Looking ahead, Stutsman Gerbaz plans to purchase an additional excavator that is ready to receive the Trimble Cab Kit. The team is also considering renting an additional cab kit for the second machine to help meet demand.
“We started out just looking for a way to meet the challenge of working to grade, quickly and in tight spaces, but we were pleased to learn that we seem to be the first contractors to put dual GPS systems on a track-type loader,” said Stutsman. “That’s exciting, and we’re happy to report that so far the results have been fantastic.”