Less Maintenance and More Output with a Change to Pitbull Screeners

There’s nothing like downtime to destroy productivity and profitability. Whether you’re a contractor or a rental dealer, downtime means increased maintenance costs, less utilization of your equipment assets and lost opportunity. Western States Cat, a full-service Caterpillar dealer serving the Pacific Northwest, faced the effects of downtime firsthand with its fleet of portable screening plants. They had the machines in their rental fleet for five or six years and were finding that rather than making the company money, they were costing money and opportunity, and were preventing Western States from serving the needs of their customer base.

“When both customers and sales people are frustrated, it’s an indication that it’s time to look at another solution,” said Merv Lewis, rental program specialist at Western States. “Our salespeople didn’t even want to rent the screeners out, because they knew that they would have to spend a large amount of time addressing issues. Their time was better spent focusing on other sales.”

But the problem wasn’t the only hassle for the Western States team, it was the inconvenience for the customer. Often, within one day, customers were calling Lewis and his team to have maintenance issues addressed or to get assistance setting up the screening unit.

“Our customers are working on tight timelines and they need a machine that is portable and efficient to get their job done on time,” Lewis said. “The solutions we were offering limited the customer in application and efficiency and that’s not the way we serve our customers.”

Western States realized they needed to find another solution that would provide their customers with a machine that could screen a wide array of materials, would be portable, easy to move and set up and would eliminate the maintenance issues that were limiting their customers productivity. With rental locations in Washington, Idaho, Montana,

Oregon and Wyoming, they had a wide variety of material – from topsoil, clay and dried manure to large river rock – that a screener would need to process efficiently. Lewis also set out to find a screening unit that offered a conveyor system to avoid the current issue of screened material dumping directly under the machine, wasting valuable time digging the material out.

Overall productivity was a significant factor, not only in terms of maintenance but also the performance and capabilities of the machine. The current model was easily overloaded causing the unit to shut down.

“Our customers don’t need a large screening unit,” Lewis said, “but they definitely needed something more productive than the smaller screeners used for homeowner types of projects.”

 

Finding a Better Screener

It was an almost empty office on a late Friday afternoon in early 2015 when Lake Erie Portable Screeners factory representative Stuart Foradora answered the phone. An executive from Western States Cat was on the other end requesting a demo of the Pitbull 2300 Screening Plant as soon as possible. Foradora was happy to oblige.

“I was glad I picked up,” he said. “I listened to what he said they needed the machine to be able to do and told him right away that we had a screener that could do all of that and more.”

The screening plant arrived in Idaho the next week and Lake Erie Portable Screeners provided a demonstration. Lewis said they quickly realized it was exactly what they had been looking for. They bought 11, one for each of their rental locations.

 

‘No Comparison’

Western States Cat rental salesman Jay Hainline, based out of Boise, Idaho, was the first from the dealer to try the Pitbull 2300. He ran the machine during the initial demonstration and was impressed with its mobility and easy setup. He used the screener’s hydraulic system to convert it from transport to operating position in minutes.

“We had to use a loader to manually lift our old screener into place. It took about 30 minutes to get ready,” he said. “The Pitbull 2300 only takes about 15 minutes.”

Hainline loaded and screened about 15 yards of a combination of soil, caliche and small rocks in 20 minutes with the Pitbull 2300 and its Yanmar 47-horsepower diesel engine, a feat that would have taken the old screener nearly twice as long to complete.

“It was almost a night and day difference from what we had been using,” Hainline said. “It could handle material pretty much as fast as I could load it.”

In addition, Hainline said the compact and mobile screener was easy to transport and use and was versatile enough to effectively screen the wide range of material across the dealer’s five states. The extra performance that came with the Pitbull 2300 helped expand Western State’s customer base by allowing contractors to use the screening plant for a broader variety of projects including making topsoil to sell or use for landscaping site preperation, sorting rocks or mulch for landscapers, and screening material to create a better base for fills.

Hainline was also impressed by the new screener’ s durability. While he took service calls on the former screener almost every time he rented it out, he hadn’t received any calls in the year the Pitbull 2300 had been in Boise. That meant money saved on maintenance costs and improved productivity and customer satisfaction.

Productivity was also drastically improved by the 20-foot stacking conveyor on the Pitbull 2300. The operator can hydraulically adjust the height from as low as 7 feet, 6 inches, to 13 feet and drop sorted material away from the machine into a dump truck or tri-axle trailer instead of under the unit.

The quick-change screen tensioning system on the screener further improved efficiency by making it possible for two people to change out screens in just 30 minutes. The other screener would have taken up to two hours to do the same thing. The easy screen change outs made the Pitbull 2300 more versatile by allowing convenient classification of different types and sizes of materials.

 

Making Return Customers Happy

The true test of the equipment’s performance comes from customer feedback. Gary Olson, owner of Olson and Sons Excavating, has been a longtime customer of Western States. He had experience with the old screening units. He goes through material leftover from jobs once a year, screening for topsoil and selling that product to boost revenue. His company does mostly residential excavation work around Boise, leaving him with hundreds of yards of everything – from soil, rock and clay to sprinkler pipe, sod and bushes.

Olson said his experience with the old screeners was not very positive. The capacities of that unit were so low that the slightest surge of material would cause it to plug and be shut down. Adding to the hassle was the fact that set up was slow and tricky, with the screener plugging if it was set level.

“Angling it slightly seemed to help, but then it wouldn’t screen as well,” Olson said. “We kept at it for almost two weeks but were only able to get through about 300 yards of material before returning the screening plant. We had two people working with it trying to get the work done, but we had to unplug it so often we just couldn’t get anything done.”

A year later, Hainline called to tell Olson about the new Pitbull 2300. Olson’s son had used it before and vouched for it, so he decided to give it a try. He experienced none of the problems the last screener had. The Pitbull 2300 didn’t plug up, didn’t stop working and he was able to screen the pile of about 1500 yards of material in just a week of off-and-on work.

“We had one person running the operation with the Pitbull 2300,” Olson said. “I parked a dump truck beneath the conveyor, dumped whole buckets on the screener and sorted the material quickly and efficiently without any issues at all.”

 

Improved Business from Word of Mouth

The Western States Cat rental location in Boise typically rents the Pitbull 2300 out once or twice a month during warm months for one to two weeks at a time. Hainline said the screener’ s popularity is growing as contractors spread the word about the new addition to the dealer’s fleet.

“It means we can spend less time worrying about when the screener will break down again, and more time finding new customers and keeping our current customers happy,” Hainline said.