The Road to Success
CL Boyd’s Machine Monitoring Center helps keep Oklahoma City highway contractor Haskell Lemon up and running.
The Great Depression hit Oklahoma hard, after the Dust Bowl left hundreds of thousands unemployed. Many migrated to California in search of work, as famously depicted in the novel The Grapes of Wrath. Others, like Haskell and Irene Lemon, found what jobs they could around Oklahoma. After graduating from the University of Oklahoma in the mid-1930s, the two traveled the state, working as equipment operators spreading gravel on county roads.
“They’d be out on the road working hard from Sunday night until Friday, rest up over the weekend, then do it all over again,” says their grandson Jay Lemon, current co-owner of Haskell Lemon Construction Co. with his partner and cousin Ken Wert. “They always wanted to work in Oklahoma City where the state department of transportation is located, but it was dominated by large contractors. Then in the late 1940s, they had the opportunity to begin their own paving company.”
In 1948, the enterprising couple formed Haskell Lemon Construction. As the United States began to grow and prosper in the decades after World War II, the company expanded from a small asphalt business and grading-and-paving supplier to a diversified highway contractor. During the early 1950s, Oklahoma created a turnpike authority, which was followed by the signing of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 by President Dwight Eisenhower. “Having those opportunities really solidified this company,” says Jay Lemon. “Large companies took the bigger interstate jobs, and we grew to become a medium-size company, contracting for projects closer to home.”
A core company value since day one has been to “allow all of us to sleep at home every night,” according to Lemon. Today Haskell Lemon crews work within a 90-mile radius of Oklahoma City. “Being local in nature sets us apart from other companies,” he says. “We want our employees to balance work with family and be home every night. We pride ourselves on being a close-knit company — a family.”
Haskell Lemon’s relationship with its local John Deere dealership, CL Boyd Equipment in Oklahoma City, goes way back. Haskell’s great-aunt was a member of the Crews family. Frank and Earl Crews joined CL Boyd during the 1930s. The two, along with Earl’s son Robert, would serve as president of the dealership for decades. “Haskell and Irene worked often with the Crews family, who provided them with credit and backing when their company was young. I’ve always had a fondness, respect, and admiration for the Crews family, and of course for CL Boyd and John Deere,” says Lemon.
Today Haskell Lemon Construction is one of CL Boyd’s biggest customers. The highway contractor currently runs a large fleet of 32 pieces of John Deere construction equipment, including dozers, motor graders, articulated dump trucks (ADTs), and wheel loaders. In addition to full-service highway contracting, the company operates five hot-mix asphalt plants. The family also owns General Materials, Inc., a sand-and-gravel-mining business that feeds material to the local construction industry as well as to the energy sector. To support this operation, the company recently purchased several John Deere 460E ADTs, along with some 824K and 844K Loaders.
WAGING WAR ON DOWNTIME
The Machine Monitoring Center at CL Boyd has been key to keeping Haskell Lemon’s and General Materials’ large fleets up and running. “Using JDLink™, CL Boyd helps us track machine location, hours, idle time, health, and maintenance,” explains Lemon. “We get reminders that allow us to schedule regular and periodic maintenance at times that are convenient to us and won’t disturb operations. Alerts also warn us if something is going on with a machine, helping us to avoid critical breakdowns.”
CL Boyd’s Machine Monitoring Specialist Luis Hernandez calls the Machine Monitoring Center the “War Room.” Hernandez arrives promptly at the center every morning at 6:45 am and scans three large computer monitors. Three big LED screens are also mounted on the walls, where service techs or customers can easily view fleet information.
Using JDLink, John Deere’s machine monitoring system, Hernandez keeps tabs on over 1,500 Deere machines for CL Boyd’s customers. Each day, he keeps a close eye on alerts from JDLink. Many of the alerts aren’t serious — maybe a customer needs to schedule maintenance on a machine in the near future. Yellow and red alerts require more immediate attention, so first thing every morning, Hernandez will quickly scan the messages and triage whatever needs to get done.
“Our biggest goal is to keep the customer running,” says Hernandez. “We want to provide proactive solutions that address issues before they become major problems that shut down a machine and cause downtime.”
Often Hernandez can help resolve an issue over the phone — maybe a machine has low tire pressure, a blocked filter, or an axle that is overheating because an operator is riding the brake. “We can give the customer a call and they can fix the issue without a trip charge for a technician,” he says.
If the issue is more complicated, Hernandez can record and monitor live readings of a machine utilizing remote-diagnostics capability, and if necessary, dispatch a service technician. This helps him to more accurately assess what is going on and determine the best course of action. “By understanding what is causing a code to trigger, I am confident in delivering the appropriate solution or part.”
“The technology enables the technicians to bring the right parts to the job on the first trip.” says Lemon. “The Machine Monitoring Center and JDLink have helped us reduce downtime dramatically.”
Having smart technology on these machines helps us attract and retain both new and experienced operators.
The Machine Monitoring Center and JDLink also help Haskell Lemon become more efficient. For example, tracking idle time might reveal that a machine is underutilized. The customer may want to relocate the machine where it is more needed or have a discussion with an operator about job expectations. Idle time also burns fuel and warranty hours, so Hernandez often instructs customers on how to activate a machine’s auto-shutdown mode. Monitoring idle time also helps him determine whether an underutilized machine truly needs an extended warranty. “If a customer is only running a machine a couple of hundred hours a year, there’s no real need for an extended warranty, which saves them money,” he says.
In addition to machine monitoring, CL Boyd helps Haskell Lemon run efficiently by identifying the right machines, cutting edges, tires, and buckets for its applications. The dealer also offers extended warranties and maintenance packages that provide fixed, predictable costs. “We don’t have enough mechanics to cover all our bases,” explains Lemon. “CL Boyd technicians are trained on the latest machine technologies. This not only helps us keep up with repairs, but their technicians have been very involved in thoroughly training our operators on new features. This has been invaluable to us.”
Recruiting operators is always a challenge, but having quality machines equipped with the latest, greatest technology helps. “Deere has some very smart engineers who have come up with some great features,” says Lemon. “Having smart technology on these machines helps us attract and retain both new and experienced operators.”
BUILDING A FUTURE
Lemon loves building things. “A road is something everyone takes for granted — if we do our job really well, nobody notices. But we take pride in what we do. I get charged up about providing this fundamental need and doing it quietly under people’s radar.”
Lemon is helping his son Jack learn the business. “We’re a family of builders who construct roads and provide materials that help shape America. Our family is blessed to be in this business for four generations now, and we have quite a few employees who are multigenerational as well. It’s exciting to give them a chance to grow and succeed. And it’s great fun to see the excellent work they do. It’s very rewarding.”
Haskell Lemon Construction Co. and General Materials, Inc. are serviced by CL Boyd Equipment, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
A fourth-generation highway contractor values its long-standing relationship with its local Deere dealership.