Leading utility contractor Con-Elco Ltd. is on a mission for continuous improvement and efficiency. And the company is using Hitachi excavators to take underground work to a new level of quality.
Established in 1978 under the Con-Drain Group of Companies, Con-Elco is run by Fiore Melatti and his two sons, Nick and Attilio.
“We started with one machine. Over the years we grew and we keep growing,” Fiore said.
Part of that growth involved adapting to market needs with the acquisition of Fellmore Electric, which specializes in roadway and parking lot lighting systems, in 1991, and of Grimsby Construction this past year. Today Con-Elco, with its affiliated companies, offers the total package when it comes to upgrading and installing new utilities and services for residential developments – from underground hydro and gas to fiber optics, cable, telecommunication services and lighting.
Thinking outside the box
Con-Elco’s fleet includes about 21 Hitachi excavators ranging from the ZX135 to the ZX210 size. Most recently, five ZX210LC-5 excavators were added to the fleet in August 2015. However, the company didn’t always use tracked excavators for its work.
“We used rubber tire backhoes like most companies, but my father’s always been someone that’s looked at doing things better and being more efficient,” Nick said. “We started looking at Hitachi equipment about 10 years ago.”
“We started with the Hitachi 160,” Fiore added. “I did a little investigating with asking other people, and they said it was a good machine. We tried it, and it worked for us. We saw an increase in production using the tracked machines.”
Brian Machado, a Con-Elco superintendent, sees the Hitachi excavators at work firsthand in the many projects Con-Elco takes on. The work being done on a residential development with 372 lots (in one phase) in Brampton, Ontario, is just one example.
“We install about 200 meters of utilities every day on a nine-hour shift,” Machado said. “The Hitachi excavators are powerful and faster than other machines.”
Con-Elco’s sites also showcase the versatility of the excavators, such as a ZX160LC-5 trenching, backfilling and using its quick coupler to switch out buckets.
“I’ve operated other brands before, and Hitachi has come a long way,” said Con-Elco operator Jamie Talbot. “They’re comfortable and fast.”
Evolving with the industry
Con-Elco has experienced a changing industry over the past 38 years. Attilio said one of the reasons the company looked to Hitachi was to stay ahead of the curve.
“As things evolved and the industry was changing, we wanted to use manufacturers that were leading-edge as far as size of machine and ability for digging in situations we were using it for,” he said. “Hitachi has been a good fit for us.”
As a result, the company’s fleet has tackled changing workloads and timelines as well.
“Typically we should be doing a lot more work in the summer, but we tend to do a lot more work in the wintertime now,” Nick said. “And we’re finding Hitachi’s reliability in the cold weather and the ability for the machine to break out the frost seems to be a little bit higher than the competitors out there. We’re also finding that the guys running the machines tend to gear themselves to liking the Hitachi more as far as ease of use and reliability.”
One thing that hasn’t changed for Con-Elco is the company’s relationship with its Hitachi dealer, Wajax Equipment.
“We have a great relationship with our dealership, Wajax,” Nick said. “They’ve done a good job in supporting us with pricing and repair work and servicing on the equipment. I know I can call them, and if I need something, they’re going to get it done.”
A premium brand
Over the years, Hitachi equipment has become a competitive differentiator for Con-Elco and an extension of its brand.
“We’re a company that’s been around a long time, and we want our customers to know that we have good equipment and that we are reliable,” Nick said. “Because we’re working with a lot of the utilities out there, there’s a safety aspect of it. A lot of our competitors have older equipment, and they don’t look safe. When you have Hitachi machines, they look good, sound good and are safe, and it gives us better brand recognition.”
As for the future, choosing top-quality equipment will remain part of Con-Elco’s formula for success.
“I consider Hitachi a premium brand over others,” Nick said. “The quality of manufacturing, the cab of the machine and the way things are laid out. Obviously, we like the color, and the Isuzu engine is great. We’ve also noticed with buying the machines and trading them in, there’s a good resale value on the Hitachi. At the end of the day, it’s not best price for us; it’s best value. And that’s why we keep coming back to Hitachi.”
Con-Elco Ltd. is serviced by Wajax Equipment, Mississauga, Ontario.