Case Studies

K&E Excavating Inc.

Reinforcing Its Region
  • Written by: K&E Excavating Inc.
  • Produced by: K&E Excavating Inc.
  • Estimated reading time: 6 mins

K&E Excavating Inc. (K&E) knows what it does best: commercial excavation and heavy civil construction contracting. Drawing on a wealth of experience in this well-honed niche, the Salem, Ore.-based company is happy to continue along its well-established path, offering its tried and true expertise to the area it knows best: the Northwest.

Founded in 1998 by cousins (and namesakes) Kerry Kuenzi, president, and Eric Kuenzi, vice president, K&E is committed to its work developing and maintaining American infrastructure; this means building, widening and repairing roads, highways and bridges. In addition to arterial and highway construction, where the company acts as both excavator and contractor in the public and private sectors, K&E digs and lays miles of underground pipelines for water supply and drainage projects, handles wastewater and storm drain management, performs large-scale earthmoving, and offers new site development, facility expansion and site upgrades/repairs.

Building on an excellent track record of integrity and unwavering commitment to each client and project, K&E works primarily in a 60-mile radius of Salem, though it has executed projects throughout Oregon, and into California and Washington on occasion. The entire organization strives to develop and maintain the groundwork and connections that increase efficiency and strengthen the structure and culture of both the family-owned company (where Kerry’s brother John is also a partner) and the municipalities, counties and states it services.

Road Wise and Ready

K&E has been fortifying its core competencies for 15 years, but in the beginning it was just Eric and Kerry Kuenzi. “We were working at Kinsey Excavating and wanted to start our own [company] doing the work we liked,” he reflects. Founding K&E might have seemed a risky move in 1998, but it’s led to tremendous success. Soon the cousins’ ethical business standards and their grasp of continually evolving technological capabilities garnered an increasing amount of large-scale earthmoving and civil construction work. “We doubled in size every year for 10 years,” says Eric. K&E’s employees peaked at 170 in 2006, and Eric says the company currently maintains around 100 employees, though the number fluctuates with seasonal needs.

“We don’t need to be any bigger to accomplish our goals,” says Eric. “Everyone wears multiple hats now. We’ve become very lean, and it’s been good for us.” The trustworthy, talented, honest and hardworking crew at K&E currently juggles varied jobsites simultaneously, all year long, in a contracting and/or excavating role.

At any given point in time, K&E has “… a range of work, in a variety of sizes,” says Eric. K&E projects can take anywhere from one day to three years to complete, and the company has had as many as 27 different jobs – which are primarily large-scale civil, public works and commercial projects like sports stadiums, universities and hospitals – at once.

With a vast store of experience in heavy civil work, and a nation feeling its aging infrastructure, K&E is in high demand. Operating with a deep sense of responsibility, K&E handles not only site preparation and the building, repairing and widening of roadways, but also the factors that come into play during such activity, such as directing and redirecting traffic. K&E is an expert at not only traffic control, but handling complicated phasing challenges, managing complex utility relocations, and coordinating effectively with public agencies.

But none of this would be possible without a solid team. “We hire good people,” says Eric. “That’s what makes you or breaks you.” K&E appreciates its hardworking, skilled employees, as well as its subcontractors and clients, and treats them all with the utmost respect.

Best Practices and Technologies at Play

In addition, K&E respects the environment. K&E is a conscientious company that supports sustainable, environmentally friendly construction techniques, and not just the more traditional recycling of asphalt on jobsites. For example, instead of using hydraulic oil, the company’s commercial fleet of over 100 pieces of equipment runs on biodegradable hydraulic oil. In addition, the company’s implementation of the Cat D7E (diesel-electric dozer) fits right in with the company’s strides to reduce fuel through emerging technology when moving hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of earth, materials and debris.

Along that same line, K&E works on wetland projects to create, restore and enhance wetlands. The benefits of wetland restoration are far reaching for the surrounding communities and include improved water quality, intact bird migration patterns and flood protection.

Also, K&E invests in the latest cutting-edge workflow software and GPS technology to underscore efficiency and the conservation of resources. For excavation, the company utilizes machine-controlled Cat PM201 grinders with 2-D and 3-D controls allowing for high accuracy depth and slope control off of existing surfaces and string lines, and the ability to grind with millimeter precision. Together, the technology creates a smoother base surface and reduces the amount of new asphalt needed for paving.

No doubt K&E’s strategic partners, who include asphalt pavers, appreciate this technology. When working as a civil construction contractor, K&E self-performs excavation, site work, and underground utilities, and employs subcontractors for concrete paving, striping, electrical, bridges, drilling, blasting and crushing.

Delivering for the Community

K&E and its trusted subs have constructed numerous roads, highways, bridges and runways. One recent job completed by K&E was an important $21 million runway expansion for the Portland International Airport (PDX). Hired by the Port of Portland, K&E completed the fast-track six-month job with approximately 30 employees a day on site. “It was a big job,” states Eric, who is proud that the company delivered expert results on budget and on time. The PDX runway expansion will allow the airport to accommodate larger, heavier aircraft, and a larger volume of cargo traffic. Eric drives home just how much K&E relied on its subcontractors to meet a demanding schedule in order for the company to deliver – while juggling approximately another 17 jobsites a day during that time.

Other recent work for K&E includes construction of a Home Depot distribution center, expansion of the Salem Hospital, and work on SE Kuebler Boulevard, which required the team to significantly widen a long, straight stretch of existing road for the City of Salem. Even with a tight budget, a challenging schedule and heavy traffic, K&E completed 6,000 linear feet of street widening along with substantial improvements to curbs, sidewalks, asphalt pavement, storm sewers, retaining walls, traffic signals, illumination and road striping.

Eric doesn’t define success through facts and figures, however. First and foremost, he says, success is measured in “no injuries.” It’s important to keep fellow employees – teammates – safe, happy and paid. “[Our company is] a success if it’s a happy work environment and we’re making payroll,” says Eric.

Outside the company, Eric says K&E also wants to keep its subcontractors, clients, investors and community members safe and happy. “We like our relationships,” he says, noting that K&E values loyalty and looks to work repeatedly with the same people, businesses, banks, and so on. In addition, company management works with lawmakers on important policy issues, and serves on a number of association boards in order to make a positive impact on the industry and the communities served.

Ideally, two years from now, says Eric, the company will be running without any glitches, “… like a well-oiled machine.” K&E Excavating Inc. is proud to be trusted by private developers and public organizations alike in the Northwest, and aims to be a leading commercial excavator and infrastructure contractor for a long time to come.

Published on: April 2, 2013

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