Having purchased a 3-t Kubota U30 compact excavator in 2016, which has since performed beyond expectations, GDM Plumbing & Projects went on to become the first company in South Africa to take delivery of the smaller Kubota U15-3 when Smith Power introduced it in 2018. To date, the two machines are at the centre of the company’s accelerated growth.  

David Buirski GDM Plumbing Projects

David Buirski is one of the three brothers who own GDM Plumbing Projects.

GDM – which operates in the greater Gauteng area – specialises in plumping, including water, sewer and stormwater lines, with a special focus on trench excavations. To ensure optimum service delivery to its clients, the company, run by three Buirski brothers – David, Gareth and Matt – decided to invest in a trusted compact excavator back in 2016 and after a thorough investigation of the market, they went on to purchase a Kubota U30 mini-excavator from local distributor, Smith Power Equipment.

Accelerating business growth at the time had seen the company taking a mechanisation approach to its plumping business to ensure quick execution of projects. At the time, the business had grown from two employees and one vehicle in 2012 to a workforce of 16 and three vehicles by 2015. To date the company has over 100 people in its employ and runs a fleet of 15 vehicles.

The purchase of the Kubota U30 in 2016 ushered a new era and offered the company new capabilities in going about its plumping business. “We have never looked back,” says Matt, who joined the two brothers in the business in 2015. “In a few years, the internal landscape of the business has changed in that the ratio of skilled people to unskilled has been reduced drastically – and this is owning to our decision to purchase the Kubota excavators.”

In 2018, GDM purchased the first U15-3 unit in South Africa. Due to its compact size, the 1,5-t is largely deployed in residential projects, while the larger U30 is used to execute larger commercial projects. “Our productivity has improved tremendously. For example, typical turnaround time for a house drain using labour would be eight to 10 days, compared with the three to four days with an excavator. This translates to half the time, obviously with reduced number of people,” explains Matt.

Why Kubota excavators?

 A major factor in the buying decision was the compact nature of the Kubota excavators. “We generally work in confined spaces with limited room to manoeuvre, so compact equipment is key for the type of projects we usually undertake,” explains Matt.

Because the company operates at sites where space is at premium most of the time, Tom Bloom, GM for Construction at Smith Power, explains that GDM was the first to take delivery of the ultra-compact U15-3 when it arrived in South Africa last year. “For a plumping company, machine size is critically important. Given the nature of their space-constrained applications, GDM were aware of their worksite limitations, often having to contend with restricted working width. With an operating weight of 1,5-tonne, the U15-3 provides enough power to tackle some of the toughest jobs in space-constrained environments,” says Bloom.

A key feature that speaks directly to the common problem of width restrictions on plumping sites is the U15-3’s hydraulic track that can adjust the track width from 1 240 to 990 mm. At the touch of a lever, operators can reduce the width to allow for navigation through narrow spaces, or increase the width, for better stability.

“The adjustable track width function allows the operator to retract the undercarriage, pass through single opening doors or gates, and then expand the undercarriage when working, for better machine stability,” explains Charl Kemp, Area Manager for Kubota Construction, adding that the machine’s size also makes it very easy to transport between sites, given the nomadic nature of GDM’s business.

Matt agrees, saying ease of transportation and mobility was a key consideration for GDM. “The U15 can be transported on a trailer towed by a bakkie. The excavator’s mobility was a key selling point for us. Often a site has limited or tight spaces, so both the size and the mobility of the excavators were very important in our purchasing decision,” says Matt.

Another reason in choosing the Kubota excavator was the need to significantly up productivity, while reducing casual labour costs in the process. “We found that sourcing and utilising causal labour was becoming a costly exercise. Manual labour is time-consuming, and often, unreliable. In terms of feasibility, it made more sense to invest in Kubota excavators,” says Matt.

A piece of equipment is as good as its aftersales service. Smith Power’s service capabilities were on show from the start. “Among the factors we decided to purchase was the first impression created by the Smith Power team, who provided us with very good service on initial enquiry. The aftersales service has been great. Downtime is minimal to non-existent and we have never had any incidents,” says Matt.

Looking to the future, Matt says GDM has been fortunate enough in the plumping industry with a steady flow of work. “Our vision for the company is to further grow in the industry and build up a reliable fleet of plant – especially mini-excavators. Our excavators have made the difference for us, especially as far as project turnaround times are concerned. This has been a good reflection on our business, which is testimony to our professionalism and goes a long way in accelerating our growth,” concludes

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