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  The American Surveyor     

Profile: The Here and There of Dirt Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Winke   
Saturday, 30 June 2018

Providing dirt contractors with critical cut and fill quantities for their projects

An 849Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

In the early 2000s, Jim Hammond did something historic in his life. He decides to shift his highway and heavy civil construction career to begin working for the toughest boss he's ever known... himself. Hammond launched Hammond Estimating & Consulting, based in Canandaigua, New York.

"When I was putting my business plan together for my new firm, I was thinking `how can I best help my fellow dirt contractors succeed in their work,'" Hammond said. "I decided to focus on the necessary tasks that contractors need to complete before any heavy equipment hits the site. Calculating the exact quantities of dirt for cut and fill on earthworks projects can provide better cost estimates, as well as determine resource allocation and project time."

Hammond understood that contractors generally want to be working in the field, getting things done than in the office running numbers. For many, quantity estimating is a necessary evil -- it must be done, but they hate doing it. He first targeted smaller contractors that have limited staff to begin with, but still have the critical need for accurate data. Larger contractors soon followed, seeing the advantages of having an outside professional take care of their projects' dirt quantities needs. Hammond hit it right--dirt movers do see the value of getting accurate estimates.

Today, Hammond Estimating & Consulting has about 20 solid contractor customers ranging in size of $1 million to more than $100 million in annual project volume. Their contractor customers are based all over North America.

"Ever since I was a boy working in my Dad's construction company, I've been interested in computers and the technology that can make construction tasks easier," stated Hammond. "With my interest in computers, I got thinking that there's got to be a program for quantifying dirt--three dimensionally."

Hammond started looking for programs and learned that InSite Software, Inc., based in Rochester, NY, was developing its SiteWork Earthwork and Utility Estimating Software for calculating cut and fill, stripping, strata quantities, paving and concrete materials, topsoil re-spread, areas, lengths, trench excavation and backfill. The software was being designed to be easy to use, with an intuitive approach, familiar terms site estimators use every day, and easy-to-use editing tools for revisions.

"InSite Software company is located close to me, so I contacted them and we hit it off from the start," Hammond said. `They have the same business ethics that I ascribe to, namely being honest, fair, and hard working. There are other programs for calculating take offs but they are more expensive and difficult to work with. What really sold me on InSite is that they have dirt moving experience and understand exactly what a contractor needs--they understand earthwork and subgrade cubic quantities."

Hammond began working closely with InSite Software as the company was developing its SiteWork Earthwork and Utility Estimating Software and provided feedback and suggested refinements.

The software program has become integral to the services that Hammond Estimating provides its contractor customers.

Hammond said: "I use computer-aided take-off for its accuracy. It helps me ensure that my customers get the data they need to complete their projects on time. And I tell my customers that they do not owe me a nickel unless they are 100% satisfied with my work.

With InSite SiteWork, all the calculations are accurate supported by graphics, so the dirt-mover can visualize their cut and fill requirements on the project before they even start it."

The first job that Hammond used InSite software on was for Morris Excavating, White Pigeon, Mich. Morris needed to calculate earthwork and utility quantities on a three-acre site where they were constructing the building pad and placing all the utilities for a McDonald's restaurant. The software performed perfectly and provided accurate calculations.

Hammond's largest project to date has been a $21 million solar panel manufacturing facility on a 40-acre site in Buffalo, New York. Again, the SiteWorks Software provided the contractor with the earthwork and utility quantities needed to successfully complete the project.

"With each project I complete, I provide the construction contractor with exact back up on everything I produce," said Hammond. "InSite allows me to provide full-color print outs of the graphics that can be given to the jobsite foreman so they can see exactly what the work is."

Having that kind of production detail and back up has helped dirt-moving contractors win their cases when change-order work and costs disputes have occurred.

"As the years have accumulated since first starting my company I've chosen to not grow my company beyond myself," Hammond stated. "More than anything, I'm selling confidence....confidence in the dirt quantities I provide to contractors. I couldn't jeopardize that level of trust for the sake of my growth."

For contractors who work in dirt, the construction world has become more technological... everything is digital--from 3D site models, GPS machine control, and real-time field-to-office-communication and production monitoring. "

I've been in the dirt business for 40+ years and I wouldn't be where I am today offering my customers the critical dirt quantities and utility estimates they need to succeed without the relationship and support I receive from InSite Software," Hammond concluded. "I couldn't ask for a more mutually beneficial business relationship. I'm expected to continue working with dirt contractors for many years ahead."

Jeff Winke is a business and construction writer based in Milwaukee, Wis. He can be reached through This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

An 849Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

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