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How to select the fleet: one customer’s journey to an earthmoving feat using compact equipment

With personal savings on the line, this customer found an equipment solution that cost one-fifth of the possible price and delivered unexpected results.
An Edmonton, Alberta-based developer has designed and completed the first phase of a unique, natural, and eco-friendly destination outdoor wedding and special events venue called Obsidian Ridge. The entire project was completed with just two compact Komatsu excavators, for which SMS Equipment were instrumental in providing sales and service.
Obsidian Ridge opened in September 2019, thanks to versatile, reliable equipment and top service says owner/operator Layson LaFayette.
Setting and design
Project background

Setting and design

LaFayette owned 120 acres of undisturbed land just 45 minutes from downtown Edmonton and had long-dreamed of doing something natural and creative with it.
The design was purely intuitive, and it was important to work with the existing lay of the land: natural valleys, ridges, and areas that flowed and collected water. Roads had to be along the natural hard ground ridges. It was critical to have the property flow, like nature.

To achieve the desired symmetry, design started at the centre with a stake in the ground. Everything was to be built off that centre point, including the main amphitheater, water features, pathways, and a fire pit.

For convenience, practicality, and safety, vehicle access was built into the design; to facilitate seniors, the handicapped, and for setting up and taking down activity tents and equipment.

Equipment Selection Factors

Excavators would need to be operable in the open or in confined spaces.
For building the roads, a blade was required, backed up by strong power and good traction offered by at least a total weight of 30,000 lbs.
For moving boulders, lifting capacity had to be minimum 10,000 lbs.
For tight-space operations, a zero-swing tail was indispensable.
And above all, reliability and dependability were paramount—it needed to start when the key was turned and to run all day with no problems.
The Fleet

The Fleet

LaFayette visited equipment dealers and considered several manufacturers’ models before settling on SMS Equipment and Komatsu excavators. He said the dealer’s Sales Representative was great: responsive, answered his questions quickly and clearly; calling it “a good experience right from the get-go.” He compared other manufacturers as well. But the system he got from SMS Equipment “really sealed the deal.”
With their consultation, Obsidian decided the most cost-effective solution would be to first purchase the Komatsu PC138 excavator, and later as needs grew, add the PC88. The two units fully met their requirements for the project.


Komatsu pioneered the tight tail swing design and has optimized it further with the Tier 4 Final PC138USLC-11. With this excavator you can work in one lane of traffic without disturbing the other lane. Beyond its tight swing capability, the PC138USLC-11 has similar digging and lifting power as most standard competitive excavators. Six working modes and efficient Komatsu engine and hydraulic technology help make the new PC138USLC-11 up to 4% more fuel efficient than the previous model.
Emission Rating: Tier 4 Final
Net Horsepower: 97.20 HP @2,050 rpm (72.50 kW @2,050 rpm)
Max Operating Weight: 35,114 lb (15,682 kg)
Max Bucket Capacity: 1 yd3 (0.76 m3)
Max Digging Depth: 18′ (5480 mm)

Explore the PC138USLC-11


The Komatsu PC88MR-10 is a link between small and mid-size excavators. The PC88MR-10 has a swing boom, tight tail swing, three track options and backfill blade like a small excavator, but is built to have the reliability and durability of larger excavators.
Emission Rating: Tier 4 Final
Net Horsepower: 65.50 HP @1,950 rpm (48.80 kW @1,950 rpm)
Max Operating Weight: 19,290 lb (8,750 kg)
Max Bucket Capacity: 0.26 yd3 (0.20 m3)
Max Digging Depth: 15′ (4565 mm)

Explore the PC88MR-10
Efficient and Flexible Performance

Efficient and Flexible Performance

From his experience with the PC138, LaFayette called it “the kingpin.” Obsidian used it for almost every task, starting with moving about 1,000 truckloads of dirt, then digging the three-acre water feature. The undertaking took 4,000 hours, working full shifts because digging a water hole in a low-lying area commands non-stop action.
Roadbuilding with the blade demonstrated the PC138’s versatility.
LaFayette said it performed “almost like a small bulldozer.” It handily pushed earth deeper than six inches, and hard-packed clay without stalling. And he praised its heavy weight.

A prominent feature of the Obsidian Ridge grounds is the strategic placement of large rocks and trees. Here again the PC138 excelled. Some of the boulders weighed 15,000 lbs. and the PC138 had no difficulties lifting or skidding them. Occasionally they’d engage the PC88 and PC138 together to lift the larger rocks into place. Ultimately, Phase 1 positioned over 3,000 tons of natural rock and planted more than 300 trees.

But wasn’t all about the PC138. The PC88 was also such a versatile machine for its size, it was a difficult decision as to which one to sell when the two-excavator need ended with the completion of Phase 1 construction.

Obsidian kept the PC88 because it has the articulating boom, and it’s a bit smaller, which is good for tight spaces but still has great lifting capacity. LaFayette said there were so many operations that no other machine could have done.
Capital Cost Edge Over Renting

Capital Cost Edge Over Renting

With Phase 1 complete, Obsidian sold the PC138. They found it maintained an excellent resale value. LaFayette reported that together with the attractive initial purchase cost offered by SMS Equipment, the difference was just $20,000 despite the high number of hours accumulated over two years’ ownership. He reckoned that if he would have rented the unit it would have cost them “five times more.”
Service and Support

Service and Support

He appreciated the unwavering support of SMS Equipment, saying “it was really a pleasure to get the service we got.” That included immediate answers to questions like, how does this work? what might be wrong? or troubleshooting things that arise. 

Interested In This Excavator?


The Komatsu PC138 and PC88 excavators along with SMS Equipment’s support proved to be the best solution to Obsidian’s exacting equipment needs. It culminated in the fulfilment of a couple’s unique business vision now ready for its first full season of operations. Ambitious expansion plans are in the works, but Obsidian Ridge is already booked for every weekend of summer 2020.