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HomeSuccess StoriesHeavy ConstructionStream Restoration Contractor Unearths Secret to Maximizing Efficiency
Mike Windsor
Mike Windsor
Mike Windsor is passionate about helping the heavy construction industry increase productivity and efficiency with technology. He brings more than 30 years of experience in survey and machine control to his position as Regional Sales Manager, Northeast US, Heavy Construction, Leica Geosystems, part of Hexagon.
Mike Windsor
Mike Windsor
Mike Windsor is passionate about helping the heavy construction industry increase productivity and efficiency with technology. He brings more than 30 years of experience in survey and machine control to his position as Regional Sales Manager, Northeast US, Heavy Construction, Leica Geosystems, part of Hexagon.

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Stream Restoration Contractor Unearths Secret to Maximizing Efficiency

“You can get in there and everything’s right there. It’s very navigable. The more I get in tune with it, the more I like it versus the others. Leica has put a lot of time and effort in to building a good quality tool.”
— Riley Lecka, Wildlands Construction

Riley Lecka was in his late teens when flooding from a hurricane destroyed much of the town where he grew up in the North Carolina high country. But it was the restoration work that captured his attention. “I just fell in love with it,” he says.

Lecka spent the next 15 years traveling the country working on stream restoration projects before taking over as director of construction for Wildlands Construction, based in Kernersville, N.C., in 2019. Wildlands Construction is a subsidiary of Wildlands Engineering and accounts for about half the company’s work. Today, Lecka still has a passion for restoring, enhancing, and preserving streams and wetlands. “You have to be creative,” says Lecka. “Every job is approached differently.”

Machine Control ‘Works Wonders’ for Time Savings

Projects typically involve pumping water out of the work area while the team builds a new stream channel, installs erosion control, and completes the final stabilization. Sometimes heavy rainfalls during or at the end of a project help them test and fine-tune the designs. The team must be mindful of native plants and wildlife. Mitigating environmental degradation and restoring ecosystems are at the heart of the company’s work.

For efficient earthmoving, Wildlands relies on GPS machine control, which Lecka has been using since 2008. “Sites are huge and there are so many grades, intricate lines, elevations and contours in a stream restoration project,” he says. “When everything is at our fingertips, we can be more efficient.”

Machine control eliminates the need to spend money on grade stakes and multiple surveys, and it greatly reduces time spent waiting on a surveyor. “It works wonders for us,” he says.

Excessive Downtime Leads to New Technology Partnership

Reducing downtime is a major focus of Wildlands. So, when their previous construction technology provider began having recurring problems that stopped projects, it became a critical issue. “Every time we went to a new job, there was always a problem with the calibration of the machines,” says Lecka. “I couldn’t trust the systems anymore.”

Lecka felt his technology dealer relied too much on logging into the machine and trying to bandage a fix versus spending the time to find the root cause of the problem. He resented being billed for work when the issue remained unresolved.

Riley Lecka (right) with Transit & Level’s Brian Combs

While Lecka tried to resolve the issue with his dealer and the manufacturer, he also began exploring an alternative solution with Transit & Level and Leica Geosystems. “I knew Rick Harbaugh and Brian Combs [of Transit & Level] from years past, and they promised to give the right help,” says Lecka.  “Commitment was the biggest thing for me.”

“We try to get out there the same day or at least the next day to see what’s going on and to get our customers up and running,” says Combs.

Transit & Level Passes the Support Test

Lecka decided to put Leica machine control and Transit & Level to the test. He purchased a new Leica total station and a machine control system for a Wildlands’ excavator. After 18 months, with positive feedback from his crew, he converted the entire fleet to Leica. “I had zero worries about the integration of the technology because we had already had a system with very limited issues through that year and a half,” says Lecka.

“I’m really happy I made the switch,” he adds. “Our downtime has been cut by 75%.”

The support from Transit & Level is a good fit for Wildlands. “What’s nice about Transit & Level is I can call one guy and within a matter of hours I have some sort of answer – either they are coming out to fix it on this day, or they are calling me back to say, ‘go into the screen and do this.’”

Rick Harbaugh, who is responsible for the Machine Control Division at Transit & Level, believes relationships are key to success. “If you can’t build that relationship, and you can’t show that you’re trustworthy, it doesn’t matter if you have the best product in the world,” he says.

Leica Machine Control Proves Simple and Effective

As important as good support is, Lecka is impressed with Lecia machine control technology. He appreciates the user-friendliness of the Leica MC1 software and screen in the cab. Having worked with all three major brands over the years, he knows the quality he’s looking for.

“You can get in there and everything’s right there,” says Lecka. “It’s very navigable. The more I get in tune with it, the more I like it versus the others. Leica has put a lot of time and effort in to building a good quality tool.”

Lecka believes in teaching machine operators and surveyors old school methods to learn how to build a stream. “It shows them how you put it together before you give them the cheat code of GPS,” says Lecka. “It’s a really good training tool, but it’s not an efficient tool,” says Lecka.

For maximizing efficiency and sustainability, Leica GPS machine control is key.  “There are a lot of fine details that go into stream reconstruction,” says Transit & Level’s Brian Combs. “It’s difficult to do it the old way with stakes every 50 feet, and the contractor just connecting the dots. In 50 feet, the stream could turn three times, and there can be logs or boulders that need to be placed. It’s meticulous work.”

Lecka isn’t worried about taking a path that may be less travelled. “Stream restoration is a really good career,” he says. “It’s hard, and there are some ups and downs, but technology makes the work easier.

“I tell people to find a company that you’re comfortable with and that understands your needs,” he adds. “It’s important to have support and dedication, especially as you go through the initial learning of machine control. Switching to the Leica technology with Transit & Level as our dealer has made a significant difference for our business.”

To speak with a heavy construction expert who can guide you on your technology journey, contact us.

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Mike Windsor
Mike Windsor
Mike Windsor is passionate about helping the heavy construction industry increase productivity and efficiency with technology. He brings more than 30 years of experience in survey and machine control to his position as Regional Sales Manager, Northeast US, Heavy Construction, Leica Geosystems, part of Hexagon.

LASTEST POSTS

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