Baranko Bros. Uses the Industry’s First Mastless Motor Grader on the Jobsite

Within the past 10 years, it became advantageous for companies to invest in technology to improve grading accuracy on roadbuilding projects. Now, according to Jordan Kessel, IT Manager for Baranko Bros. in Dickinson, ND, it’s almost a requirement to have this type of SmartGrade technology on a motor grader, as grade tolerance has gotten tighter.

The GP872 John Deere grader is the first mastless motor grader and features integrated SmartGrade technology. What does this motor grader do? The mastless design eliminates issues with external masts and cables, allowing better maneuverability and versatility on the jobsite. From articulation to sideshifting in tight corners or other unique jobsite conditions, an operator now can cut into a grade that wouldn’t be possible with a mast design and operators are able to achieve precise grade control.

Watch to learn more about how Baranko Bros., the first company to use a mastless SmartGrade motor grader in western North Dakota, benefits from this integrated combo of Deere and Topcon 3D-MC2 technology built into the machine.

In this video, find out:

How Deere and Topcon partnered on the industry’s first mastless motor grader: 00:10 A

dvantages of the Deere mastless motor grader: 00:23

How the mastless motor grader saves setup time: 00:35

The trend driving the adoption of SmartGrade for roadbuilding: 00:54

The accuracy of the SmartGrade motor grader: 01:14

How SmartGrade technology reduces labor on the job: 01:24

An example of how a SmartGrade motor grader saves money: 01:28

Where to find out more info or buy a Deere SmartGrade motor grader: 02:20

A Closer Look at the John Deere SmartGrade Mastless Motor Grader

You’ve heard of SmartGrade technology. Now see how it works in a motor grader, fully-integrated into the machine. The GP872 John Deere grader is the first mastless motor grader and features integrated SmartGrade technology. The mastless design eliminates issues with external masts and cables, allowing better maneuverability and versatility on the jobsite. From articulation to sideshifting in tight corners or other unique jobsite conditions, an operator now can cut into a grade that wouldn’t be possible with a mast design.

Watch this Deere motor grader walkaround with the SmartGrade mastless design and Topcon 3D-MC2 technology built into the machine, similar to the John Deere SmartGrade dozer, and learn more about how Smart Grade works on the jobsite.

In this video, find out:

How Deere and Topcon deliver the first mastless grader: 00:17

The mastless design and built-in sensors in the Deere motor grader: 00:28

What makes a mastless motor grader better: 00:37

The display and in-cab experience of Topcon technology: 00:45

Does Deere offer a mastless dozer? 01:04

What it’s like to operate the Deere SmartGrade motor grader: 01:16

How the SmartGrade motor grader works on the jobsite: 01:25

Where to find out more about SmartGrade technology: 01:42

NDSC – Workplace Safety Merit Award 2018

NDSC - Workplace Safety Merit Award 2018

The North Dakota Safety Council awarded Baranko Brothers, Inc with a Workplace Safety Merit Award for showing an Experience Modification Rate below 1 for the year 2017!

68th Annual AGC Convention – December 4-5, 2017

68th Annual AGC Convention - December 4-5, 2017

During the 68th Annual AGC Convention located at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, ND, Baranko Brothers, Inc. was presented with a First Place Safety Award for over 100,000 man hours!

NDSC – Occupational Safety Merit Award 2017

NDSC - Occupational Safety Merit Award 2017

The North Dakota Safety Council presented Baranko Brothers, Inc with an Occupational Safety Merit Award for showing an incidence rate which is equal to or less than the national average in our North American Industry Classification System code.

From the Ground Up to Scaling Up

From the Ground Up to Scaling Up

A dozen individuals from 10 states and numerous industries – what could they possibly all have in common? 

On October 13 and 14, at a rural farm site near Billings, Montana, this group of professionals came together to participate in an event focused on one popular topic: Drones.

Led by the team from RDO Integrated Controls, 12 seasoned drone experts, across numerous industries, gathered to be part of a unique event and pioneering experiment in the drone world. An event and experiment devised from simple conversations between Sean Erickson, Technology Support Specialist with RDO Integrated Controls, and a few of his customers, drone leaders in their respective fields.

Setting the Scene
A division of RDO Equipment Co., RDO Integrated Controls provides solutions through GPS, lasers, GIS, survey, machine control, and UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) technology. The company sells and supports senseFly, a leading UAV manufacturer, and its eBee and albris drones.

With the level of expertise and leadership it provides to professionals interested in UAV technology, RDO Integrated Controls makes it a mission to have a knowledgeable team dedicated to this area, as well as resources customers need to successfully implement drones in their businesses.

Erickson had received a request from a customer to create a “how-to” type document based on drone applications. After thinking about it and discussing the concept with a few veteran drone customers, Erickson had a spin-off idea.

“Instead of creating a document with info, tips, and best practices, I started thinking, what if we held an event that would bring together drone experts across different industries to talk about applications, discuss ideas, and share knowledge,” he said.

Erickson began pitching the idea to experienced drone customers, particularly those with hundreds of flights under their belts. As interest grew and discussions continued, ideas started snowballing. One idea, in particular, became the basis on which the entire drone event would be based.

eBee to the 10th 
“I knew there were cases of companies putting multiple drones in the air at one time,” Erickson said. “But I hadn’t seen a fully-coordinated drone mapping mission with multiple aircraft.”

Theoretically, Erickson was certain a planned multi-drone mission would work. And he felt the event would be an opportunity to put his theory to the test.

“At first, we thought about trying to fly two drones simultaneously,” Erickson said. Some customers were already doing this regularly so he then thought about going for five. Then, Erickson said, the thought was, “If we can do five, why not go for 10?”

Furthermore, 10 was an easy number to show scale and thus, 10 eBees flying simultaneously became the final goal for the event.

An event that had shaped up as an opportunity to prove Erickson’s original theory.

An event that had several drone professionals eager to take part in this first-time experiment.

An event, which became known as the eBee to the 10th, that was about to come to life.

Bringing It All Together
Day one of the eBee10 was focused on discussions about all-things in UAV industry including field gear, Part 107 testing, and data processing. Every attendee brought a unique topic to present, a format Erickson devised as a way to steer clear of lecture-style learning and instead encourage discussions and sharing of knowledge between attendees.

It was on the morning of day two that the experimental mission was scheduled. But before the group could head out into the field and test Erickson’s theory, the flight plan had to be finalized.

“Late on Thursday night I, my colleague, Dennis Louton, and two of our attendees, Dennis Ryan of Vertical Sciences, Inc., and Jordan Kessel of Baranko Brothers, Inc., created the flight plan,” Erickson said. They continued work into the early morning hours, testing the plan in the simulator and tweaking it until they had the final, working flight plan.

The following morning, Erickson and Ryan presented the plan to the team, at which time Erickson said he gave all attendees the chance to withdraw from the experiment.

“I knew what we were doing was unprecedented,” he said. “If, after seeing the plan and simulation, anyone felt it was too risky, I wanted them to have the opportunity to bow out.” Instead, the group was more excited than ever, and at 9 a.m. they headed to the site.

The test site was a private farmstead with 125 acres of mapped flight area. Erickson arranged permission to use the site while Dennis Ryan, as air boss, filed the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) as well as notified the local air tower of all details related to the test, including closing out the NOTAM when the mission was complete.

The launching and landing was done in two groups of five drones. After the first group launched, the second was launched a few seconds later, and all 10 were in the air simultaneously performing a single mapping mission, and controlled by a unified Ground Control Station. Five pilots were responsible for launching, landing, and observation, while five controlled the flight plan via onsite computers. Erickson was onsite safety office and Louton served as logistics officer, providing equipment and technology support. Radio communications kept the pilots in touch with each other and the local air tower.

The result? The eBee drones flew the flight plan, which covered 125 acres in seven minutes.

“It was quick and effective,” Erickson said of the experiment. “We showed that 10 drones could execute a flight plan simultaneously.”

Assessing Impact
While Erickson’s experiment proved what he originally set out to do, it also demonstrated another important concept: scalability. He explained, “To see 10 drones cover 125 acres in just seven minutes, shows that it’s possible to cover 1,000 acres in one hour. That’s huge.”

Generally speaking, a single UAV can map about 100 acres per hour. Substantial, for example, when comparing the time spent for a crop scout to walk fields or a crew to survey a jobsite. But to show the significance of the scalable opportunity provided by multiple drones, Erickson used an example of an emergency response scenario.

Hurricane Katrina was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Imagine a disaster of such magnitude today. It would require a full-scale emergency response plan, which could include UAV technology; for example, searching for survivors using heat-mapping capabilities of drones.

See below to see the scalability opportunity with drones in this scenario:

640:         Acres in a Square Mile
170:          Square Miles (Land) of the city of New Orleans
108,800: Acres in the city of New Orleans

1,088:      Approx. hours it would take one UAV to map the city
45:            Approx. days it would take one UAV to map the city (assuming 24-hour days)
108:          Approx. days it would take one UAV to map the city (assuming realistic 10-hour days; daylight)

108:          Approx. hours it would take 10 UAVs to map the city
4.5:           Approx. days it would take 10 UAVs to map the city (assuming 24-hour days)
10:            Approx. days it would take 10 UAVs to map the city (assuming realistic 10-hour days; daylight)

It’s easy to see the potential impact of a multi-drone flight in this type of scenario.

And certainly this shows possibilities for companies of all sizes to grow with the ability to get more done, faster, using multiple drones. But, Erickson also took into consideration the hidden value in these results. How could this info apply to construction, roadbuilding, or engineering companies not necessarily looking to grow or interested in trying to operate multiple drones?

One example he noted was in partnerships between companies saying, “A construction company, an engineering firm, and a surveyor could team up for a project that they, individually, may not have been able to do.” This co-op model he describes would enable small companies to win projects against larger, full-service companies, potentially opening the doors to new clients and diversification of services.

Next Steps
While the event has ended, Erickson says his and his colleagues’ work is far from over. As he has begun analyzing the flight data from the eBee10, he has already found some areas that could be improved – likely, in the eBee10: Version 2.

“Yes, we definitely plan to hold another event like this,” an enthusiastic Erickson said.

Until that date, Erickson has stayed in touch with all engaged customers via a MeetUp website. Both eBee10attendees and customers who were interested but unable to make it to the event have access to the site, designed with Erickson’s original goal in mind – to bring together drone experts to talk about applications, discuss ideas, and share knowledge.

To say UAV technology is affecting the world is an understatement. Across numerous industries, drones are making work safer, faster, and more accurate than ever imaginable. As knowledge continues to grow, so too will the possibilities – and opportunities.

NDSC – Occupational Safety Merit Award 2015

NDSC - Occupational Safety Merit Award 2015

The North Dakota Safety Council presented Baranko Brothers, Inc with an Occupational Safety Merit Award for showing an incidence rate which is equal to or less than the national average in our North American Industry Classification System code.

Still in the family: Need for dams on their ranch started Baranko Bros.’ earth-moving company

Still in the family: Need for dams on their ranch started Baranko Bros.' earth-moving company

By Virginia Grantier, Dickinson Press
» read full article

It was a dam quandary.

Nearing 50 years ago, two brothers wanted a network of stock dams constructed on the family ranch so they could run more cattle — increasing the operation their dad had turned over to them.

But Emil and Ernie Baranko, on their ranch 20 miles north of Belfield, couldn’t find anyone with the expertise or time to do it. So they did it themselves.

The first dam project took about a week — the brothers used two pieces of equipment, a bare-bones Caterpillar tractor and a scraper with no cab to shade them from the sun and heat, said Emil, now 80. The brothers followed a plan that the U.S. Soil Conservation Service had designed for them for a 200-by-300-foot dam, he said.

The dam, finished in 1967, is still there and operational, Emil said.

And so is Baranko Bros. Inc.

After the brothers built the dam, a parade of ranchers wanted dams and waterways for their places, too. So, the Barankos established an earth-moving company in a shop on the ranch, about a half-mile commute from the ranch house.

Ernie eventually focused on ranching, while Emil — who had had attended college with aspirations of becoming a civil engineer before life and the military draft changed that — would end up overseeing the construction company. Eventually, beyond soil-conservation projects, he would see to fruition such jobs as construction of sections of Interstate 94 as well as airport projects.

But it was Emil’s wife, Marcia, who was the backbone of the operation, “making sure I got something to eat,” and raising the children, said Emil, who retired for about 15 years ago and is snowbirding in Mesa, Ariz.

One of the Barankos’ three children, 41-year-old Glenn Baranko, the current president and CEO of Baranko Bros., remembers helping on company jobs while still in grade school.

Emil said Glenn would carry surveyors’ stakes, run errands to the vehicles and perform various tasks, because Glenn “always wanted to be out there.”

“I always knew that was what I wanted to do,” said Glenn, a self-proclaimed heavy equipment/truck lover.

Glenn’s office at the company’s headquarters in Dickinson is adorned in heavy-equipment decor: In addition to family and dog photos, there are shelves of die-cast model trucks and hand-made wooden models given to him as gifts. On the walls are prints of vintage Harley Davidson motorcycles.

The company has grown from the two brothers and two pieces of soil-moving equipment to about 200 earthmovers, trucks and trailers — plus the pickups and such — and employs about 100, increasing to 150 employees during construction season, Glenn said. The company still has the original shop on the ranch, as well as facilities in Center — including another company, Center Coal Co., owned by Glenn.

And there is the 22,000-square-foot Dickinson headquarters. It was substantially expanded in 2013 as the company had additional space needs because of the increase in business brought on by the oil boom, Glenn said.

Forward-thinking family

The company started its cutting-edge ways decades ago. Glenn said he remembers, as a kid, his forward-thinking dad going to computer classes.

Emil said it was in the late 1970s when, at an Oklahoma contractors’ convention, he saw a crowd of people gathered around a particular booth, and he went to take a look. Being demonstrated was the future — a computer that could easy calculate a construction-job estimate and then immediately recalculate whenever the demonstrator changed the dollar price of items in that estimate.

Emil wanted that for his company, but couldn’t find anyone in North Dakota to provide the service. So he sent two employees to Colorado for computer training, and when Dickinson State College offered computer classes, he took them.

Baranko Bros has continued incorporating other new technology — including, most recently, global positioning systems (GPS) and what Glenn calls “intelligent ‘dozers” made by Komatsu, with a price tag each in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The operator of an “intelligent dozer” basically plugs in some information on a panel in the vehicle, points the equipment in the right direction and the bulldozer, with GPS-guidance and information from the project’s computerized design plan, is pretty much on its own — its hydraulics on automatic, Glenn said.

Also, through GPS, Baranko Bros. can pinpoint the location of an individual piece of equipment and find out whether it’s operating or sitting idle — enabling supervisors to know, among other things, if the operator is working or not.

Building the future

Recent projects include doing massive earth work for a new Watford City school, and also a major road project and the Watford City bypass completed in 2014. Glenn said that was a relatively easy job because they cut the road across prairie — so there were no traffic-control complications or the need to contend with the rebuilding of existing roads.

Glenn said a past challenging project was welding several thousand feet of pipe next to Nelson Lake near Center, and then placing and submerging the fresh-water pipeline across the lake.

Also, Glenn said a unique situation occurred years ago during construction of an Underwood-area dam when, in a wetlands area, they found a tremendous amount of bison bones. He said he was told Native Americans many years ago would run buffalo into a slough, where the animals would become bogged down and easier to hunt. The dam project was delayed while state archaeologists removed what was considered to be items of historical significance.

The company early on moved beyond just stock dams, diversifying during the late 1970s oil boom, building oil-pad sites, roads and doing coal mine reclamation, power plant maintenance work and constructing landfills for fly ash.

A big focus now is the company’s environmental work, Glenn said. Baranko bought the assets of an environmental company last year and now specializes in removal of contaminated soils and saltwater, proving 24/7 spill response and related services. The company is also building a special-use landfill south of Belfield for oilfield waste.

Glenn said there is a waste landfill 25 miles north of Belfield, but there is a “definite growing need” for additional landfills to be placed strategically throughout the Oil Patch.

Glenn said, based on his experiences with oil companies, many of them are handling contamination situations responsibly.

“They are good stewards of the land,” he said.

The company’s biggest current undertaking involves 40 employees and is a two-year project that began last year: grading flat the acreage for a new railroad spur on a section of land between South Heart and Belfield for Great Northern Inc., an oil and gas land services company.

Glenn said the family’s company — which mainly has North Dakota projects, but has worked in South Dakota and Montana — has all the work it can handle. With the current dip in oil prices, he said there has been a slowdown in new construction, but maintenance and environmental services are still steady.

The company has long-time customers who trust Barankos’ work, Glenn added. His work day runs from about 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and then he takes phone calls at night at home. He makes time to help with his son’s Boy Scout pursuits, but doesn’t do much more extracurricular activity.

As far as the next Baranko generation, Glenn said he doesn’t know what his 11-year-old daughter or 9-year-old son will do. But his son’s driving passion is very familiar to him.

“He’s all boy … all trucks,” Glenn said.

Grantier is a reporter for The Dickinson Press. Contact her at 701-225-8811


HCSS GPS Units Prove Their Worth for Dirt Contractor

HCSS GPS Units Prove Their Worth for Dirt Contractor

hcss-logoBaranko Bros. Inc. purchased HCSS GPS for its truck and trailer fleet in October 2014, expecting to be able to cut down on fuel costs and speeding issues. But in just a few months, the software and GPS units have already far exceeded the dirt contractor’s expectations.

“There are a lot of things we’re starting to notice, and we’re still in the installation period,” Baranko Bros. GPS/IT manager Jordan Kessel said. “A lot of it is speeding. Last month we had three total speeding violations. When we first installed the GPS, we were seeing 12 a day.”

Kessel estimated that the fuel saved in the first two weeks alone paid for at least half of the 220 GPS units purchased. Some of those fuel savings came from making sure the trucks are not being used outside of company time. Most of Baranko Bros. trucks are used by employees on the job and to drive to and from work and home. He said the company was having a hard time tracking vehicle usage on weekends. “We knew a lot of them were being used for more than just work,” Kessel said. “They were taking them for personal use. After I put all the units in, we noticed a lot of pickups running on the weekends because the drivers didn’t know the GPS units existed yet. Word spread pretty quickly, and now there’s very limited usage outside of work.”

Baranko Bros., which has job sites spread out over a 100-mile radius, also set up geo-fences in 10 locations. The geo-fences notify Kessel when equipment crosses the geo-fence, like when equipment reaches the jobsite or when a truck is parked somewhere it shouldn’t be. But the GPS helps out in unexpected ways too, like when an employee accidentally drove off from a gas station without paying for his fuel.

“The gas station called saying they had a drive-off and that it was one of our pickups, but the attendant couldn’t read the unit number on the truck,” Kessel said. “It took me all of five minutes to figure out who it was. The GPS showed he was the only one who had been in that area. The guy was on his cell phone and just forgot.”

The GPS units can also counter theft and aid in the recovery of stolen equipment, or help find lost equipment–even if you don’t know it’s lost. Kessel said they were installing asset tracking devices on dumpsters and realized they had an extra GPS unit. “The GPS has an asset ID number, and those are all unique,” he said. “We set the units up only to realize that we couldn’t find one of the dumpsters. We had an extra GPS unit with nowhere to put it. Turns out the dumpster was sitting at an oil field, and no one ever reported that it was out there. So even installing the GPS actually helped us find equipment.”

While Baranko’s units are only about 46 percent installed, Kessel said he is already receiving surprising data, which he can integrate into his existing HCSS HeavyJob software to run reports, track job progress, and estimate new projects. “We got one dozer up and going, and I actually had to call to see if it was correct,” he said. “It recorded 30 minutes of actually working, in 12 hours of run time. It was just idling the rest of that time. That’s something we’d have never known.”