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Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Borger Group unearths new opportunity with big Hitachi excavator

Borger Group unearths new opportunity with big Hitachi excavator

The Borger Group of Companies ↗ is made unique by its multi-generation, 100-year family legacy, but it isn’t a company content to rest on its laurels. Recent investments in new technology and a big new Hitachi ↗ EX1200-7 excavator are unearthing new opportunities for the Borger Group in Alberta.

Borger Group’s impressive history lays the foundation for today’s vertically integrated business

The Borger Group of Companies originated in 1919 when Henry Borger started H. Borger Ltd., securing work installing a sanitary line at the Winnipeg International Airport – a job that involved only men and shovels, no equipment. The company continued to grow for the next 20 years and William (Bill) Borger, a son of Henry Borger, eventually joined the company. Soon thereafter, the company name was changed to Henry Borger and Sons, and then later to Borger Brothers Ltd.

In 1947, Bill Borger ventured west, securing underground work installing wooden water pipe in Raymond, Alberta. A permanent office was established, and it hinged on the success of additional construction contracts in the Calgary area. At this point, the Borger Brothers decided to split geographically and financially with Bill taking Saskatchewan-West and his other brothers taking Manitoba-East. 

From the establishment of a permanent office in Calgary until the early 1970s, Bill Borger’s company flourished in the area and amassed a reported 90 percent of all underground construction work. It expanded into earthworks and into Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Borger formed strategic partnerships with land developer E.V. Keith, creating Kelwood Corporation Ltd., a land company responsible for developing the iconic Calgary subdivisions known today as Haysboro and Bonivista. 

In 1970, Bill Borger and E.V. Keith decided to sell much of their interest in the Calgary-based Borger Brothers Ltd. After his retirement, Bill Borger Sr.’s sons William (Bill Jr.), Robert, and David continued the Borger legacy by buying into Terraine Construction, soon growing the company and changing the name to WRD Borger Construction Ltd. 

The booming 1970s brought great prosperity to the new company, growing to 300+ employees and regaining much of Borger Brothers Ltd.’s former glory. However, in the early 1980s, a sharp correction in the energy market caused oil prices to fall and the Alberta economy suffered, forcing WRD Borger Construction to retract to 13 employees, almost closing the company doors. But WRD Borger Construction soon rebounded to its former state thanks to a notable infrastructure boom attributed to preparing Calgary for the 1988 Olympics. 

Now, after more than a century, Borger Group is one of Calgary’s largest contractors at over 300 pieces of equipment and 350+ employees. It has evolved into a vertically integrated company – Borger has continued its legacy of underground utility work and added two other divisions, Transport and Earthworks.

Borger’s present-day Earthworks division began with the acquisition of Roadway Construction in 2010. This 40-year-old Calgary-based earthmoving company had previously been part of Borger Brothers Ltd. back in 1971 before changing hands to become Roadway Construction. Today this division has expanded to over 100 pieces of equipment spread across seven crews and is regarded as one of the top three earthworks contractors in Calgary. 

Borger’s Transportation division, which started in 2011, spurred from the idea of providing transport for different divisions and streamlining equipment logistics. The division quickly expanded beyond hauling Borger equipment and now services an external client base in construction, mining, and oil and gas with a fleet of fuel and lube trucks, vacuum trucks, picker services, tilt and step decks, and prime movers with multi-axle heavy-haul capabilities of up to 100 tonne loads. Today, The Borger Group of Companies’ new office is located in Rocky View County, northeast of Calgary.

The new Hitachi EX1200-7 weighs in at 257,951 pounds and is powered by a Cummins 760-hp Tier 4 Final engine.

Mack Plovie

Moving dirt, the Alberta way

If you have never experienced Alberta earthmoving, it’s a truly impressive show of big equipment moving hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of earth, unparalleled by any other province in Canada. With high volumes of earth to move on short timelines, it’s a beautiful orchestra of large equipment and hardworking Albertans building the infrastructure we all rely on to make daily life possible. 

Key Ranch, a multi-phase 700,000-cubic-yard, 36-acre earthmoving project on the west end of Airdrie, Alberta, is a fine display of Borger’s capabilities across its multiple divisions. For Phase One, the earth was moved in a matter of three months to make way for 250 homes. For a vertically integrated company like Borger, its Earthworks division leads the way on projects like this, completing initial site development which ultimately facilitates a seamless transition to Borger’s Underground division coming in to install water, sewer, and storm systems. The Earthworks division sets the stage for later phases of the project, so getting earthmoving completed in a timely fashion is reliant upon not only the calibre of the people, but reliable and productive equipment as well.

According to operator Gerard, the Hitachi EX1200-7 doesn’t lack power – it has very quick hydraulics.

Mack Plovie

Borger Group unearths opportunity with a new Hitachi excavator

With earthworks projects getting larger in scope and opportunities in mining contracting on the horizon, Borger was considering a larger excavator in order to position itself for future growth. 

“We went down the avenue of trying to modify a smaller excavator in our current fleet to mass excavation configuration, but our current fleet was already so busy on projects that we knew a larger machine would be the right solution for our larger haulage fleet and long-term goals,” says Leigh Wintrup, VP of Earthworks Operations for Borger Group. 

Borger decided on Hitachi’s newest EX1200-7 in backhoe configuration. The new EX1200-7 weighs in at 257,951 pounds and is powered by a Cummins 760-hp Tier 4 Final engine. It is spec’d with a 9-metre boom, 4.7-metre semi long arm/stick, and an 8.44-cubic-yard CWS bucket with ESCO ground engaging tools. Prior to the acquisition of the new machine, Borger’s largest excavator was in the 90-tonne size class.

With high-volume projects that are on tight timelines and involve work in tough materials, like rock and frozen earth, uptime and performance of the equipment is vital. Gerard, heavy equipment operator for Borger Group, says “[The EX1200-7] doesn’t lack power, I can tell you that. Very quick hydraulics, a lot faster than other machines I’ve run in this size class. And I’ve always been a fan of the cabs on these bigger Hitachis.” 

Having a machine that can be versatile in both transportation and application is incredibly important when working on multiple large earthworks and mining contracting projects in a given season. 

Moving the 257,951-pound orange beast is done by Borger’s Transportation division. The EX1200-7’s bucket, stick, boom, and counterweight can all be removed for transport on a 96-wheel 100-tonne lowbed. For its size, the machine offers impressive productivity and capabilities while retaining ease of transport compared to larger machines demanding additional loads and unfavourable assembly and disassembly timelines. 

For Borger, safety of workers is also incredibly important. The company has won multiple safety awards over the years, including The Bruce Power Award for Canada’s Safest Construction Employer in 2022 and the WSIB Award for Canada’s Best Health & Safety Culture in 2020. 

Features like the ladder and full handrail package keep operators safe when accessing the cab or walking about the excavator. An auto lube system reduces the amount of foot travel to reach daily service points. In specific applications, such as mining contracting work, the machine can be fitted with a high-rise cab that offers better visibility when loading out haul trucks.

Borger Group was impressed by the Hitachi EX1200-7’s safety features, including the ladders.

Mack Plovie

Borger Group builds on strong relationship with Wajax 

“One of our biggest concerns with this purchase was machine availability in today’s market,” says Brandon Bond, VP of Equipment with Borger Group. Hitachi was able to deliver a machine quicker than any other manufacturer due to stock availability at the Acheson dealership.

With 30+ pieces of Hitachi equipment in its fleet, Borger Group’s relationship with Hitachi dates back to even before Wajax ↗, the current Hitachi dealer in Alberta, existed. Today, Borger Group works closely with Wajax on sales and parts and even hires Wajax mechanics to assist with winter rebuild work in the shop. Wajax’s support to Borger’s Hitachi fleet has been essential to Borger’s success. 

As part of the decision-making process, Bond explains “We had seen the production capabilities of Hitachi’s EX1200-7 with other companies using them in the Calgary area, and with our solid relationship with Wajax it was the right machine to support Borger as the company grows.”

Borger buys into technology

Buying the best equipment on the market is merely one ingredient of Borger’s success formula. Borger’s people and the use of technology also drive success for clients on projects big and small. 

“We have a great family legacy and set of family values here at Borger. My dad, Robert Borger, was always keen to try new equipment and technology. We want to be the most up-to-date contractor for our strategic partners,” explains Kirk Borger, VP of Business Development at Borger Group. 

Borger Group holds an annual innovation fair where employees at all levels come together to table new ideas. One idea that the company adopted was Propeller’s DirtMate, a Trimble-based technology that combines drone surveys with machine-based survey measurements for tracking productivity and volumes. Borger Group is the first company in Canada to use DirtMate for a large earthworks project and has fitted it to scrapers, haul trucks, and even the Hitachi EX1200-7 on the Key Ranch project. 

Embracing technology in this way is how Borger’s people make better-informed decisions with real-time metrics. 

Kirk Borger adds, “We are always looking 5, 10, 20 years ahead when it comes to strategic planning. New equipment and new technology is a big part of that. It’s not just the Borger family working here, we have multiple generations of families working here at Borger. We all look after each other in that regard.”

For Borger Group, the addition of Hitachi’s EX1200-7 to its fleet and deployment of the machine on the Key Ranch project is truly unearthing new opportunities to grow its business and deliver for clients.

Mack Plovie is the president and chief dirt enthusiast of Earthmovers Media Group.

BFIA Admin
BFIA Admin
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