Saluda Hill Landscapes: Efficient and proficient

October 13, 2019 -  By
Saluda Hill’s equipment is ready to go every morning so crews can get started quickly. (Photo: Sean Rayford)

Saluda Hill’s equipment is ready to go every morning so crews can get started quickly. (Photo: Sean Rayford)

Whether it’s at the shop, in the office, on the road or at the job site, Saluda Hill Landscapes in Lexington, S.C., leaves nothing to chance, especially when it comes to streamlining operations.

“Efficiency is the difference between making a profit and not making a profit,” says Wendell Furtick, president and CEO of Saluda Hill Landscapes, which provides 60 percent design/build, 19 percent irrigation, 15 percent garden services, 5 percent mowing and 1 percent lawncare services to a 94 percent commercial, 6 percent residential clientele. “We look for where there might be any sort of bottleneck, whether it’s a person, process or product.”

Ranked at No. 148 on the 2018 LM150 list with $11.8 million in annual revenue, the company achieved a 33 percent increase in revenue from 2017 to 2018 and is on track to hit $13 million in annual revenue for 2019.

“It’s been ongoing, but we are still tweaking how we can find more efficiencies,” Furtick says.

At the shop

To avoid the chaos of employees rushing around and bumping into one another, Saluda Hill’s facility is laid out so workers can easily stream in from their car to the time clock to the trucks without going back and forth.

Upon arriving, Saluda Hill’s 100-plus employees clock in by scanning a fob reader, instead of individually punching a timecard.

Crews fuel trucks on-site, and in the interest of time, Furtick says, crews often forgo loading and unloading trucks every day, opting instead to leave certain pieces of equipment on board.

Furtick adds that plant materials are pulled the night before from Saluda Hill’s nursery — which also functions as the company’s purchasing center.

In the office

Once the company realized the capabilities of using a mobile-form software such as GoCanvas, it did away with many of its paper forms, especially out in the field.

The company modeled the new digital forms after existing forms where field managers inspect job sites to make sure they are ready for crews. The manager can then take a photo and send it back to the scheduling department verifying that the project site is ready to go.

To ease strain on mechanics, Saluda Hill uses all Caterpillar construction equipment. (Photo: Sean Rayford)

To ease strain on mechanics, Saluda Hill uses all Caterpillar construction equipment. (Photo: Sean Rayford)

After the project is installed, the field managers and quality inspectors return to the site to capture photos and consult a checklist confirming everything was completed as it should have been.

“It’s a very detailed report that’s trackable, and they’re able to keep their records with them within their mobile device, instead of having loose-leaf paper left and right, forgetting what they’d previously written or what post-site and presite (checks) they already did,” says Bryanna Wooley, Saluda Hill’s marketing coordinator.

The company currently uses GoCanvas for just project-related information, but it has plans to expand its usage of the platform to include safety checklists and other forms.

On the road

With nearly 50 vehicles on the road each day, Saluda Hill needed a way to keep track of them all. Enter the GPS-monitoring system Sperion.

“The GPS monitoring system keeps our crews accountable,” Furtick says. “They know we’re watching, and they’re on the job site and not at the convenience store all day. It also helps us monitor safer drivers because we can sense when people are speeding.”

The system helps the service repair truck track down the exact location of any Saluda Hill vehicles that have broken down. It also monitors mileage and sends notifications when oil changes and other services are required.

“It alerts us without our mechanics having to go look at 50 different vehicles to see when routine service might be due,” Furtick says.

And, as several of Saluda Hill’s clients hail from newly built subdivisions, Sperion has come in handy when crews can’t find their way through still-unnamed roads.

“We can pull that up here at the office, they can call us and we can see where they’re at and give them guidance on how to get to the job site,” Furtick says. “If they’re lost driving around for an hour trying to find a place, we’re not on the job making money.”

To further ensure the company’s trucks are kept in order, Saluda Hill sets up each truck in a nearly identical fashion. This way, if the company needs to rearrange a crew or make employee changes, all the equipment and trucks are still the same, Furtick says.

At the job site

Saluda Hill provides a variety of offerings, including design/build services, grounds maintenance, as well as its nursery.

However, when it comes to the tools Saluda Hill uses to get the job done, the company stays fairly loyal to three brands: Caterpillar skid loaders, Stihl handheld equipment and Ram trucks.

“It makes it easier for our mechanic to stock one type of part,” Furtick says. “Again, it’s just streamlining it so we aren’t sourcing a lot of different parts.”

Sarah Webb

About the Author:

Sarah Webb is Landscape Management's associate editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University, where she studied journalism and Spanish. Prior to her role at LM, Sarah was an intern for Cleveland Magazine and a writing tutor.

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