Arizona plumbing contractor relies on mini-excavators to make easy work of backbreaking jobs.

When asked to name his favorite piece of equipment, contractor Ruben “Sonny” de la Rosa III doesn’t hesitate. The owner of Valley Plumbing and Septic Service in Rio Rico, Arizona, quickly responds, naming his Kubota U15 mini-excavator.

“These little excavators have completely changed our company. When I started in the business, it was my father [Ruben de la Rosa II] and me. He’d say, ‘Dig this up,’ and I’d grab my pick and shovel. Whether it took an hour or a day, that’s what I had to do,” recalls de la Rosa III.

Digging now moves faster. If he needs to go down 6 feet, de la Rosa doesn’t have to call for help. He climbs onto his Kubota and does the job himself, which means he can serve his customers faster. “These machines pay for themselves tenfold,” he says.

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The father and son team became acquainted with mini-excavators while doing a job in a tight space. Their Bobcat backhoe was too big. They thought about hiring a day laborer, but the ground was so hard the job would have been difficult for human muscle power. They contacted a local rental company. “They had this excavator. And we used it and immediately said, ‘Where do we sign?’” de la Rosa says. 

Since then, they’ve bought three different Kubota machines, which they say are reliable and came at a good price. De la Rosa is all about sticking with what works, and an advantage of having the same brand of machine is the parts inventory can be smaller, and they call only one supplier for their needs. 

The U15 is on tracks, which de la Rosa says reduces their width to fit through a narrow space such as a residential fence gate. “I’ve actually driven one through somebody’s front door and out their back door,” he explains. It was at a house that spanned the width of the property, leaving no room on either side to get equipment to the backyard to install a sprinkler system.

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To solve the problem, de la Rosa first laid down a row of tarps, and then put two sheets of plywood on top of those. He drove the Kubota across the first sheet and onto the second, then moved the sheet from behind to the front, drove onto it, and repeated the cycle until he was through the house and into the backyard. Having a piece of equipment that could do the job was the reason Valley Plumbing was hired for the project.

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