Bear Lake Dunes Heritage Trail Case Study with use of the JohnnyBall system (Study date 2014)


The Sleeping Bear Dunes Heritage Trail (Team Elmer’s) in Traverse City, Michigan utilized the Johnny Ball Leveling Platform


Job: The Sleeping Bear Dunes Heritage Trail Project
Machine: John Deere 650 Dozer
Slope requirements: had two desired slope levels 3:1 and 2:1

Typically excavating firms use either a common slope meter or GPS or engineering grade stakes. The costs associated with these methods are as follows: $350/unit. GPS has a cost associated with $60,000+. Team Elmer’s utilizes survey staking and has GPS for their larger roadwork jobs. Team Elmer’s calculated the cost to operate the machines at an average of $82/ hour. This includes both operators time and equipment costs.


The Johnny Ball Leveling Platform allows heavy equipment operators to manage indicated slopes in a true 3D format. By utilizing the Johnny Ball base cup system it allowed operators to move the device between machines for cross use on more than one machine providing efficiency. The operators would be able to set and maintain the slope without the use of time consuming grade checks that require the operator to get off the machine and it reduces the amount of time it takes for an engineer to inspect the slope. Managing compound slopes with Johnny Ball is possible providing for increased efficiency and productivity.


The job ran for two weeks. The soil consisted of both sand and clay. Utilizing Johnny Ball, operators achieved and maintained required slopes without the need to set as many grade stakes and were not required to exit their equipment to check grade. This saved an average of (16) operator hours at $82/hour equates to a total of $1312/ cost reduction. As a result, the operator was able to continue operating with Johnny Ball using compound slopes and angles rather than checking grade. It reduced engineering visits and was able to eliminate an average of 1 visit at up to $400 of associated engineering costs. The engineer did not need to confirm slope requirement and re-stake grade. The Johnny Ball met the requirements.

Use of the Johnny Ball over the two-week period resulted in a reduction of engineering visits and 16 hours of operator time. This equated to an average cost reduction of $1,712 in this case study.


Team Elmer’s uses Johnny Ball to maintain level and slope requirements and has established a protocol for reducing costs and increasing profitability through increased efficiency and productivity of the operators and the equipment.