M-88 Project Case Study with use of the JohnnyBall system (Study date 2014)


The M-88 road widening project (Team Elmer’s) in Traverse City, Michigan utilized the Johnny Ball Leveling Platform


Job: The M-88 road widening project consisted of ditches and back slope work.
Machine: John Deere 650 Dozer
Slope requirements: 4:1

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 installed. 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 allowing operators to move material from any angle. “It was expected that the Johnny Ball could be carried by the operator and it will mount easily on other equipment.” Engineering was able to set top of slope grades and operators were able to meet required slopes and inspections. Managing compound slopes with Johnny Ball is possible providing for increased efficiency and productivity.


The job ran for five weeks. The soil consisted of sand. 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 2 hours a day or (15) operator hours at $82/hour equates to a total of $1230/ 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 also eliminated one grade rod guy to reduce associated man hour costs estimated at $1,000. The Johnny Ball provided the operator a quick reference guide for hitting and maintaining the required slope. The Johnny Ball met the requirements.

Use of the Johnny Ball over the five-week period resulted in a reduction of engineering visits and 15 hours of operator time. This equated to an average cost reduction of $2,230 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.