Pipe Rehab and Inspection Tools That Help the Bottom Line

Five contractors discuss pieces of equipment that they have found beneficial for their companies’ profitability

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To mark February’s editorial theme of pipe installation, repair, inspection and rehabilitation, here is a sampling of equipment in that arena that some contractors find especially valuable to their operations.

Ace Pipe Cleaning of Kansas City, Missouri, has seven SL-RAT acoustic pipeline assessment tools from InfoSense. The SL-RAT consists of two paired devices — an 18-pound transmitter and an 11-pound receiver — that are deployed atop adjacent manholes. The transmitter sends a series of tones down one manhole and into the pipe, while the receiver uses sophisticated algorithms to create a blockage assessment based on what it “hears.” The system ranks pipelines on a scale from 1 to 10. The higher the score, the lower the level of blockage. While it can’t serve as a replacement for camera inspections, it allows Ace Pipe Cleaning to be more productive for its customers, inspecting more linear feet per day.

“The SL-RAT provides a rapid assessment of pipe flow. Think of it as a pre-screening tool you can use before doing a conventional sewer cleaning and CCTV inspection. It can help prioritize the need to do expensive camera inspections. This technology is especially suited for small municipalities, which usually just don’t have the money to spend on camera inspections. We can assess an entire small town in four or five days and tell them where to focus their resources.” — Bruce Jameson, regional manager for Ace Pipe Cleaning, on the value SL-RAT provides customers

Underground Connections of Wooster, Ohio, invested $55,000 a few years ago to purchase the Pit Shot, a compact directional drilling machine made by RODDIE. It has allowed the company to overcome the typically high cost of horizontal directional drilling equipment so that it can add the boring of new waterlines and sewer lines to its service offerings, complementing the company’s trenchless pipe rehab services. The machine has led to a 25 to 30% increase in revenue.

“I immediately thought it would be a game-changer, and it has been. I have a dedicated crew of two guys for that machine, and it goes out almost every day. It has increased our capacity to help out customers with certain things that we couldn’t do before. It fits in an excavation pit that’s only 4 feet long and 2 feet wide.” — Tom Carlisle, owner of Underground Connections

Affordable Plumbing & Sewer of Kansas City, Missouri, has had great success on pipe lining jobs using Quik-Shot systems made by Pipe Lining Supply. The company has two such systems, which each weigh about 50 pounds making them easy to transport to hard-to-access areas and are engineered to use a minimum of moving parts so that breakdowns are rare. The machines each cost about $45,000, but since investing in them the company estimates it has more than doubled revenue.  

“I can shoot anything. I regularly shoot two to three lines a week — and sometimes four. The great thing is being able to fix pipes under streets without tearing up pavement. Doing a street cut will cost at least $10,000, so the Quik-Shot gives me a big competitive advantage, plus it’s so versatile. On average, I can do a 100-foot job in about six hours.” — Rick Ramsey, owner of Affordable Plumbing & Sewer

AccuJet Sewer and Drain Cleaning of Perry, Iowa, invested in a Schwalm USA Talpa FSR 2060 sewer rehab robotic system in early 2018 to help with the risky work of prepping badly deteriorated sewer pipes for lining as well as the required post-installation work. Different heads can be attached to the unit, allowing it to grind, sand, cut, and chip away at mineral deposits, built-up grit, tuberculation, and even concrete.

“We did a job in Illinois where we had to cut out 56 taps in a sewer line. With a conventional tool, that might’ve taken a week. But we started on a Monday and finished on Wednesday. We cut the job time almost in half. And we can charge more, too, because people are willing to pay more for a company that does a better job.” — Kyle Baxter, owner of AccuJet Sewer and Drain Cleaning, on the robot’s ability to reinstate lateral lines

Ellingson Cos. of West Concord, Minnesota, uses Rovver X inspection cameras from Envirosight. The Rovver X features three different body sizes that can inspect 4- to 96-inch-diameter pipes; steerable, overlapping six-wheel drive for traversing offsets and debris; a zero-degree turning radius for maximum maneuverability in curved inverts; compact footprint; 1/4-inch-diameter, 1,000-foot-long Kevlar cable with 1,000-pound break strength and stored on an automated reel; simultaneous control of multiple camera functions; 12 quick-change wheel options; remote-control capability; and the ability to view and record digital video, log observations, generate reports for clients and link directly to asset management software. Optional lateral launch, side-scanning and laser-profiling systems are also available.  

“Running it is pretty self-explanatory — you don’t need a doctorate degree to learn how to operate it. That’s important because it shortens the learning curve. If we get a new guy, we can train him on the fly in the field. With other machines, you need classroom training to learn how to run it, so you’re potentially losing productivity out in the field. As long as you keep up with the general maintenance, they’re going to last. ... They’ve been a great investment for our company. They do everything we’ve asked them to do.” — Joe Bingham, production manager for Ellingson Cos.


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