Right for the Job

Vortex Companies provides streamlined, complete solutions for its customers’ trenchless pipe replacement projects

Right for the Job

The AccuPower High-Pressure Water Blaster system can be quickly configured on a Schwalm robot within 10 minutes, enabling users to remove the harshest debris from aging infrastructure without damaging the host pipe.

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As founder and CEO, Mike Vellano set out to make Vortex Companies a turnkey trenchless solutions provider that offers comprehensive, cost-effective products, technology, training and installation.

Prior to launching Vortex, Vellano worked for his family’s business, New York-based Vellano Shoring & Supply, where he worked his way up the ranks and helped streamline operations, grew accounts and increased sales exponentially.

After more than 10 years with Vellano Shoring, he moved his family to Texas to work for a regional lining company to gain operational experience. He eventually became vice president of sales and marketing for a large trenchless underground contractor. The experience he gained in that role —overseeing sales, marketing and product development functions along with forging strategic business alliances — led him to go on to found what became Vortex Companies.

Cleaner recently spoke with Vellano about Vortex Companies extensive product offerings, providing ongoing training and support for clients, and the innovation happening in the trenchless rehabilitation industry.

Cleaner: Tell us a little about the history of Vortex Companies.

Vellano: In 2015, I was well on my way to creating what Vortex is today. We had acquired or organically built a portfolio of businesses that were flourishing. Vortex Infrastructure Products was founded to consolidate these entities into an organization supporting the commercial offering, which included turnkey bypass, QLS installation and trenchless solutions. Later that year, the company also introduced pipe bursting services and opened an office in the Northeast. We ultimately consolidated these individual business units under a holding company, Vortex Companies, which is how the company is known today. 

We’ve experienced robust organic and acquisition-based growth over the years. We now offer broad range of trenchless technologies and robotic solutions under one roof. With a comprehensive, consultative approach, we ensure municipalities, consultants and facility managers have the right materials for every project.

Cleaner: Vortex Companies offers many trenchless pipe repair products. Where did it all start and how are all of them connected?

Vellano: Vortex actually began with selling a product call Pipe-Robo-Tec, which was a mechanical seal technology. In 2014, we developed QLS as a system to structurally repair large-diameter pipe and turnkey bypass systems. From that point, we began aggressively adding product and service offerings to our platform. In 2015, Vortex acquired Quadex, which expanded our product portfolio to include GeoKrete geopolymer for high H2S environments, I&I Guard manhole rehabilitation products, industrial sealers and coatings, and CIPP resins and equipment. Later that year, Vortex became an authorized seller of Picote Solutions and acquired the rights to Schwalm USA’s robotics, which further expanded our product offering.

In the years that followed, Vortex added service capabilities by strategically acquiring rehabilitation contractors and further expanded our product portfolio to include 100% solids polymeric materials and the VeriCure CIPP curing monitoring system. We recently launched the AccuPower high-pressure water blaster to meet the industry’s needs for precision high-powered cutting that won’t harm host pipes. We’ve also opened facilities in Europe and Mexico to give us a global reach.

The depth and breadth of our product portfolio offers a unique capability to marry the right product with the right technology to maximize the quality and longevity of pipe repairs.

Cleaner: What differentiates your pipeline repair and replacement systems from the competition?

Vellano: Vortex is unique in that we are a one-stop shop for such a wide range of trenchless technology repair materials and robotic solutions, which streamlines customers’ projects. We can not only customize materials in just a couple weeks — and provide multiple types of materials that may be needed for a job — but also back those materials with deep expertise to make sure the correct material is being used in the right way to get the maximum result. Our in-depth engineering recommendations also enable the job to be done right the first time.

Cleaner: Tell us about the some of the equipment and what applications they best serve.

Vellano: AccuPower really addresses an unmet need in the industry. It is ideal for removing all kinds of debris, concrete — even CIPP liners — from aging infrastructure to maintain it or prepare it for rehabilitation work. It allows crews to descale and clean faster without worrying about damaging the underlying host pipe.

One of our AccuPower customers was able to help an owner remove 5 yards of 10,000 psi rated concrete mix in a 24-inch ductile iron pipe after several failed attempts with alternative approaches by other contractors. AccuPower saved the owner $180,000 in pipe replacement costs plus the time required for a pipe replacement.  

Cleaner: Tell us a little about VeriCure, the company’s CIPP curing monitoring system. How does it work?

Vellano: CIPP lining solutions are an important tool for restoring the structural integrity of old pipes that make up our infrastructure. However, the material must be properly cured to ensure structural integrity. VeriCure is a patented, innovative curing monitoring system built around fiber optic distributed temperature sensing technology that continuously monitors the temperature during liner installation and helps confirm a more complete cure throughout the length of the host pipe. Installers can address any issues in real-time and verify the cure with data. This reduces the risk of lifts, delamination, over-tensioning, over-cooking and environmental contamination — all of which creates huge financial risk across the value chain from customer to end user. 

Following the VeriCure acquisition, we’ve continued to upgrade software and create field optimization in the form of wireless connectivity. We anticipate adding more functionality to this system in the future.

Cleaner: What are some recommendations for customers shopping for pipeline rehab and repair systems and products?

Vellano: With the current global supply chain challenges, one of the most important drivers is material availability to avoid long project delays. Stockpiling materials doesn’t solve the problem because some materials can expire.

For example, vinyl ester is hard to find today, and contractors need an alternative. A product like methacrylate resin, which is what our Quad-Cure UV is made of, securely bonds to every type of pipe — plastic, clay, cast iron and more — and it’s in stock for contractors’ daily needs. It’s a great alternative to vinyl ester, provides excellent adhesion and has a reliable supply.

Working with a supplier that has a wide range of options also allows you to find the right solution for your challenge. It’s important to understand the range of repair options for your infrastructure challenges as the wrong fit could impact the total life, project efficiency and total repair cost.

Cleaner: You offer in-field equipment training and technical support. What does that support entail, and how does that enhance your relationship with companies using your products?

Vellano: Training and support are core components that ensure contractors get the best results from our products. We invest in our training and support capabilities to provide contractors the hands-on experience that will help them in the field. This includes classroom and in-field training so that contractors experience a comprehensive, thorough learning experience. When crews know how to properly utilize a material, they achieve the best results for their clients — and the community.

Cleaner: How do you see the pipeline rehab industry evolving?

Vellano: There’s never been a more exciting — or challenging — time to be part of this industry. We’ve witnessed significant disruption across all sectors of construction, which has added tremendous complexity to both below- and aboveground projects. Supply chain issues serve as a catalyst for new approaches and new materials to be adopted.

Contractors can broaden their customers’ horizons to consider different or new methods that offer field-proven performance and can increase design life by more than 50 years. When it comes to large-diameter pipe, there are at least five unique repair options to consider when evaluating what is best to restore that asset. This gives contractors incredible flexibility to identify the best approach to satisfy the unique dynamics of the job, both in terms of the physical environment as well as budget.

In addition to alternative approaches, novel technologies will also gain greater adoption in the next 12 months. Part of this will be driven by the infrastructure bill, which prioritizes technologies that are cost-effective, made in America and more sustainable. I anticipate the use of CIPP and geopolymers will continue to grow as these are unbeatable and reliable performers. I also anticipate greater interest in bursting and lining water technologies because they can repair twice the amount of water utilities without increasing the cost.

I expect robotics use to expand as well because of how they help contractors descale, remove debris and even perform point repairs in small or hard-to-reach sections of pipe.

Cleaner: What’s ahead for Vortex Companies in the next year?

Vellano: We look forward to introducing new acquisitions, innovations and strategic partnerships. We’re focused on offering the broadest range of trenchless technology solutions to contractors and aggressively expanding through acquisitions and organic growth.

Cleaner: What do you want your customers to think of when they hear the name Vortex Companies?

Vellano: When customers think of Vortex, I want them to think of us as their single source for trenchless technology solutions and expertise needs. 


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