Are You Sabotaging Your Pipeline Rehab Team?

If so, take advantage of these five no-nonsense ways to build the best crew of pipeline rehabbers. Plus, check out some cutting-edge rehab tools.
Are You Sabotaging Your Pipeline Rehab Team?
You invest in pipe bursting machines, excavators, inspection tools and lining equipment. So, shouldn’t you invest as much time into the operators who use and run that expensive gear?

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Owning a pipeline rehabilitation and inspection business can be fun and rewarding. I have been involved in building — or helping build — a number of businesses for more than 25 years, so I’ve learned a thing or two about what makes pipe rehab crew workers tick. 

From manhandling heavy tunneling tools and rigging up pipe bursting equipment to measuring grout and setting liners, many of your crew members are jacks-of-all-trades. But with all those individual skills, each work is only one cog in the well-oiled pipe rehab machine. Nothing works well or truly becomes great without teamwork. 

So, let’s take a look at how each of these areas are vital to the growth of your team. 

1.     Set a good example.

This is serious stuff. As the leader, all eyes are on you. Your employees will do as you do, and not as you say. You have be committed to the task at hand, and have a well laid out plan to build your company, and you must have everyone on the same page to accomplish that.

Culture is a word I hear used incorrectly all the time. Your technicians are hard-working laborers, and they all have one thing in common — they’re dedicated to you and your team. It’s a culture of like-minded individuals. Attracting dedicated, like-minded people is the best way to build a team that has a uniform goal. The best way to accomplish any plan is with employees who are excited and believe in the challenge. 

2.     Freedom.

The entrepreneurial spirit is built on freedom. Your team members give you a lot of their time, and it can be backbreaking and thankless work at times, which makes it vital to reward them by being lenient when it comes to letting them make choices and decisions. Bottom line: Be proud of their accomplishments. 

Show them that they have abilities beyond what they may think, and support them in every way to step out of their comfort zones. For instance, if your pipe bursting technician has a knack for writing, let him use those skills to blog for your company website. Perhaps you don’t think the two skill sets go hand in hand, but you might be surprised by the technician’s unexpected talent. 

3.     Communicate the dream.

Many — or maybe most — people are terrible communicators. To attract and keep the best people, you have to effectively share your long-term company goals so workers know what’s in it for them. Why should they get out of bed in the morning to come to work for you? 

Tell them, show them, work with them — and make that dream become reality. Do this relentlessly, and eventually your team will carry larger portions of the load and breathe new life into the company. It’s easy to talk. It’s difficult to get people to listen. 

4.     Invest in your people.

You invest in pipe bursting machines, excavators, inspection tools and lining equipment. So shouldn’t you invest as much time into the operators who use and run that expensive gear?

Don’t pause. Employees are worth the investment of time and money, and actions speak louder than words. Help them be better. Send them to night school, provide regular training sessions on industry updates and cutting-edge technologies, and (gasp!) visit other contractors to see how they operate a top-notch pipeline rehabilitation team. 

And, of course, attend the WWETT show (formerly the Pumper & Cleaner Expo) to get all the education and see all the latest products in one location. Visit to register.

Another bonus? Engaged employees perform better, and they’re more willing to go out of their way for the greater good of the company. 

5.     Be sincere.

It’s obvious when someone cares about the work they do. Communicate what you want out of each of your workers, and they will help make your company successful.  

Don’t just ask your workers questions. Listen to their responses. 

So, whether you’re expanding your pipeline rehabilitation menu of services or just jumping on the rehab bandwagon, reliable manpower is vital to your success. 

Now that you know how to build the best team, don’t skimp on the latest tools and accessories to beef up your trenchless technology efforts.

Tired of hard-to-handle machines? The lightweight lateral pipe bursting machine from RODDIE Inc. slides apart into two components of 50 and 60 pounds that can be lowered and reassembled by hand in the excavated pulling pit. 

If you want flexibility, check out the Model PD-33 pipe bursting machine from Pow-r Mole Sales with a 24-inch stroke. 

Want to be a big shot in the pipe bursting world? The BigShot underground pneumatic piercing tool from Footage Tools Inc. can be run with a small portable air compressor that delivers up to 75 cfm and 110 psi.

Never lose tension with the TT Technologies 3-ton Grundowinch hydrostatic constant-tension winch, which is suited for underground utility applications including pipe bursting, underground cable pulling, sliplining, pipe pulling and swage lining. 

This one does it all. The UnderTaker pipe bursting system from Spartan Tool will replace existing sewer laterals with new, seamless, high-flow HDPE pipe from 2 to 6 inches in diameter.

Pull! The Model 7000 pipe bursting puller from Poweram replaces existing utilities by pulling pipe splitting and/or bursting tools through the old pipe and pulling a new pipe into the same space.

Want comfort? The ergonomic Hi-Flow 13HP hydraulic pump from TRIC Tools delivers 4 gpm up to 5,000 psi, measures 28 by 27 by 26 inches, and weighs about 280 pounds wet.

Designed for the underground utility contractor, the JT25 HDD from Ditch Witch offers 27,000 pounds of thrust and pullback, a rotational drive with 4,000 ft-lbs of torque and quiet drill operation. 

The 34-inch pneumatic pipe-ramming hammer from HammerHead Trenchless Equipment can install casing 48 to 180 inches in diameter in drainage culvert and washover applications. 

The D9x13 S3 Navigator horizontal directional drill from Vermeer has a small footprint that makes it ideal for installation projects in congested urban areas.

If ultimate lining is your goal, then cured-in-place options are sure to impress:

Flex-Seal plural-component aromatic urethane utility sealant from Sealing Systems has 800 percent elongation and a tensile strength of 3,200 psi. 

Truck-mounted grout rehabilitation systems from CUES are available for mainline joint sealing/lateral sealing, and can be equipped with CCTV inspection equipment. 

Asphalt-modified urethane Manhole ChimneySeal chemically resistant, elastomeric lining from Sauereisen provides durability, especially with respect to flexural forces. 

T-Liner one-piece homogenous main and lateral CIPP connection liner from LMK Technologies is ASTM F2561 compliant with a uniform wall thickness. 

The Mark III Continuous Air Inverter from CIPP Services can install 6- to 18-inch liners using compressed air and a steam-air mixture for curing with interchangeable adapters.

Reliable multisize flow-through trenchless point repair bladders from Logiball are custom built to specific needs and are available for 3- through 36-inch pipes in different lengths.

The 130-5 Series point repair packer carriers from Petersen Products Co. are available from 2.6 to 12.25 inches, making them suitable for most point repair systems.

CIPP liner from Inliner Technologies allows for the renewal of damaged underground pipes without excavation.

The Nu Drain pull-in-place system for small diameters from Nu Flow Technologies creates a protective, structural pipe inside an existing host piping system without the need for digging or destruction. 

The calibration roller from Quik Lining Systems, when coupled with a vacuum pump, provides uniform thickness throughout the length of the liner. 

InstaCureRez from Gadmon Industries, distributed in the U.S. by Easy-Liner, gives CIPP contractors up to a 120-minute working time.

The VeriCure system from Pipeline Renewal Technologies monitors cure temperature continuously along the full length of a CIPP liner during installation.

QuickLock Point Repair permanent pipeline rehabilitation installation from Rausch Electronics USA has a 316L stainless steel sleeve encased in an EPDM rubber sleeve. 

The Flow 120 Aluminum Inverter from Flow-Liner Systems is designed to hold 2- to 8-inch liners, and is equipped with a removable hand wheel.

Check out manufacturer contact information and complete pipe bursting and lining product listings.

About the Author

Kim K. Lewis is chairman and CEO of LiquiForce Services in Kingsville, Ontario. The company develops specialized processes for the sewer rehabilitation industry. Lewis helped create and chaired the North American Association of Pipeline Inspectors to provide video inspection language for contractors and municipalities across North America. He was named 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year by the Windsor-Essex (Ontario) Chamber of Commerce.


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