If You Buy It, They Will Come … Eventually

Texas plumbing company has adopted an equipment purchasing strategy that keeps it prepared for new market demands

If You Buy It, They Will Come … Eventually

Much of Black Plumbing's growth has been built around anticipating future market demands and making the necessary equipment investment early. When the company saw the opportunities in hydroexcavation, it bought two FX30 units from Ditch Witch.

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With a price tag of $175,000, you’d typically want a piece of equipment out in the field working, recouping that investment. But there isn’t a lot of demand for Darrin Black’s recently purchased CCTV truck, and he’s fine with that.

Black has taken a different approach with his Abilene, Texas-based plumbing business. He secures the necessary equipment first before there is an obvious market need. When that need does finally emerge, he’s prepared to take full advantage.

“It’s not that people are beating down the doors, asking us to run it,” Black says of his new CCTV truck. “But when people do need it, we already have it. We’re the only outfit within 120 miles that owns one of these cameras.”

It’s been a reliable strategy for Black. By investing in new technology, then finding niche markets for it, he has built his company from a one-shop plumbing company in 1994 to a multi-faceted, multi-service operation with branches in seven other communities. And he’s confident the camera truck will eventually start generating steady revenue, just like other equipment he’s purchased, ranging from pipe-lining systems and hot-water trailer jetters to pipe-bursting machines and hydroexcavators.

Like he’s done with those past equipment purchases, Black has made sure the CCTV truck is equipped to handle the type of work he eventually expects to get. Outfitted by RS Technical Services on a Ford box-truck chassis, the CCTV truck features a TrakStar camera and a TranStar wheeled steerable crawler. The system is designed to inspect pipes ranging from 6 to 24 inches in diameter.

With 2,000 feet of cable, Black notes that the camera is capable of inspecting just about anything. He envisions using it to inspect sewer and storm drainlines located in smaller communities that can’t afford this kind of technology. The camera comes with many bells and whistles, including 360-degree pan-and-tilt capability and inter-changeable wheels to handle different kinds of terrain.

“It rides on all-terrain pneumatic wheels, so it rides pretty high through water and debris,” Black says. “It also has grease wheels that won’t slip in a grease-filled line. They just cut through the grease and keep on going. You can also raise the camera up to 6 inches to keep it above the water. You’re never stuck or limited during inspections.”

Black also lauds the camera’s single-conductor cable design, which enables technicians to make repairs in the field — a big productivity booster.

“That’s significant because if the cable breaks, we don’t have to stop and ship it off to the manufacturer or a repair center,” he says. “You can’t do that with a fiber-optic cable.”

Read more about Black Plumbing in this full profile featured in the May issue of Cleaner magazine.


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