For Minnesota Contractor, ROVVER X Cameras Are Essential Storytellers

Find out how this company used ROVVER X with lateral launch to expand its inspection and maintenance services

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For Minnesota Contractor, ROVVER X Cameras Are Essential Storytellers

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When Shawn and Sara Wenner acquired Empire Pipe in North Mankato, Minnesota, in 2009, they were taking a gamble. The company exclusively worked with excavating contractors performing post-inspections, and demand had slowed to a trickle during the recession. “It was a baptism by fire,” Shawn Wenner says. 

However, the husband-and-wife team was committed to understanding and adapting to the needs of the communities they serve. Empire pivoted to providing more maintenance services, and municipal clients now represent a majority of the company’s customer base. 

“We have grown to about four crews, and the televising and cleaning of municipal sewers is now our bread and butter,” Wenner says. “And we started adding different types of services to help certain maintenance functions, like root removal and trenchless repairs.” 

Through it all, “our cameras are our eyes and ears for performing all this work. They are our validation, our storytellers. We put a big emphasis on doing quality work, and if we haven’t done a good job the camera helps us get back to that.” 

ROVVER X platform helps deliver results

The team didn’t always have reliable equipment. “On the camera side, we had a couple different brands,” Wenner recalls. “After settling on Envirosight, we started off using the Supervision models. We loved them. Finally this year we’ve purchased a ROVVER X with lateral launch.” 

Empire Pipe had communicated exactly what it needed with Macqueen, Envirosight’s dealer for Minnesota. The ROVVER X combo — a mainline crawler with add-on lateral launch capabilities — fit their needs to a T, and the mainline crawler’s lift option was a major selling point. 

“The lift just makes it so much more versatile,” Wenner explains. “You’re able to go down without a wheel change in a sewer that’s been cleaned. You can go from a 6-inch sewer to 15 and center your camera head. And it’s huge on diagnosing problems. If you have high water flow, you can raise the boom high enough that you can get to the problem. With a standard camera you would be under water. It seems simple, but it’s huge to have on a smaller diameter crawler. The operators love it.” 

The ROVVER X platform has boosted Empire’s ability to provide main and lateral inspections. While many contractors are focusing on the growing market for cross-bore contracting, Wenner has found that the equipment adds a lot of value for smaller system operators. 

“We focus more on I&I, because of our municipal base. Minnesota has had some very wet years environmentally, and that has put a strain on a lot of our customers’ infrastructure, particularly underground. Their systems can’t handle an overflow of I&I, so there’s been a big focus to try to reduce it.” 

Providing necessary services

Located just an hour and a half from Minneapolis, Empire now serves a range of customers. “We’re kind of right in between both environments,” Wenner says. “We’re close enough to the metro area that we take advantage of working with that, but we’re also in the rural areas where they need that service.” 

And what they provide to smaller communities in the area shouldn’t be underestimated. Many have few resources and minimal in-house expertise. 

“Rural towns are doing a triage because they have limited funds; they have to assess their situation. We always recommend they talk to professional engineers, but they consult with us a lot to help them focus on what they think is the most important. We particularly enjoy having that relationship, so we can be problem solvers for them.” 

Wenner attributes the trust that his clients — including rural towns, larger cities, and contractors — have in Empire Pipe to the hard work and experience of his crews. “We’ve had some key foremen with us for a long time, and that’s huge. Having that continuity allows us to understand customers’ needs better, because of experience they have gained over the years. And our customers know when we come back every year and they see the same people working for us, that says something about us. They have the comfort level, and they know the quality workmanship they’re going to get.” 

The ROVVER X system from Envirosight offers unbeatable ease of use, versatility, reliability and — important for contractors like Empire — a camera lift that allows crews to rapidly adapt to a variety of pipe sizes and conditions.

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