Yearly Archives: 2014

Why We Exhibit at No-Dig

While most of us are hunkering down for what looks like another tough winter moving in, it’s kind of surreal to think that we’re only three months away from the 2015 NASTT No-Dig Show. That’s right, this country’s largest trenchless technology expo is almost right around the corner, taking place from March 15-19 next year in Denver. And we’ll be there, because it’s one of the few chances we get to meet current customers and new prospects in a lively but professional atmosphere where everyone’s focused on everything new and exciting in trenchless.

No-Dig: The Ideal Interactive Environment

This ideal environment allows us to discuss our customers’ challenges, learn about the applications they’re using our products in, and learn their thoughts about where they think we should focus our research and development efforts. After all, it’s our customers who drive the products we create, and there’s just no better or more effective market research than this kind of face time with them at No-Dig.

We really appreciate the chance for this kind of in-person exchange, because sometimes we can catch some body language or facial cues to see what the person maybe is thinking but not knowing how to say it. We can then ask more probing questions and clarify the features they may be looking for or the ones they’d like to see improved, then discuss how we might be able to accommodate those requests.

Most of all, No-Dig provides us with the ability to showcase our unique Single-Conductor technology. It has particular advantages in operation, maintenance and results, all of which are best communicated with a hands-on, real-life demonstration. Once a technician has held and used our tools, and seen for him/herself the very real results our products can help them achieve, we don’t have much of a sales job to do. But having that unique demonstration/education opportunity is what makes it all possible.

We look forward to No-Dig every year, and hope to see some of you there in March!

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Happy Thanksgiving – We’re Thankful For You

As most folks prepare to get together with family and friends for the Thanksgiving holiday, we feel it’s appropriate for us all to devote at least this one day each year to reflect on how richly we’ve been blessed. That’s not true just for any individual living in this great country of ours, but also for those of us who make our livelihoods here.

It’s been an eventful and momentous year here at R. S. Technical Services. As usual, we attended and participated in dozens of industry trade shows and conferences, and were featured in several industry publications. That was, as always, interesting, fun and enlightening, as we got to visit and catch up with so many of you. We’re thankful for your continued patronage and the trust you place in our engineers and customer service people to provide what you need to get the job done and keep it working and you making money.

Quite out of the usual realm, we lost our beloved leader, Rod Sutliff, in August. That was a real blow, and of course a difficult time for us here, both personally and professionally. But if there was ever a doubt in any of our minds before, about the esteem in which this industry held our founder—and, by extension, our company—they were laid to rest along with Rod.

We cannot adequately express our immense gratitude at the outpouring of love, respect, admiration and support we received from so very many of you on Rod’s passing. All the cards, emails, phone calls and condolence gifts, and especially the attendance at Rod’s funeral, were so very welcome and greatly appreciated.

At such a time of upheaval, it’s easy to feel a bit off-kilter as you try to regain your equilibrium, and it’s no different for an entire organization as it is for an individual person. We want you to know your overwhelming support was felt and indeed helped us all return faster than we otherwise might have to the business of serving our customers and our industry. It’s what Rod would have wanted, and we just want to let you know how thankful we are for you and your part in making it happen.

We look forward to winding up this year on a strong note under continued solid leadership, and to continuing in the new year the tradition of innovation and customer commitment Rod established and engendered in every last one of us at RST.

Happy Thanksgiving. Your support remains our greatest blessing.

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POSITIVE PROOF: Lateral Inspections Pay Off!

There probably isn’t a municipality in America whose public works department heads haven’t at one time asked themselves if it’s worth the cost to inspect sewer laterals before undertaking a complete rehabilitation of their wastewater conveyance infrastructure. At first guess, it seems almost a no-brainer that the time and expense of inspecting miles of pipeline and other underground assets that have seriously aged out would be far outweighed by the savings in simply instituting a top-to-bottom replacement effort of infrastructure of a certain age. It just stands to reason, doesn’t it? How much service life could that stuff have left in it, after all?

Well, two engineers took more than a passing interest in this very question, and performed an analysis of a sewer separation project completed by the Metropolitan Sewer District (MDC) in Hartford, Conn., not too long ago. George Pendleton, P.E., of Kleinfelder/ SEA Consultants (Rocky Hill, Conn.) and Jeffrey Griffiths of Hydromax USA (Newport News, Va.) presented their findings in a report titled “Are Sewer Lateral Inspections Cost Effective?” in March, 2012, at that year’s No-Dig show.

Background: Throughout the industry, the common conclusion is that private property I/I sources are significant. Many utilities are finding it cost-effective to address these problems and consequently reduce capital expenditures and operating costs. The report’s summary states that throughout the United States, authorities estimate up to 50% of a sanitary sewer collection system’s footage is comprised of public-private laterals.

Not surprisingly, this study found that inflow and infiltration (I/I) originates from a variety of sources within a collection system, many located on private property and/or not maintained by the local sewer authority. Based on surveys from many communities across the country, I/I derived from private sources ranges between 20% – 80% of total I/I (Private Property Virtual Library database).

The age-old question is: How do you cost-effectively address the problems? Do you simply broad-brush your approach, automatically rehabilitating 100% of the laterals in areas with significant I/I? Or are pre-rehab lateral inspections to determine actual need cost-effective?

Since 1929, the Metropolitan District (MDC) has managed the Hartford, Conn. region’s water and sewer systems, originally developed in the 1850s. The MDC set goals to replace laterals with poor performance based on

  • structural integrity
  • root intrusion
  • infiltration

Recently, 1,160 laterals were inspected and coded, per NASSCO Lateral Assessment and Certification Program (LACP) parameters. In some cases, laterals could not be inspected due to lateral caps, large debris, rocks, defects, etc. After scoring and tallying all inspections, 646 laterals were identified as candidates for replacement.

However, the more important figure is the 514 laterals deemed in satisfactory operating condition, and not in current need of replacement. The cost to do the lateral inspections was an order of magnitude less than total rehabilitation.

Private source I/I reduction activities start with lateral inspections, which have proven to be a very cost-effective tool. The full report discusses lateral inspection techniques, presents data output, and demonstrates how data is used to support rehabilitation recommendations that provide clients with cost-desirable solutions.

This report—or excerpts from it—could be very convincing tools when planting seeds for new approaches next time you visit your municipal customers to generate a bit of new business. Who knows? Your fishing expedition could turn into some serious financial benefit for you and make you into a hero for your customer.

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Above and Beyond: Alternative Product Uses

We know our customers are smart, resourceful people. When they let us know of alternative ways they’re using our products, we like to share them with you. And we recently learned of some novel uses for our Investigator Camera System.

Intended for inspection in vertical pipe situations, our Investigator system consists of a removable, adjustable 22-foot pole with a TrakSTAR camera head attached. The setup, with 2 high-intensity white LED lights, is submersible to five feet. One of our distributors reported to us that they found a good deal of interest from a representative of a law enforcement agency in using this package in searching for evidence suspected of being ditched underwater during a homicide or other investigation. Think a gun or other murder weapon tossed off a bridge into a river or lake. It’s a scenario right out of an episode of CSI, and we’re excited to think of our products playing a hero’s part in a criminal investigation!

Our pole cameras can also be used to inspect in-ground or above-ground gasoline, petroleum or other fuel storage tanks before and after cleaning to show the customer that all debris has been removed. An ideal pairing for this purpose would be our explosion-proof Omni Eye II camera, which is certified for safe working conditions in classified hazardous environments.

Pole cameras aren’t the only products of ours that can be used for alternative applications. One company reported to us that they recently attached a hazardous waste detector to one of our tractor cameras to approach potentially dangerous situations. This effectively turned our equipment into drones, used in much the same way our military uses them in situations where a human presence could present serious danger.

Do you have a story to share about a way you successfully used our products for a different application than it was intended for? We’d love to hear about your alternative product uses! Please take a moment to let us know about it, and we may share it here.

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Industry News Updates

We’re always happy to share industry news updates from the field with you.

Ductile Iron Pipe study – Findings from a study of usage of this traditional material pipeline have been reviewed in Water Utility Infrastructure Management. Member companies of the Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association (DIPRA) are manufacturers of durable, environmentally responsible ductile iron pipe. The trade organization conducted the study in March and April of this year to help understand how experts with years of experience in the field feel about different choices in pipe materials. It drew more than 2,000 responses from long-time industry experts in every state in the nation — with 61 percent of those having more than two decades of experience. This study is an elaborate collection of the water community’s knowledge, expertise and field-born wisdom.

Sewer Rehab Lessons Shared – Water Online magazine’s September issue contains a very informative article sharing lessons gleaned from four public and private sewer system rehabilitation projects from the city of Westlake, Ohio. The projects were all performed in four different subdivisions developed from the 1950s to the 1970s, and the article covers different methods of inspection, assessment and repair.

Consultant Emphasizes Importance of Condition Assessment in Asset Management – CH2M HILL Director of Consulting Services, Jeff Sanford, penned a column for Water Online, touting the critical nature of infrastructure condition assessment as part of a strong, effective asset management program. In this era when municipalities are widely dealing with aging infrastructure, he says, everyone needs to determine the condition of their assets, then evaluate the need for, and select the most cost-effective repair, rehabilitation, and replacement solutions.

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Making Your Equipment Your Own: Product Modifications

Among our customers are more than a few curious, handy people who just can’t leave well enough alone. They like to tinker with their tools, enhancing their functionality or making an existing feature work better by making a few product modifications.

As designers and engineers ourselves, we get that. And we’re not threatened by your creativity — we appreciate it! We understand the attraction of taking what you’re given and making a few product modifications to make it even better.

Our designers and engineers never fail to be impressed when they see what some of our clients have come up with, and many of those ideas and suggestions have indeed made their way into new product releases here at R.S. Technical Services.

Clever Customer Product Modifications

For example, we became aware that a customer had developed wash-down systems to clean his equipment after use. This client also came up with the idea of fabricating a cradle to secure the equipment while in transit from job to job. Ultimately, our designers and engineers perfected both of these ideas into the native designs and incorporated them into later models.

During show season, we get several questions each year from booth visitors concerning how we feel about customer mods to our tools and equipment. We actually have no official policy about them, as long as our users keep safety at the top of their considerations, along with functional enhancement. Of course, we do strongly suggest reading the fine print in your new product’s warranty, since alterations and modifications can void the warranty protections.

The best approach, we think, is to contact us with any ideas for improvements or enhancements to our products. Let us know:

  • what first gave you the idea
  • primary and any secondary functions you seek
  • what conditions affect this additional functionality
  • how much of a premium you’d be willing to pay for the added functionality, so we can determine cost effectiveness

We’ll try to work with you to fully develop these special features in the factory. This way, we can incorporate them in future designs, so they won’t void your product’s warranty.

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Being Ready: Small Business Succession Planning

As you’re likely aware, we at R.S. Technical Services recently underwent one of the most critical situations a small business can face: the loss of our CEO – face of the company, moral and business leader – Rod Sutliff. And with that loss came the necessary succession of power and leadership to a new team. Though it’s never an easy process, we were fortunate: Rod’s natural inclination to forward thinking led him to recognize the importance of planning for this transition while he was still with us.

Succession Planning is Critical

He long ago sat down with our key management personnel and worked with them to draw up a succession plan for the inevitable time when he would no longer be at the helm. Consequently, we were ready. Our leadership succession has been as smooth as one could hope, having minimal negative impact on our business processes and interaction with customers.

That led us to wonder: What have you — our customers, vendors and distributors – done to plan for YOUR business’s eventual leadership transition?

It’s a serious question that we hope you’re asking yourselves. We know it can be scary and even unpleasant to imagine your key personnel absent from your company, but we’re so glad we did that hard work! And if you haven’t asked this tough question, it’s never too early, as you’ll come to see if you make use of some of the following resources we’ve rounded up for you to make it easier to get started on or help move along your own succession planning process.

Because believe us: This is not something you want to wait to do until it’s too late and you’re in a position of limited options under emotional duress. Your business is a living, breathing, evolving entity, and you must treat it as such if you expect it to continue thriving when your own inevitable transition comes along. Sound, well-thought-out succession planning is the key to making that happen.

Toward that end, we offer the following resources to make it a little easier, to give you a place to start and a context in which to think about these important decisions. We want you to be able to feel as confident and relaxed as we do, thanks to the foresight of our beloved leader.

Succession Planning: Getting Your Mind Around The Concept

Succession Planning – News & Topics [http://www.entrepreneur.com/topic/succession-planning] at Entrepreneur magazine give you a lot to think about, and tips on how to apply the knowledge to your particular business.

Plan Your Exit [http://www.sba.gov/content/plan-your-exit] – The Small Business Administration offers basic information that won’t overwhelm you.

What to Watch Out For

The Myths and Realities of Succession Planning For Small Businesses: Five Common Misconceptions
[http://wealthmanagement.com/succession-planning/myths-and-realities-succession-planning-small-businesses] lays out some pitfalls you need to be aware of in creating a successful transition plan.

How To Make It Happen

5 Steps To Create A Viable Succession Plan For Your Family Business
[http://www.forbes.com/sites/allbusiness/2013/08/28/5-steps-to-create-a-viable-succession-plan-for-your-family-business] – Forbes magazine flexes its considerable acumen on behalf of the family or closely held business to lay out five manageable steps to jumpstart your planning.

How To Create A Business Succession Plan
[http://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/07/succession_planning.asp] – Practical, nuts-and-bolts guidance.

Planning For Business Succession: Business Owner’s Toolkit [http://www.bizfilings.com/toolkit/sbg/run-a-business/exiting/planning-for-business-succession.aspx] – A nicely arranged how-to.

If You Need Help

Family Business Institute [http://www.familybusinessinstitute.com/index.php/Succession-Planning] – This company appears geared specifically toward succession planning for family-owned businesses.

Disclaimer: We offer this information for the convenience of our readers. We have not tested any of this information or worked with any of these companies, and their appearance here should not be construed as any endorsement of their companies or services. Never undertake any significant legal structuring moves without the advice of trained business counsel.

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Industry News Briefs: Angie’s List, Pipebursting Guidelines, Trenchless Rehab

We often run across small industry news items, and occasionally collect them into a potpourri of news bits such as those we offer you today.

Angie’s List
Love it or hate it, Angie’s List – the crowd-sourced contractor review site – is here to stay. And it appears that it now offers article content to support intelligent decision-making among its thousands of members. Check out its piece on sewer line replacement, including a brief primer on trenchless.

In Case You Missed It…
The Guidelines for Pipe Bursting technical report has been out since 2001, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s seen it. And it’s a shame if you haven’t, since this handy, 55-page document is a terrific tool to help new hires and potential customers alike to understand the overall usage of pipe busting as a rehabilitation technique.

Generally well-illustrated, this report includes an exhaustive introduction, containing:

  • a general description of pipe bursting
  • its main classes
  • other pipe replacement systems
  • applicability
  • its effects on the surrounding environment
  • the feasibility of and market for the practice.

This is followed by sections on

  • Standards
  • Design Considerations
  • Construction Considerations
  • Bid Documents
  • Contractor Submittals
  • Conclusion, References and Appendix

It’s a great introduction to the practice for potential customers, new hires and – let’s face it – it never hurts to give yourself a little refresher course now and then, does it?

Ecological Implications of Trenchless Pipe Rehabilitation
If you’ve ever wondered about how the trenchless technology you use to repair and replace pipelines, you’re not alone. Eventually, even if you haven’t thought about it yourself, sooner or later, a potential client will – and that’s not a question you want to answer inaccurately. To that end, we offer this trenchless rehab overview that obviously originated as a digital slide presentation. Though created by the Virginia Transportation Research Council, most of the information it offers is applicable to trenchless operations everywhere. It covers:

  • the four main types of trenchless technology and how they work
  • the chemical makeup of common materials used in trenchless
  • Environmental hazards posed by these ingredients
  • Recommendations for specifying projects for the least possible environmental impact

Though this downloadable guide concentrates specifically on the state of Virginia, it contains information that could be applicable and truly valuable for any municipality or other specifier of trenchless operations.

We welcome any industry news items you may come across and think we should share with our readers!

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Infrastructure Week 2014 panel event: Water Infrastructure Critical to Economy

Bravo to the Value of Water Coalition for launching Water Works! – their new effort to demonstrate the critical role water infrastructure plays in our nation’s economy. The Coalition, comprised of major players in the water and wastewater management industry, kicked off the campaign at Infrastructure Week 2014 in mid-May with a panel event. The discussion revolved around the current condition of the nation’s water infrastructure and the growth and opportunity it’s driving.

The upshot of the exchange is the fact that in the national conversation about our country’s aging infrastructure, water and wastewater have been issues so neglected that they have become, essentially, the “hidden infrastructure.”

An excellent recounting and analysis of the event  was published in the May 14 issue of Water Online. We recommend it as a good read for any industry professional, since it’s we who must drive the awareness of this “hidden infrastructure” to the general public. We must also convince our leaders, whose responsibility it is to prioritize the funding and implementation of this critical infrastructure, of the importance of its renewal and expansion in support of a safer, more stable and sustainable future for us all.

These types of panel discussions are just the beginning of what we might, as an industry, do to drive awareness and educate the public and our government officials. There are all kinds of events and outreach we could do, and we’re thankful that whatever form this effort takes, we have such a robust and committed trade press to cover it and spread the message outside the industry, where awareness is most lacking.

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Model Sewer Maintenance Program

If your municipality is in the process of creating formalized sewer maintenance and operations programs, it’s a good idea to take a look at what’s already working for others. In that vein, we share here a link to a program outline from one of our nation’s most densely populated locations.

Bergen County, NJ abuts the state line, with New York City just to the north. Due to heavy usage by the large, dense population, this area long ago had to adopt formal program guidelines, and the considerations outlined in them provide a great template to adapt to your own region’s needs.

The outline begins with an overview of the types of scenarios that can cause system failures. It then discusses how older areas of our country that have been settled longer came to the point where they require expensive, “band-aid” repairs on an emergency basis, and how moving to a proactive, planned program can help save serious dollars and headaches for municipal managers and utilities.

It goes on to list dozens of data points suggested to form the foundation of such a proactive, codified sewer maintenance program plan. Our favorite part is the table that shows the type of information that should be collected during a CCTV inspection.

We hope you find this resource helpful in formulating your own proactive approach to your collection system operation and long-term maintenance.

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