Drain Services Inc.: The Muscle To Multi-Task

Problem

Drain Services Inc. in Fargo, N.D., is a very small operation, and owner Kevin Cameron needs his equipment to be versatile, capable of multi-tasking. He was looking for a pipeline inspection system that could also be a workhorse for point repairs. Rather than acquire a custom-built rig, he decided that a component-style system would be a better choice for his project requirements.

“I was looking at many manufacturers,” he remembers. “This was my first major equipment financing deal. I did a lot of investigating, to gain the most work for my investment.”

Solution

While getting PACP-certified, Kevin told his instructor about the system he sought: “6-wheel-drive, with enough grip to pull a pipe repair into place. He told me about TrioVision-Cobra, whose crawler is big and heavy, with a robust 13-wire cable. It could do exactly what I wanted.”

While other vendors backed away from this kind of equipment multi-tasking, our sales representative assured Kevin that our warranty would cover such use. He cancelled previous purchase orders and committed to the Trio-Vision modular system.

Kevin requested the ability to install the components himself in a unique, very mobile and agile hybrid van. Our build-out team hadn’t ever fielded such a request, but they took it in stride. They worked hard to have all system elements plugged in when he showed up to take delivery, to show him how it worked. Then they broke down the components and packed them into military grade cases. “All I had to do was open them up, plug and play,” Kevin recalls.

Result

Kevin says, “Now I not only have a robust pipeline inspection system, but also a hardy workhorse to help me accomplish remote point repairs, without having to invest in another specialized piece. I think everybody is extremely happy with how it’s going. I know I am.”

Get To Know Our Customers: Terrell Harmon of Harmon Pipe Service, LLC

Terrell Harmon runs Harmon Pipe Service LLC in Rockmart, Georgia, about 45-50 minutes from Atlanta. The company has been in business for six years. It serves the metro Atlanta area, primarily north Atlanta, Forsythe County, and surrounding areas. They work mostly in new construction, primarily new subdivisions.

At its peak, Harmon Pipe Service (HPS) ran a crew of six, doing Mandrel testing, vacuum testing of manholes, pipe cleaning, and video inspection. These days, it’s pretty much just Terrell in the field, and one other part-time employee in the office.

Focusing on Pipeline Inspection

“I’m starting to slow down,” he says, “so we’re doing mostly video inspection. No cleaning anymore, no jetting—mostly just video.” After experiencing many facets of the business, he has found the work he most enjoys and which generates the greatest return on resources invested.

HPS primarily subcontracts to larger pipeline contractors on big commercial jobs, so with this single revenue stream, it’s critical to him that his equipment work every time. He’s been using Cobra Technologies CCTV pipeline inspection equipment since he’s been in the business. What keeps him coming back to Cobra?

“It’s a great product line; simple to operate, and it’s a great product for a fair price. It’s a great fit for me because the company is local, and their after-sales service is great,” Terrell says.

Terrell Harmon driving his UTV-mounted CCTV inspection system

Terrell Harmon driving his UTV-mounted CCTV inspection system

Specializing in Off-Road Locations

HPS specializes in inspecting outfalls and other assets that require off-road access. He runs two of our Model 800 crawlers, two V5 cameras, and Pan-Tilt-Zoom camera on a UTV unit for doing off-road stuff.

He recalls adding that last piece: “Most of my calls were becoming those for off-road jobs. I guess with the big vans, they couldn’t get video equipment to these places. I knew that carving out a niche for myself in the local market was a good positioning strategy, and I saw one in being able to get where they couldn’t. That’s what made me successful.”

So in 2000, Terrell approached us and said “I don’t want a van, but I want your equipment. We’re going to be operating it on a UTV,” a utility ATV such as a Polaris or Gator. He specified what he wanted, and we built him a UTV-based inspection system.

From Niche to Now

The first model was a simple sheet metal fabrication. The second vehicle we beefed up the rugged factor and good looks by adding diamond plate in strategic locations. We then built a third one and began offering these models to the general industry.

These UTV-mounted systems are basically intended to get our equipment out where the landscape is more rural, and there just aren’t many wide, well-maintained roads. As Terrell explains:

“All sewer lines leave the road eventually. Some go through the woods, down to these outfalls in more distant and less-travelled areas. That’s what I specialize in. Everybody can’t stay in the road. That’s where I went with the UTV.”

He says that although it was something of a financ

ial risk, he had really looked at the jobs that were coming in, and studied where his market was going. He believed it would be a good move.

Owner Terrell Harmon stands in front of the rugged diamond plate housing of his Cobra Technologies UTV-mounted CCTV pipeline inspection system

Owner Terrell Harmon stands in front of the rugged diamond plate housing of his Cobra Technologies UTV-mounted CCTV pipeline inspection system

Quick Payoff

It was, only taking about 18 months to pay off that investment.

“Not bad at all,” he quips.

Aside from believing in his own idea, Terrell had to have faith that the Cobra designers and fabrication technicians would be able to execute the plan he saw in his mind. “They never had done (a UTV-mounted system) before, so I kind of worked with them. I said, ‘Here’s what I want, it’s going to work.’ I knew they could do it. We just had to mount the equipment on a UTV rather than in a van, just put a cover over it. I knew it would be fine, because Cobra is good equipment.”

Asked if he sees himself as a sort of pioneer, he chuckles and says, “Well, I’ll try anything.”

Showing the World

And he’s proven out his idea and gotten his mileage out of it. Now he’s ready to let the Cobra team show their mutual idea to the entire market, which is why we had it on display in our booth at the 2018 WWETT Show.

“I’ve been dealing with it long enough, and I was willing to let them bring it and have it at the show,” he says, “so, hopefully, it pays off for them, too.”

We have a funny feeling it’ll do just that. Thanks, Terrell!

Get To Know Our Customers: Randy Askea of Continental Pipe Services

Randy Askea (pronounced AS-kay) of Continental Pipe Services (CPS) in Marietta, Georgia got his start in the wastewater management industry in 1975. He worked for a pipeline services contractor for about six years, then went into business for himself in 1981.

CPS offers pipeline cleaning, inspection (mainly video), chemical grouting and sealing, manhole restoration, and wet well rehabilitation. They do pressure testing, vacuum testing of manholes, and generate reports on these tests.

“We’re really known for ‘pipe-in-the-ground’ contracting,” says Randy. “We do the job fast, which gets us a lot of projects for cities and military bases.”

At one point, this work supported a staff of twenty employees. When the economy tanked in 2008, Randy had to make some difficult choices. “We downsized when the economy got bad. We were forced to lose quite a few people, so we’re down to about four now.” As for so many other businesses, it was a tough time for CPS, but things are improving.

As of the 2018 WWETT Show, Randy had just bought a brand new TrioVision CCTV inspection truck. “We have an older TV truck van as well,” he says, “and I have one of the Cobra portable units that I can load onto a pickup truck, and go to places that most people can’t in the industry.” With that new equipment and capacity available, CPS has put a new crew to work, now that the economy’s picked back up in their area.

In his early years working for the other contractor Randy says he went a lot of places on the job. “We worked in Hawaii, Guam, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba—all the military bases, all over the U.S. He would send crews and equipment over” to get the jobs done. These days, he keeps a bit closer to home, but still ranges out a bit. “I spent about five years in Houston back in the ’80s,” he recalls. “We had a project going there. I also did a lot of work up in the Memphis, Tennessee area. We go where the work is.”

CPS currently runs a total of five vehicles: Two mobile jetters, two televised inspection trucks, the previously mentioned mobile one, and the little portable inspection unit. The portable goes on a Bobcat 4-wheel drive. “I can throw it on there, then on the trailer,” to make it super-portable and handle jobs in tighter, trickier locations.

One place CPS really likes to use that portable setup is when they get contracts to work on new dam installations. “There were 48 dams that were to be laid down across Tennessee last year,” Randy remembers. “We inspected the overflow pipes. We just picked up another contract in Culpeper, Virginia, to inspect 11 more dams.” Those contracts usually come as a package deal for several dam locations.

One of the things that keeps Randy coming back to Cobra equipment is the heavier crawler that we developed, some years ago. “It’s heavier than most other crawlers, so it allows the cable to pull the camera farther,” he says. “You can go greater distances, doing several main sections at a time. It’s so efficient and increases productivity when you can do 700-800 feet at a time.”

He also enjoys the convenience of working with our Georgia headquarters. “The Cobra office is about three miles from that Culpeper location, making maintenance easy. I can run by, pick up a part…they can fix any issues I have. It keeps me out on the job, making money.” That’s important to a small business, running on tight margins in a competitive field. And the workplace is hard on everyone’s equipment.

“It’s a very demanding environment. When you drop a camera down two lines, you run back and forth all day long, and you’re beating on the equipment pretty bad. I don’t care whose camera you’ve got, it needs to be able to take that and still perform.

“But when things do break, you also want to be able to fix it quick and get back to work. One thing I like about Cobra: Almost every part on it seems to be a standard thread or whatever. I can go to a hardware store or Home Depot, and get the nuts and bolts and things that haven’t been specialized to the point where you’ve got to call the factory.” He appreciates that this ease of maintenance is also reflected in the ongoing price of ownership.

When Randy does have to take a piece of Cobra equipment in for service, he feels well-treated by our service staff. “If my guys got a problem—you know, a camera went out or a cable broke, or the guys messed the cable up—it’s always the operator’s fault, not Cobra’s or TrioVision. But when I call from a site with an issue, they put somebody on the job, and in a couple of hours, we’re back to work.”

He feels that his business is made a priority by his customer sales rep, who maintains ownership of the account long after each sale.

“When we walk in there looking for help,” Randy says, “they always pull somebody off whatever they’re doing. Cobra has done that throughout the time I’ve had a relationship with them, which is the entire 26 years I’ve been in the business for myself. They may make a lot of sales, but they’ve tailored themselves to be responsive to contractors, too. They know that contractors are different to cities: Cities can send it away and get it fixed, but when it comes to contractors, they have got to make money. They’re not making money if they’re off making repairs. So Cobra’s service guys quickly get you going, put you back on the job. In 26 years, my equipment’s never spent the night in their shop! They get it going in an hour’s time.”

He has had some issues through the years, when Cobra service has said, “If it comes to the point where we haven’t fixed it and you need to get back on the job, here’s a loaner camera you can take to get back to work.” But he’s never had to exercise that option.

“No matter what,” Randy says with a grin, “Cobra and their equipment keep my company profitable.”

And that’s what we like to see.