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.