The HDD industry is estimated to hit the $17.6 billion mark by 2025. The growing demand for environmentally-friendly trenchless technology is driving the global market as drilling is a necessity for developing, repairing and improving underground infrastructure. As demand grows, drilling operations need to be equipped and skilled enough to handle jobs of all sizes and complexities. Current world economic conditions are requiring contractors and drillers to know how to tackle jobs efficiently while maintaining optimal productivity in the process.
If you've been in the industry for a while, you might have a formula for job site success that may be currently challenged by a shifting global economy. Or, you may be trying to ramp up business while unsure of the market's direction in the coming months. Regardless, now is the time to make best practices that will refine your efficiency, but continue the innovation that has pushed the HDD industry forward.
The following are some best practices we recommend implementing from our 75 years of observing successful drillers and contractors achieve company and growth goals — while improving the bottom line.
Best Practice #1:
Be Wary of "One-Size-Fits-All" HDD Tools for Every Job
If you're just getting started in the industry or running a small operation, it might be tempting to save money on equipment and other necessities. Don't. An ill-equipped crew will only lead to more downtime as you're trying to get what is necessary to complete a job. Plus, you may miss opportunities for larger jobs because you don't have the right equipment or setup to handle tough ground conditions. Overpromising while unprepared will lead to a questionable reputation for your crew. Don't do it.
Invest in the right equipment from the start, and it will pay off big time in the long run and help your operation run seamlessly. This doesn't mean buying every shiny new tool on the market. What it does mean is that you should purchase HDD tools that were designed to work in the ground conditions you're bidding on. Take the time to research common conditions found in your company's service area, then buy reamers, drill bits and blades, transmitter housings and locating systems that can tear through and stand up to them. Having those in inventory will make you agile and adaptable to the majority of jobs that come your way regionally. And don't be afraid to invest in specialized tools if the time savings warrant so for a new job. Penny-wise and pound-foolish has cost many dollars in drilling, so just apply some of your hard-earned experience in the industry with common sense.
Best Practice #2:
Find The Right Crew for Your Operation
Think about your favorite sports team. What made you cheer for them season after season? Most likely, it was the chemistry they had on the field or court. That chemistry either led to many victories – or made you want to keep cheering for them despite some disappointing seasons. Chemistry is important when it comes to your HDD team too. Now, we don't mean everyone has to act the same or have similar interests. But they have to work well together and have a substantial amount of combined experience in the field.
When you're looking to stack your roster with MVPs, seek out drill rig operators and locators who have worked together before if you can. The reason is that they'll know how each other works and how to communicate with one another. And because of this, they can complete jobs without missing a beat. This is not to say that newbies can't get jobs done. However, tough jobs are much easier when you have professionals who work fast and work well together.
Best Practice #3:
Get Familiar With Job Sites Before Drilling
Think about when you've been interviewed for jobs over the years. Sure, we've all winged a few, but didn't you feel much more at ease when you knew what you were walking into? The same applies to HDD jobs. When you know what to expect, it's less likely you or your crew will show up with inadequate tools for drilling or installing pipe. When you do some recon beforehand, your crew can show up for a job and immediately get to work because they're fully equipped and know what to expect. Don't limit your research to ground conditions, either. Get an idea of the site's bore path profile by looking for changes in elevation or potential barriers. Once you have a better picture of what the site is like, you can ensure your crew has the right tooling for the task at hand.
Best Practice #4:
Take the Five-S Approach
We've talked about this before, but we believe it's worth repeating. If you want to cut the bloat and run a much leaner HDD operation, you'll need to sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain. In other words, practice the Five-S pillars of lean production. This workplace organization system was put into practice by Toyota's leadership team back in the 80s. It was designed to help eliminate waste during the production process. Your company isn't building cars, but it can still benefit from this methodology.
Here's the breakdown for how Five-S works:
This pertains to taking inventory of all of your HDD tooling so you're well aware of what you have – and discover what your operation needs. You can also weed out the equipment that no longer serves a purpose.
Set in Order
Organize equipment in a manner that makes sense for your crew. This extends beyond the building. Make sure your trucks and the way your team operates at job sites are organized to help foster productivity and efficiency.
This "S" implies that you need to do some housekeeping on a regular basis. Your crew doesn't necessarily need to scrub the walls and paint the drill rigs. But, your organization needs to maintain tools and equipment routinely. By doing this, your crew can spot problems and avoid breakdowns beforehand. And when everything is running or working the way it's supposed to, projects won't get held up and profits won't be lost.
Standardize can be applied to operational procedures and even to how equipment is set up in the field. You want to make sure that everyone is on the same page during jobs, and that everyone knows where to find what they need with ease. So, take the time to create standard practice guidelines to prevent mishaps wherever your crew is.
This mainly reinforces the four prior pillars and encourages practitioners to look for improvement opportunities regularly. If you think things are fine as they stand, chances are there is room for improvement. So, reevaluate often and even get feedback from your team to assist you in making things better.
Seek Out More Information
For more directional drilling best practices, the North American Society for Trenchless Technology (NASTT) has created a guide that provides contractors, engineers, and utility owners with helpful information to facilitate the completion of successful HDD installations. These guidelines were developed between 1999 and 2000 in response to the industry's fast growth, a high number of inexperienced drillers combined with inadequate geotechnical investigations and potential damage from HDD installations, mainly in the state of California. In fact, some counties went as far as considering putting moratoriums into effect for all drilling operations until a standardized set of practices and training regimens were created and implemented.
The guidelines created by NASTT covered the need for comprehensive training for owners, designers, contractors and inspectors. These guidelines even became an educational resource for regulatory and permitting agencies, and they're a foundation for many agencies' permitting requirements.
NASTT's Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) Good Practices Guidelines is currently in its 4th Edition. If you're looking for ways to tighten up your HDD operation and establish better procedures, this is a great place to start. And when you need parts and tools to get the job done, turn to Melfred Borzall.
Why Following HDD Best Practices Will Help Keep You in the Black
In life, it's admirable to have a sense of adventure and make spur of the moment decisions. In business, doing things on the fly isn't the best way to go. It only leads to costly errors, more time on job sites, and in the long run, a shaky reputation for your HDD operation. By following best practices, you can ensure that your company avoids risky jobs, knows how to troubleshoot problems effectively, plans the best approach to projects in advance and stays safe on the job. With all of these things in mind, you'll all be working toward the same goals – and keeping the company profitable.
We'll Help You Get Equipped For Success
Melfred Borzall's innovative tools and parts were designed to improve the efficiency of HDD jobs. From adapters to bits and blades, reamers to locating systems, we've equipped many successful HDD operations, and our solutions can help crews get jobs done safely and efficiently.
If you have questions about any of our HDD tools and accessories, contact us today. We're always happy to help you find solutions to meet your drilling needs.