Customers in Action

Titan Technologies

BOISE-BASED UNDERGROUND UTILITY CONTRACTOR SPECIALIZES IN PIPE-BURSTING

January 25, 2016

“Why Komatsu? Because of the success we have with them.”

Titan Technologies

For twelve years, Titan Technologies, Inc. has been the go-to utility contractor in Idaho for pipe-bursting. Roger Thompson and his wife, Mary Pat, started Titan in 2003, largely because Roger wanted a construction-related field that wasn’t seasonal.

“I had a pretty diverse construction background that included heavy civil highway work and crushing,” he recalled. “In looking to start my own business, one thing I noticed was that a lot of guys struggled because they had to shut down in the winter. A friend introduced me to pipe-bursting. Since I knew it could be done year-round, I was interested. I also knew a handful of people who would work for me, plus Mary Pat had a great background in finance and accounting. So, when we decided to start a utility contracting business, I wanted it to include pipe-bursting.”

Pipe-bursting isn’t new. It’s been around since the 1970s, but it’s fast becoming a major contender for rehabbing sewer and water pipes. It’s only used for jobs that require the existing pipe be replaced, not new construction. The process includes digging insertion and exit pits near manholes, then pulling or pounding fusion-welded, high-density polyethylene pipe through the existing pipe, “bursting” it so that the fractured pieces disperse into the surrounding soil.

Advantages of pipe-bursting are that it is less intrusive and often safer than traditional open-cut pipe replacement. According to Thompson, it’s also faster and cheaper in many instances.

“Open-cut requires more trucking, manpower, bedding and asphalt. Pipe-bursting eliminates a lot of that. Start to finish, we can do a typical 350-foot segment with 15-20 lateral tie-ins in about two-and-a-half days. Doing the same job in a traditional open-cut method could easily take five to six days, so we can usually complete a rehab job in about half the time using pipebursting, and it’s often 25 to 30 percent cheaper. The savings in time and money can be substantial.

“The technology is ideal when working in confined spaces,” he added. “There are a lot of older neighborhoods in Boise where sewer lines are behind houses in narrow, gravel alleys. There are normally other utilities in those areas – phone, gas, TV – which makes open-cut difficult. We do very well with those jobs.”

So, with all the advantages, why isn’t pipebursting more common?

“Some engineers aren’t all that familiar with it, so they’re more comfortable with open-cut,” said Thompson. “Everybody already has the equipment to do open-cut pipe work, but not many have pipe-bursting technology. Fortunately, we can go either way. Although pipe-bursting is probably 80 percent of our workload in any given year, we also do open-cut. We think being able to do both is a significant advantage because it means we can do whatever is most advantageous for the customer.”

Public and private jobs

Headquartered in Boise, Titan Technologies has two crews and about 10 employees. Most of the company’s jobs are public works projects for the City of Boise and other municipalities in Idaho and eastern Oregon. While those public projects are common, Thompson says some of the most gratifying jobs are for individual homeowners.

“We recently did a job for a customer who had a problem with her sewer service. The pipe ran from her basement and under her patio, pool and garage to the alley. We used pipebursting to replace the sewer line and were able to complete the project for about $6,500. The other quotes she received, which required cutting through her floor, ranged from $14,000 to $18,000. She was ecstatic about our price.

Titan Technologies

“We had a similar story where a homeowner paid a contractor something like $15,000 to repair a sewer line four years ago, but it still wasn’t right,” he added. “We went under their garage and under some old trees to burst and replace the line for $3,500 – and we completed the job in a day and a half. Being able to complete jobs like those makes us feel really good about what we do because we know our customers appreciate it.”

Thompson says Titan bids the public work, but many of the private jobs are referred his way.

“It’s a lot of word-of-mouth advertising from satisfied customers. The city even promotes us to an extent. If a homeowner calls the city to complain about a problem, but it’s not something the city is responsible for, it will often refer them to us.”

To be able to successfully complete projects, Thompson relies heavily on key personnel, including Office Manager Cliff Cox and Field Superintendent Brian Jones.

“We have good crews, plus Cliff and Brian are very hands-on,” he said. “If something needs to be done, they don’t hesitate to pitch in. Neither do I. Actually, I prefer being in the field more than in the office.”

Komatsu excavators and Modern support

To do its pipe-bursting and open-cut work, Titan Technologies has a fleet of nine Komatsu hydraulic excavators, ranging from a PC18 to a PC360. The excavators include four compact machines and three other tight-tail-swing units. The company also has two Komatsu wheel loaders – a WA320 and a WA250.

“We have excavators that range from 1 to 40 tons, which gives us a lot of flexibility regarding jobs we can bid,” said Thompson. “Why Komatsu? Because of the success we have with them. They’re reliable, economical, comfortable and easy to operate.

“Everybody knows about the full-sized Komatsu excavators and how good they are – it’s the minis that may surprise some people,” he added. “With the blade and the boom articulation – they’re amazing. Fast. Powerful. Efficient. Since we’re often in tight quarters, we love them for their maneuverability compared to a backhoe. We can put them right in the middle of a segment and as soon as the main is in, they start digging almost immediately. We put five gallons of diesel in, and they go all day. The PC40 and PC50 are great machines and are absolutely key pieces in pipe-bursting.”

Productive equipment is important to Titan Technologies. Equally important is dealer support.

“When I started, I solicited equipment bids from the top dealers in the area,” Thompson recalled. “Modern had a good quote and I knew Komatsu was quality equipment, so that’s where we started. We’ve never had a reason to leave. The equipment has performed and so has Modern. It’s been a great relationship. My Sales Rep, Ryan Rowbury, is top-notch. What I like best is that he always answers his phone. He never leaves us hanging, and he’s always able to get us what we need.

“We also appreciate the ease of working with Komatsu Financial,” he added. “They have great rates. There’s never any early payoff penalty. They make financing a breeze. I’ve tried to use my personal bank to finance equipment, but they can’t come close to what we get from Modern and Komatsu Financial.”

A cost-effective “solutions provider”

Titan Technologies

Titan Technologies has grown through the years. It’s not a large company, but Thompson says that’s by design.

“I never wanted to get too big. It just doesn’t interest me. I’m hands-on. I like to always know what we’re doing and have a handle on the business. Scheduling is easier, and we can pick and choose projects rather than bidding everything that comes along. We only do jobs that interest us and that we can make money on. We also don’t travel very much. We could go anywhere in the region – Oregon, Washington, Montana, Nevada – and eventually, we might. But at this point, I’m in no big hurry to do that.

“Frankly, I’m comfortable with where we are and what we’re doing,” Thompson added. “One of my primary satisfactions of owning a business is being able to provide a good job for my employees. Plus, the work itself still interests me. Each job presents specific challenges and there’s a sense of accomplishment when you overcome those issues. Most of all, I enjoy being a costeffective ‘solutions provider’ for our customers. We offer something different that has some distinct advantages. It’s very gratifying when our skills match up with people’s needs.”