“Impressed with the time savings”
If you took blood samples from Ricky and Danny Williams, they might actually include traces of diesel fluid and mud. The brothers grew up in the construction industry; learned from their father and two uncles, who each owned companies; and gained experience working for other contractors in their formative years. The conversation about going into business together was decades-long, but the decision was quick and easy.
“We’d talked about it our whole lives, but it only took us 30 seconds to reach an agreement once the discussion was serious,” joked Ricky. “This is our passion. It’s what we always wanted to do, and we make a great team. I handle the field work, and Danny takes care of the inside work.”
It took only a short time for their venture, Underground Pipe & Construction, LLC, to find its groove.
“We essentially started from scratch in 2000 with a backhoe and a dump truck,” recalled Ricky. “We established the LLC in 2001, started ramping up in 2002 and landed our first big job in 2003.”
Today, the Dickson, Tenn.-based company has 18 employees and – as the name suggests – performs underground utility installations within a one-hour radius of their headquarters, an area which includes Nashville.
“Our uncle told us, ‘figure out what you want to do, and do it really well,’” recalled Ricky. “That’s what we’ve tried to do. Underground work has been good for us.”
“Roughly 80 percent of our time is spent on utility installation,” estimated Danny. “We focus primarily on subdivisions, and we will handle some site-development responsibilities on those jobs. We do underground work for municipalities as well.”
The duo credits a hands-on approach to quality control and great employees for their success.
“We’ve built a solid reputation,” said Danny. “I think what sets us apart is that Ricky’s in the field every day. His eyes are on all of the jobs, so if customers have questions, they can talk directly to the owner.”
“And, we’ve been able to keep some great people,” added Ricky. “We go hard, but we value time off. If we can’t get it done in 50 hours, then we should be doing something different. Nights and weekends – family time – is very important, and our employees appreciate that.”
Going big …
Underground Pipe & Construction is drawn to two types of projects: unique and large-scale.
“We look for projects that are different, like deep pump or booster stations with a lot of electrical,” said Ricky. “We get quite a few repeat calls from engineers because they know we can handle their requirements. We have our general contractor’s license, so we can build vertically as well.”
This spring, the company wrapped up an endeavor that checked both boxes, Middle Tennessee Veterans’ Cemetery in Nashville. The 16-month assignment saw Underground Pipe & Construction excavate the site for 3,600 concrete crypts, install an extensive drainage system, build a road, raise three columbaria and handle irrigation and landscaping.
“That was our largest project to date,” said Danny. “We dug out the entire site like a basement before we could begin, and we took care of everything after that. The engineer called us because we had worked with him in the past, and he knew that we were up for it.”
One of the company’s current undertakings – a 30-acre residential/commercial development in White Bluff, Tenn. – may not be as large as the cemetery, but it is just as unique because the brothers are controlling every component of the job for the first time.
“Design, build and sell – it’s all us,” stated Danny. “This is our first experience with all three aspects. It’s very exciting. The opportunity presented itself, and we jumped at it.”
The project broke ground last year and will feature 26 townhomes and 48 single-family lots with two acres designated for commercial use.
… and getting ’intelligent‘
As the jobsites continue to grow for Underground Pipe & Construction, the Williamses search for ways to increase efficiency. That is why they turned to Power Equipment Company and Sales Rep Matthew Spence to demo the latest Komatsu equipment.
“Our first experience with intelligent Machine Control was when we rented a D61PXi dozer for the veterans’ cemetery because it was a huge site to grade,” said Ricky. “Compared to a conventional dozer, it was night and day. I was impressed with the time savings we saw.
“We noticed even better results at the White Bluff site,” he continued. “We had water, sewer, and storm pipe; elevation changes; building pads; and roads. All of those were in the model, and the machine already knew it. Another benefit was the ability to make changes on the fly. We were doing a pad and realized it needed to be six inches higher, and, in another area, we had to make some changes for drainage. We just typed the information into the machine and five seconds later we were back to work. I didn’t expect the technology would have so many advantages on a smaller site, but, in reality, I think it probably has more value on a project like the White Bluff development.”
The brothers’ fleet already includes several conventional Komatsu pieces, and now the recent Intelligent Machine Control rentals have paved the way for a technological upgrade.
“Our operators are still a little old-school; they like stakes and blue tops, but they saw the advantages of the equipment,” shared Ricky. “We bought the base station and the rover already. Our next purchase will be an i-machine.”
Ricky notes that the service, training and support that Power Equipment provides gives him the confidence to make that statement.
“Matthew and (Machine Control Specialist) Tanner Beecham have been amazing,” shared Danny. “They were there every step of the way for set up and training on the machine. They’ve made the entire process easy.”
The White Bluff development is more than a feather in their caps, it is also the blueprint of the brothers’ future. In addition to Underground Pipe & Construction, the duo has two sister companies that focus on vertical construction and real estate.
“Entrepreneurship runs in our family,” said Ricky. “We have always had a real estate holding company, and we partnered with a builder last year for the construction part. One of the big draws to the White Bluff project was the opportunity to marry all three components. The companies teaming up provide control and stability when it comes to work flow. Projects like these are going to help us be more secure and successful in the future.”