Growth Through Mutual Success
Since forming in 1997 with one horizontal directional drill and focused on Canada’s oil and gas industry, to today, covering all of North America, one thing has remained constant at The Crossing Group: A vision to be a leader in the trenchless construction industry though its people and technology.
Not a company that rests on its laurels, The Crossing Group — anchored by its namesake division The Crossing Company — quickly expanded from that lone 300,000-lb horizontal directional drill (HDD) to six maxi-size rigs. That is where it found its niche and honed its expertise for the first decade. The company did so by hiring the best minds in the maxi-rig sector.
Continuing down that path, and with the same mentality of partnering with the best people in the industry, in the last decade the Nisku, Alberta, Canada-based company quickly expanded to four specialized divisions – The Crossing Company, The HDD Company, The Tunneling Company and The Hydrovac Company – working in all aspects of trenchless construction. It now owns 30 HDD rigs, 10 tunneling equipment spreads and 10 hydroexcavation units.
See the sidebar at the end for a complete breakdown of The Crossing Group divisions
“Aside from the commercial value of these acquisitions, we learned early on that there is immense value in collecting the knowledge that each one of these divisions brought as they came on board,” says Ryan Bowhay, Crossing Group vice president corporate development. “Even though you can paint everything with a broad brush and say, ‘Everyone is in the trenchless business and how much different can it be between each division,’ it’s pretty substantial actually.”
The Right People
The Crossing Group leadership discovered as the company added more trenchless solutions and partnered with new people, new knowledge and new expertise — that those new team members would shine a light on another service option or another area where the company could operate.
For Ryan MacLean, Crossing Group president since 2007, the acquisitions were focused on adding the right people to the team more so than where the company was located. “All of the markets we have entered is because we found the right people to partner with and join our team,” MacLean says. “All of these businesses came together because we have a goal of providing our customers with a full suite of trenchless services under one roof.”
As an example, MacLean recalled the Gila River HDD project outside of Phoenix, it completed in November 2008 for Transwestern Pipeline Co. It was a large project involving the installation of 36-in. steel pipe more than three-quarters of a mile long.
It was on this project that MacLean first met Neil Swope and The HDD Company team. Shortly thereafter, The Crossing Group acquired The HDD Company, thus beginning the company’s United States operations.
Experience and first-hand expertise like this is hard to find in an industry where many of the originators are reaching retirement age and the younger generation isn’t as receptive to working in the construction field.
“We have spent a lot of time, money and commitment to developing good people,” Bowhay says. “You need to also show that you care about them, are invested in them and that a job in our business is a real career and not some kind of summer employment, part-time thing or a stepping stone to get out of here.”
This not only benefits employees of The Crossing Group, but its customers, as well dovetailing nicely into one of the company’s core values of excelling together. By showing this commitment, people are aware that The Crossing Group divisions are here for the long haul and that someone starting out as laborer can grow and be with the company for 10, 20 or 30 years.
While it is easy for any company to say that, to actually live it is an entirely different thing. But one need not look any farther than the Crossing Group leadership team. Bowhay is the greenest, joining the company in 2003. Mike Shier, operations manager for The Crossing Company, started as a roughneck, had the chance to advance up the ladder and now manages 16 rigs and 150 employees.
“The continuity is key. [The leadership team has] been together for a long time and we have a lot of experience,” MacLean says. “Now it is exciting because we are adding new team members who bring new expertise and opportunities to our group.”
In addition to working internally to grow its team members, The Crossing Group prides itself in its involvement with industry associations and universities. Its leaders also know that the entire industry needs to come together to better train and educate future generations of workers.
On that end, The Crossing Group is one of the original partners in the creation of the Consortium for Engineered Trenchless Technologies (CETT) at the University of Alberta. CETT faculty and graduate students conduct cutting-edge research in the trenchless field. In addition, The Crossing Group has recently extended its commitment to the University of Alberta and is excited about the innovative opportunities that lay ahead.
“The initiation with the University and the way we participate in the community as a whole, we are sending a message that we are going to be here for a long time,” Bowhay says. “We’ve tried to focus and switch the perception from being a moment in time [job] to a long career. I am talking about all jobs in our company. We want people who started in our company as a roughneck, laborer or field hand to say to themselves, ‘If I do this right and I do it The Crossing Group way, I will have a chance to move up and the sky is the limit.’”
It is clear that people play a key role in the overall success of the company and it is through those talented people that its divisions have been innovators in their respective fields.
The Crossing Company technical services team has helped develop and improve drilling fluid management and the company played an integral role in helping develop and perfect the HDD intersect method, completing the first HDD intersect in Canada in 2004. The company also developed the Exit Side Safety Unit for HDD projects. The ESSU, as it is known, eliminates the safety hazards on the exit side of HDD projects, resulting in a safer, more productive project, ultimately reducing overall costs.
More recently, The Tunneling Company (formerly Kamloops Augering & Boring) adapted a tool commonly used for ramming pilings in marine applications to pound surface casings on horizontal drilling projects. The Hydrohammer is a hydraulic piling hammer manufactured by IHC that is operated in conjunction with The Tunneling Company’s Hydrohammer Harness with Hydraulic Crowd Support System. Using hydraulics instead of conventional pneumatic hammers that run off of air compressors is much more efficient.
“We have exponentially more power from the Hydrohammer at a fraction of the fuel you would burn when compared to running multiple high-volume air compressors,” Bowhay says. “For an industry not always known for its R&D or adaptation of other technologies, I think this is a proud moment for our group and what we accomplished there.”
He adds that because The Tunneling Company projects tend to be more civil-based, its employees often interact with people outside of the construction industry. This means that one of the group’s crown jewels of innovation has a direct impact on the greater public.
With the right people in place and a busy work schedule across all divisions, how can The Crossing Group continue to excel, together with its people and clients, to advance the industry?
Bowhay comments that, in his view as a general citizen of North America, that there is a huge disconnect between consumers and their understanding of where their consumables come from. He points to the industry, as a whole, having done a poor job educating the general public.
“We, not just The Crossing Group, but the entire industry, need to do a better job of communicating that this industry is solutions focused,” Bowhay says. “Collaboration is the start of that. We all need to come together to create something we can all enjoy. That’s not saying we should have a blank check to do whatever we want, but people need to understand where the power comes from when they flip a light switch and where your heat comes from – all of the stuff we really care about.”
The Crossing Group
The Crossing Group, headquartered in Nisku, Alberta, Canada, is comprised of four distinct divisions comprised of experts in their respective fields.
The Crossing Company (Canadian HDD Operations)
The Crossing Company’s rig fleet completes complex projects, extensive casing jobs, multiple crossings and intersects that range in diameter from 3 in. (76 mm) up to 60 in. (1,524 mm) with lengths from 984 ft (300 m) up to 9,834 ft (3,000 m). In 2015, the company added the largest HDD rig in Canada at 1.2 million lbs of push/pull.
All of the technical capabilities found in The Crossing Company squeezed into a smaller footprint. With a fleet of rigs specifically geared toward the completion of shorter crossings in reduced work areas, LRD’s rig fleet completes projects that range in diameter from 2 in. (51 mm) up to 36 in. (914 mm) with lengths from 984 ft. (300 m) up to 1,640 ft (500 m).
The HDD Company (U.S. Operations)
Part of the group since 2009, The HDD Company serves the entire United States from its headquarters in Sacramento, Calif. The HDD Company has completed a wide array of shore approaches, harbor and marine work, major utility installations, and oil and gas HDD projects both as a sub-contractor and as a project lead. Heavy rigs, light rigs and tunneling equipment is all available through The HDD Company
The Tunneling Company (North American Tunneling Operations)
The Tunneling Company (founded in 1976 as Kamloops Augering and Boring) joined The Crossing Group in 2013 and specializes in all things tunneling. Combining three generations of tunneling construction expertise, the company completes pilot tubing, auger boring, microtunneling, hand-tunneling, pipe bursting and pipe-jacking projects.
The Hydrovac Company (Canadian Hydrovac Operations)
The newest addition to the group in 2016, The Hydrovac Company has a fleet of 10 purpose-built hydroexcavation units to service western Canada. Hydroexcavation services are critical in the world of underground construction. Efficiently and effectively exposing buried pipelines and utilities requires experienced crews that are committed to quality and safety.
Mike Kezdi is associate editor of Trenchless Technology.