Do It Rite Cable Inc. Makes a Lasting Impact in the Utility Installation Market

Do It Rite Cable Inc. is an example that success isn’t always measured by size.

The Michigan-based company has five employees operating as a single crew and specializes in horizontal directional drilling (HDD). Owner Mike Edie is also an operator, and is the one sitting on the drill about 70 percent of the time. His three adult daughters have even chipped in over the years as operators and locators. A stepson also worked for him for years.

Another important detail is that Do It Rite Cable has been in the underground business since 1985, longer than many other companies, big and small.

“There are very few people out there anymore who can stay a small guy like me and still keep this busy,” Edie says. “It’s tough. I’ve seen a lot of businesses go under.”

He started with a walk-behind vibratory plow and then, nearly 15 years ago, got into directional boring. When work slowed in Michigan about 10 years ago, the company started traveling to Pennsylvania, doing a lot of telecom installations in that state’s rocky ground.

A little more than a year ago, Do It Rite Cable started working more in Michigan again and continues to specialize in HDD installations of communication lines. A recent project is an example of what’s made Do It Rite Cable successful for more than three decades.

The company was hired to install approximately 5,400 ft of conduit that included fiber and coax cable lines in Flint, Mich. The project took the crew a little more than three weeks. That may sound like a routine job, but one of the bores was under an expressway and the other was in a business park with numerous parking lots, roads and existing utilities.

Heavy Traffic

The job started with a 400-ft shot to install a 4-in. conduit under Interstate 75. The ground varied between sand and clay with a small amount of rock, and the crew used a sand-clay bit for the pilot bore. They attached a 6-in. flute-style reamer for the backream and product pullback. They had to be at least 20 ft  under the road.

“It makes for a lot of challenges when you go across an expressway,” Edie says. “We tried to work more in the afternoon when there was not as much traffic. And we had work-related signs up to alert drivers of our presence.”

Edie’s daughter, Jessica, did the locating across the expressway. She located up to the road and then went to the median where Edie, who was operating the drill, would drill to her position. Then, she crossed to the other side of the interstate and they did the same thing.

Edie used his company’s new Vermeer D23x30 S3 Navigator horizontal directional drill.

“The extra rotation and push the drill had made it amazing for me,” he says. “The shot went fine. We got to the other side, put the backreamer on and we pulled everything back just perfect, like it was nothing.”

The company was hired to install approximately 5,400 ft of conduit that included fiber and coax cable lines in Flint, Mich.

Boring in Business Park

The next portion of the job was in a business park. The challenge was the amount of paved surfaces. The conduit for this part of the project was 2 in. in diameter. The crew did multiple shots for a total of 5,000 ft, boring from pedestal box to pedestal box in the front of the buildings.

“Sometimes it’s easier to go ped to ped and bring the pipe up in the ped rather than try to cut the pipe in the middle and pull it back,” Edie says. “Most of them ended up being 500-ft shots.”

The cover averaged 3.5 to 4 ft The crew ran into quite a bit of rock in the business park, but they mostly used the same bit as on the interstate bore. They did not have to backream.

“We were able to drill right through the rock like it wasn’t there,” Edie says.

Locating existing utilities was particularly important. There were multiple fiber lines, telecom, power and other facilities, and the Do It Rite Cable crew had to cross them many times. The company uses one call services, but Edie will not drill without his crew physically seeing the lines themselves and watching the drill bit safely pass by.
“I don’t believe in shooting anything in the blind,” he says. “Once all the utilities are located by one call or the utility companies, I go back and double check to make sure that they’re accurate. We do find lines not marked.”
Edie makes sure there’s always at least a couple of people on his crew who can serve as locaters and drill operators so that they’re not slowed down if a crew member is out.

Footprint Important

One of the big trends on HDD jobs is that setup areas are getting smaller. This is particularly true in the current fiber boom, with so much work occurring in urban areas and narrow rights of way.

Equipment footprint is a big deal to Edie. This job was a good example why. His drill was operating on a side of an expressway and in a business park, often during business hours. He said his new D23x30 S3 drill fit in the same footprint as the two drills he owned before even though the new machine has much more thrust/pullpack.
Sound is another important feature for Edie.

“We have a lot of jobsites in residential or business areas,” he says. “They don’t want that loud noise there. The 23×30 S3 is just as quiet as can be, a lot better on your ears and everything. It also makes it easier to communicate with the crew.”

That’s a good example of why Edie has been able to thrive for so long. He places a premium on customer service and pays attention to the details, both downhole and above the ground.

“I’ve been in business for more than 30 years,” he says. “I have a very good reputation for what I do. I don’t get pushy. Just take your time to do the job.”
Gregg Hennigan is a features writer in Des Moines, Iowa.
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