Innovation is an integral component of the trenchless industry. Companies that can adapt to these innovations and be innovators themselves are some of the most successful in our industry.
Sometimes it’s a contractor who takes the time to add trenchless services to their portfolio. Other times it’s a manufacturer that takes an existing technology and makes a tweak to help advance the industry. In the case of Picote, both statements are true.
In the North American trenchless world, Picote is probably best known for its products. Most notably its line of Picote Millers, cleaning, reinstatement, failed liner and concrete removal tools and its Picote Brush Coating system. However, what many may not know is that the company’s roots are in the contracting world.
Today, the Picote group of companies includes Picote Oy, Picote Solutions Oy, Picote UK Ltd. and Picote Solutions Inc. All these companies can trace their roots to 1999 and the formation of Innotia Oy in Porvoo, Finland. The pipe cleaning and repair contracting company, co-founded by Mika Lokkinen and Jutta Ehder-Lokkinen, first looked at trenchless rehabilitation in the early 2000s.
Lokkinen was working on a renovation job in Porvoo repairing leaking pipes in a pair of apartment buildings. On further investigation he noticed that many of the pipes being replaced using traditional methods were okay. Like many trenchless innovators, he realized there had to be a better way.
“The first dip into the trenchless world took place in 2004 when the company acquired a license to coat apartment buildings with an existing coating system,” says Picote CEO Katja Lindy-Wilkinson. “By 2008, the company developed and launched its own — the Picote Pipe Coating Method. Soon after, the name of company was changed to Picote Oy Ltd.”
A Shift to Trenchless
Lindy-Wilkinson, who was friends with Picote co-founder Jutta, joined the company in 2008 as it launched the Picote Pipe Coating Method in January of that year. When this took place, the company shifted all activities to trenchless rehabilitation.
“That same year, the next major milestone was the decision to start using CIPP inside buildings, which led to the need to innovate customized tools. There were no appropriate tools available in the market at the time, so you had to make them yourself,” she says. “Picote applied for its first tool patent in 2009. Today, the Picote companies hold more than 250 patents [globally].”
Since being involved from the outset, Lindy-Wilkinson notes that Picote always had eyes on having a physical presence in North America. This was a departure from many European companies in the trenchless sector that opted to work with a U.S. partner to distribute their wares.
As a company looking to expand tends to do, Picote hired consultants to offer a market analysis. “The consultant said to us, ‘One piece of advice we do want to give you is do not go to North America because it is a very difficult market,’” Lindy-Wilkinson recalls.
The reason Picote did not listen was partially because of a familiarity and understanding of the United States. Lindy-Wilkinson moved to the United States in 1993 to attend college, met her husband here and started a family here. Her husband worked for Microsoft and the family moved to the United Kingdom, from Washington, for the job. However, many of the connections Lindy-Wilkinson made over the years helped Picote setup for its work in North America.
“It wasn’t until 2012 that [our] international product manufacturing and sales started, when the first reseller contract got signed with Brawoliner, a German liner manufacturer, with whom Picote’s contracting business had worked with since 2008,” she says.
Picote Goes International
With international sales under way and help from connections Lindy-Wilkinson made in the United States – namely the honorary consul to Finland in Washington and Tony DeCavitch (whom Lindy-Wilkinson went to college with) – Picote readied itself for the 2013 Pumper Show in Indianapolis. The Pumper Show (now The WWETT Show) is the place to be for trenchless rehab companies, particularly those with a focus on smaller-diameter work.
“Picote’s entry to the North American market took place at the 2013 Pumper Show,” says DeCavitch, who is global sales director, Picote Solutions. “Soon after the show, Picote signed its first U.S.-based reseller, LMK Technologies.”
Lindy-Wilkinson recalls that first show in North America, and the attention Picote received for its Smart Cutter, a reinstatement cutter for 2- to 9-in. pipes. People were surprised that a company had a lateral-side reinstatement cutter that worked and was quite fast. One of those people was Ryan Boldan.
Boldan, now global learning solutions director for Picote Solutions, was working for another company at the time. He notes that, at that time, the bulk of the available reinstatement cutters worked from the mainline side and were either larger robots or manual contraptions.
“It’s crazy to think back that it’s been that long. I was working for a different company, when Picote first showed up. They had the Smart Cutter with a panel to reinstate from the lateral side vs. the main side. No one in the world had anything like [it] that was so simple to use and fast at the same time,” he says. “At the time, I remember thinking to myself that whoever got Picote (as an exclusive reseller) that they were going to take over the industry.”
In 2014, Lindy-Wilkinson and her family moved backed to the United States, Picote Solutions Inc. was created, and the company’s North American operations was based in Seattle. Today, its North America-based staff numbers 10 employees focused on training and marketing. This number includes global directors Lindy-Wilkinson, DeCavitch and Boldan.
The Picote team knew that to be successful in North America it required a broad sales reach that could only be achieved with multiple resellers. So, it quickly grew those numbers, and today has 17 resellers in North America.
Other milestones for Picote Solutions Inc. are the opening of its first North American training center in 2015 and launching Picote Brush Coating in the United States, in 2017. Other North American milestones include the 2019 launch of the Picote Institute online training platform, the opening of a state-of-the-art training facility in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2020 and the expansion of that center in 2022 with a second training hall.
North American Focus
In terms of its products, Picote Solutions has a full range of offerings for those cleaning and repairing 1 ¼- to 12-in. pipes in the North American market. This includes its Millers and equipment/tooling for high-speed pipe cleaning, Picote Brush Coating, lining reinstatements/cutting, CIPP installation equipment and point repair options. It also includes the recently launched line of Picote Aqua products.
“Picote Aqua takes the same technology from our tried-and-tested Picote Millers and tooling, used on thousands of wastewater jobsites worldwide every day, and applies it to clean water, with easily identifiable machines specific for water usage (meeting industry requirements) and a range of tooling to tackle almost any cleaning challenge,” says Picote Solutions senior director Dawn Greig. “The Aqua Millers feature food grade shaft lubricant and can be sanitized using nanotechnology, which kills bacteria and viruses. Picote Brush Coating uses our NSF 61.5 approved epoxy to rehabilitate 4- to 12-in. potable water lines as well as 1¼- to 12-in. lines in other pipes including pools, fountains, force mains and fire suppression lines.”
And making its debut at the 2023 WWETT Show is the new Picote Xpress Coating System, which provides faster curing times, less waste and mess, with minimal setup all providing cost and time savings for the contractors and property owners.
“The heart of the system is Picote’s innovative Xpress Coating Pump featuring dual hydraulic resin cylinders for the new 1:1 epoxy. It has a built-in 24v, 882Wh battery providing several hours of working time (it can also be operated while charging). The new 1:1 epoxy features an increased thickness per layer and less than an hour of curing time between coats; resulting in less down time and a quicker return to service. The resin comes in individual containers for each component (base and catalyst) reducing prior generation’s waste and materials cost,” says Lindy-Wilkinson.
The system also includes a motorized Delivery Hose Reel that stores 131 ft of delivery hose on board (two hose sets on each reel) allowing for easier setup, movement and storage. The quick connect, multi-use hoses don’t need to be changed after each use since the epoxy is mixed at the brush end of the pipe via a static mixing nozzle. The motor allows for easy return of the hoses to the reel and the hoses can be capped and used again and again; saving on resin, consumables, and setup time.
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One of the things that sets Picote apart from many of the other manufacturers occupying this space is that all its products – since the inception of the company – have come from Picote’s contracting division. Boldan jokes that Picote’s own contractors are some of their biggest critics pointing out areas of improvement in the equipment before it goes to market.
“Picote’s focus has always been to provide the highest quality pipe renovation available. Currently, more than 30 employees work daily on lining projects,” says Lindy-Wilkinson. “Because our teams are doing this type of work every day, we are always brainstorming ideas to make the job easier and more efficient to produce the highest quality result possible. Our R&D team is headed up by [co-founder] and chief inventor Mika Lokkinen and Lauri Kellokumpu, global product director.”
She adds, “The team takes these ideas and turns them into equipment designs that are only released as commercial products once they are rigorously field-tested and approved by the installation teams. This is how Picote continues to quickly innovate and produce award winning tools and solutions to benefit contractors around the world.”
This commitment to field-testing equipment to make sure the best product is making to market is only part of the Picote Solutions program. The other half is making sure resellers across the globe and the end-users are properly trained.
Training Is Key
To that end, Picote offers the Picote Institute. Originally the name of its online repository for its E-learning courses, manuals, fact sheets, guides, brochures, catalogs and technical documentation, the focus has shifted to include hands-on training at centers in England, Scotland, the United States and the recently opened Porvoo Training Center in Finland. It also includes on location training, virtual training and online learning. Much of which is available 24/7.
“Training is a key factor in getting the most out of Picote equipment, as well as our technical applications such as the Picote Brush Coating system. We meet customer training needs in a multitude of ways,” says Boldan. “We are launching our new Picote Authorized Training Center (PATC) program. This new program enables select resellers, who operate training programs, to directly provide the same level of training and support materials that Picote offers. The new program provides train-the-trainer sessions, training materials, and support documents to each PATC. This allows customers to choose from a variety of locations to best meet their needs.”
One of the newer services the Picote offers as an offshoot of Picote Institute is consulting services to help share the knowledge members of the Picote team have learned in the field.
“We recently launched the consulting services side and our international consulting manager, who is based in Finland, has gone to Chile and the United States. We’re really trying to provide services to those who are planning projects,” says Lindy-Wilkinson. “Especially if the project is in a building because we have so many years of experience in planning and running these projects. It’s kind of like what we hope we would have had when we started, so we would have fewer mistakes. Of course, we learned from that.”
What’s on the Horizon?
Looking ahead at the overall trenchless rehabilitation industry, DeCavitch notes that the future is bright when it comes to residential side of the market. “On the municipal side it continues to come down to several factors, but the major areas are funding and education/knowledge of the various rehabilitation methods,” he says. He adds that as the need for minimally disruptive repair methods increase and new technologies emerge, there is exponential growth for the trenchless rehabilitation sector.
So how does Picote position itself to address these issues? Simply by doing what it already does. Bringing reliable, safe and easy to use products to market. And by being a key player in training and educating those who work in the industry.
“Whether it’s presenting papers at international conferences, demonstrating our equipment at trade shows, sharing case studies via webinars, our website and Picote Institute, or simply talking with contractors, consultant engineers and municipalities,” Boldan says. “We know that there are faster, more cost-effective, less disruptive and easier ways to deal with common issues like ageing infrastructure and leakage; we will continue to do everything that we can, including innovating new solutions, to tackle these problems head-on.”
Lindy-Wilkinson adds, “It’s an exciting time in our industry, with fresh innovation all the time, improving ways of working and making trenchless the most viable option in many cases. Picote has always been at the forefront… We are humbled by the way that Picote equipment has changed so many businesses, offering fresh opportunities, in a market where we are just scratching the surface of what we can achieve by working together. Let’s take trenchless to the next level.”