When Paul Anderson, supervisor/general manager of Dennis Diffley Drain Service in Warwick, R.I., went to a recent industry trade show, he didn’t expect to leave with a Bronco Sewer Jetter and Camera system from SRECO Flexible Inc., Lima, Ohio.

Anderson was looking for a crawler-type line camera. He had to decline three or four jobs within a three-month period because he didn’t have the right camera to televise larger pipes. “I’m thinking, ‘Wait, three or four? First of all, they’re bigger lines. There’s more profit in the bigger and longer lines,” Anderson recalls. “And I’m saying no.”

One of those potential customers ended up using a Massachusetts company to do the job. Anderson was miffed, realizing he was leaving serious money on the table. For a commissioned driver who buys his own equipment, that just wasn’t acceptable.

His push rod camera was also leaving him out in the cold for long-reach jobs. “You can only go up to 200 ft with a push rod.,” Anderson says. “With a 300- to 400-ft line, you might be able to see [where you need to go], but you don’t have the length or you can’t push it that far.”

He looked at the crawler systems, but was dismayed with his choices. “I saw the prices of the robots and the tracks. But I’d have had to spend $30,000 to $35,000 back then for the lowest grade model. That was not what I wanted to get into. You couldn’t upgrade them in the future. So, basically, you could spend that $30,000 and that one application would be all you’d ever do with it. The next level up was $65,000 and I couldn’t afford that.”

So Anderson kept looking. What he found was a tool that would not only allow him to televise larger lines and longer runs of pipe, but also one that would open up unanticipated opportunities because of everything else it can do.

Anderson found himself looking at the Bronco jetter/camera combo at the SRECO booth, talking with SRECO international sales director Jon Gotchis. “Jon [Gotchis] told me the Bronco gives 4,000 psi at 20 gals per minute. I said that’s exactly what I would want in a jet, but the camera is what sold me. I could have spent another $6,000 or $8,000 on a jet. Even if I didn’t get the camera, I still would have gotten a good deal on the jet.”

But Anderson did get the camera, too, and “all the toys that go with it,” he says — nozzles, cutting blades, locator assembly and camera skids. “I bought all the way up to the largest they make, because I wanted to make sure I could go through the biggest pipes as possible, up to around 32 in., and out to 500 ft. That gives me more options, and I can upgrade it too. That’s exactly why I bought it. I knew it wasn’t a piece of equipment that was going to sit in my shop.”

Leveraging Existing Business

The way he did so was to let existing customers know about the new machine and its capabilities. One longtime customer in Massachusetts was really interested in the Bronco after Anderson told him about it. Soon after taking delivery, he got a call from this client, wanting Anderson to televise a catch basin line.
Then Anderson was given a job in Newport, R.I., to take a look at a property adjacent to Hammersmith Farm, the childhood home of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and commonly referred to as “the Summer White House” during the Kennedy administration.

Two 6- or 8-in. French drains made of perforated pipe and running from a catch basin had become completely clogged with heavy roots from nearby weeping willow trees. “There was 300 some-odd ft of French drains and catch basin lines running across the Hammersmith property,” Anderson recalls. “We weren’t allowed to dig there.” Instead, he was allowed to work from the catch basin to jet with his Bronco’s chain and saw cutters.

After this, he sent in the camera to see how far he had reached, how much distance he had yet to clear and what kind of blockage was still ahead in the line. It took him about a week to complete the job.

This type of attractive project now comes to Anderson via Diffley’s Yellow Pages ad, which touts the jetter/camera combo unit. “As soon as you put ‘camera’ in the telephone book, people want to camera a lot of things. [Previously] I had to decline.” But now he’s racking up these jobs with a vengeance.

A local contractor and existing customer asked Anderson to jet out more than 100 rain drains, sewer lines and their related catch basins at an apartment complex in North Kingston. The important thing about this job was that it was ultimately for an out-of-state investment company that was buying the property.

After showing what his new machine could do, Anderson was able to sell the customer on several additional line jetting and water infiltration repair jobs for other properties.

He says he anticipates that this cascade effect will add 8 to 10 percent to his bottom line, just from work resulting from his Bronco purchase. Diffley, who Anderson’s been with for 15 years, handles the gamut of work from residential and commercial to industrial and municipal projects. In his hometown of Warwick, Anderson used the Bronco to help locate buried manholes with the unit’s locator assembly. He’s hoping to get similar work from other Rhode Island municipalities bringing their systems into CMOM compliance.

Unexpected Value

Anderson has even found uses for the Bronco he hadn’t anticipated. His boss, Dennis Diffley Jr., handles the excavating side of the business. He was on a job installing a sewer pump to a residence in Smithfield. The city had taken the home off septic and told the homeowner he needed to have a pump installed to get on city sewer service.

His crew, multi-tasking, had filled in the cesspool while they dug their way out where the lateral was supposed to be. However, on reaching that spot, they found nothing. So Anderson brought up his Bronco, ran it down the city line and discovered the city had never installed a lateral for that property. Diffley’s crew spent the next day digging the rest of the way out to the street to hook the house into the system. Anderson’s done a number of lateral line locations directly for municipalities, as well.

Would he recommend the Bronco jetter/camera as a potential revenue center for other drain cleaners looking to expand or diversify? Heck, yeah.

And when buying the equipment, Anderson says, it’s a mistake to have tunnel vision about certain products, based on limited knowledge or expectations. “I was going to the show looking for a crawler, but I ended up getting the jet cam. Now I have a multi-tasking piece of equipment for a better price than I would have gotten, had I not been paying attention.”

Suzan Marie Chin
and Mary Shafer are members of the creative writing team of Creative Raven, a communications, design and production firm for those serving the wastewater and municipal infrastructure sectors.

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