Work Smarter, Not Hard: Handy Sidekick Keeps Crews Fresh During Long, Hot Days

Easement unit shoulders the load and minimizes employee fatigue for a Louisiana contractor.
Work Smarter, Not Hard: Handy Sidekick Keeps Crews Fresh During Long, Hot Days
Donny Gerald, a technician at Video Pipe Inspection Inc., uses a SideKick easement reel, made by PipeHunter Inc., to transport a long jetter hose from a vacuum truck to a remote manhole location.

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Lugging 600 or more feet of 1-inch-diameter hose from a vacuum truck to a remote manhole used to be a tiring, time-consuming task for crews at Video Pipe Inspection Inc. – especially in the extreme heat and humidity that’s common in the company’s service area in and around Louisiana.

But the task got a lot easier in 2010 when owner Ronnie Dugas purchased a SideKick easement reel made by PipeHunter Inc. The SideKick helps Video Pipe Inspection employees work more efficiently by minimizing the time spent on each job site and reducing fatigue, Dugas says. It is capable of carrying up to 600 feet of 1-inch-diameter hose and is powered by a 24 hp Honda gasoline engine.

Based in Denham Springs, Video Pipe Inspection serves a niche market: prepping sewer mainlines and other pipelines for relining by providing video inspection and pipeline cleaning services. Dugas and his partner, Lynn, established the company in 2000 and run a Vac-Con vacuum truck, two video-inspection vans built out by RS Technical Services Inc. and a PipeHunter portable jetter, used to clean sewer laterals (300-gallon water tank; 25 gpm at 3,500 to 4,000 psi).

“We have a lot of easements around Baton Rouge,” Dugas points out. “Some areas we work in are rural and the easements are larger than your typical everyday backyard. Instead of 100 feet away, the manholes might be 600 to 800 feet away. On one high-end residential property, we had to hook together two easement units to reach a manhole that was almost 1,500 feet from the vac truck.”

The steerable, four-dual-wheeled SideKick essentially serves as a hose-reel extension of the Vac-Con truck, which has a top jetter output of 65 gpm at 2,000 psi. Here’s how it works: The hose from the vac truck hooks up to the SideKick, which an employee rides atop a rear-mounted platform and steers with two joysticks on a control panel. The unit can handle tough terrain and makes slow, easy turns without chewing up residential lawns, Dugas notes.

But the SideKick’s real value stems from how it keeps Dugas’ crews fresher over the course of long, hot days.

“When we’re going hot and heavy … we use the Sidekick almost on a daily basis, and it helps us get things done more efficiently than having our guys haul hose all day from the front of the vac truck,” he says. “Without the SideKick, we’ve got a couple guys literally dragging the sewer hose around, which takes additional time, plus you really wear out your people, manhandling hose in the heat and humidity here in Louisiana.”

How did employees react to the SideKick purchase? “Like a mule eating briars,” Dugas reports. “I’ve had employees come from other companies that didn’t have easement reels and once they use one, they see how much easier it is.

“In the summer, the heat and humidity are tremendous – it’s commonly 95 degrees with 70 percent humidity,” he continues. “It’s so stifling it almost takes your breath away. You’re already sweating like crazy at 6 in the morning … but the SideKick helps us work smarter, not harder.”

Dugas also notes that the SideKick minimizes employees’ contact with dirty hoses, which increases sanitation. “The less contact with dirty hoses, the better,” he says.

The SideKick saves about 15 minutes per job, which may not sound like much ­– until you do the math and add it up over the course of a year. On a typical work day, when a crew might make seven or eight easement shots, that’s about two hours gained per day, Dugas explains.

“So that allows us to video maybe another line or two per day,” he says. “And that’s more money in your pocket. It makes all the difference in the world to help our employees be more productive and increase the bottom line.

“We set out with a footage goal every week,” Dugas adds. “We don’t always achieve it because pipes have other thoughts – things like heavy roots or stuck nozzles. But we strive for 7,500 to 10,000 feet a week, and the Sidekick is instrumental in getting us there. When you can improve your bottom line and make employees happier, that’s always a good thing.”


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