New Tech Investments Give Your Business a Competitive Edge

Feikema Plumbing & Sanitation of Munster, Indiana, has maintained high productivity since 1956 by regularly investing in new technologies

New Tech Investments Give Your Business a Competitive Edge

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Although the business name has changed several times and spanned three generations of the Feikema family since 1956, one thing has remained constant for Feikema Plumbing & Sanitation of Munster, Indiana: A sharp focus on investing in productivity.

Peter and Wesley Feikema set the tone for the business in the first two generations when the father-and-son team made it a priority to obtain machines, tools and equipment to enhance profitability and provide a competitive edge. That’s why they pooled their financial resources to buy a tractor outfitted with an aftermarket backhoe.

“They mostly did excavating for plumbers,” says Wesley’s son, Dirk Feikema, who bought the company from his father in 2006. “They were the only guys in town with a backhoe, so they got a lot of work.”

Years ago, Feikema’s father bought some of the industry’s first pipeline inspection cameras.

“My dad always was willing to invest in new technology, too — sometimes even before it was practical,” he says. “The first inspection cameras he bought, for example, were expensive and didn’t work well. But he saw they had potential and value. So I inherited some of that mentality from him.”

How does Feikema know when it’s the right time to buy a new piece of equipment? There’s no magic formula or crystal ball, he says.

“You just have to play your hunch,” he says.

Feikema has oftentimes used the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport Show as a place to play those hunches, noting that he’s attended the show since 1991.

“I always go to the show with the hope of finding something new that will be useful,” he says. “Sometimes you see something there and you just know it’s the right piece of equipment for you. I’m all about spending money that’ll make things better for my crew or my customers.”

As an example, Feikema cites a tool made by AirSpade Division, Guardair Corp., that uses compressed air for safer soil excavation.

“I immediately ordered one right on the spot,” he says. “Even if we use it only three or four times year, it would be worth spending a couple thousand dollars just to avoid the high potential cost of damaging a utility line during excavation.”

The way Feikema sees it, the more equipment and tools he owns, the better he can serve customers as a one-stop shop and keep revenue in-house, instead of hiring sub-contractors. This strategy also diversifies the company’s business base, so it’s not so dependent on only a few services.

Moreover, owning so many tools enables Feikema to provide services as a sub-contractor for smaller, local one- and two-man plumbing shops that sometimes can’t afford to invest in a lot of different tools and machines.

“That helps me develop mutually beneficial relationships,” he says. “They refer business to me because I help them out with little jobs here and there.”

Read more about Feikema Plumbing & Sanitation in this full profile featured in the March 2019 issue of Plumber magazine.



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