The Best Laid Plans of Mice, Men, and Machinery: Tales from the Field, Part 1

By Walter Smith

Walter Smith, Danbro Distributors, Helical Piers, Helical PIles, Field Training, Installations

For the past 24 years, as a representative first for Danbro, I have assisted on many helical pier installation jobs, including many helical pier installers’ first day of installation.  The weather has varied from 10 degrees with snow and 30 mph wind to 98 degrees and sunny.  Danbro has created a list of small tools to assist our certified contractors in their pre-job preparation.  We also assist our contractors in choosing the drive heads and tooling to match up to the hydraulic flow and pressure of their installation machine.  No one wants to go out on their first job and find out they are missing an item or they misunderstood the instructions they were given.  I thought it would be fun to share some of my experiences.  Some of these jobs are from 23 years ago; some are from this year.

Hydraulic Pump, Machinery, Helical Piers, Helical PIles, Danbro

Early in my career, I was on a job where a hydraulic hose started to leak.  We had an experienced mechanic and two workers trying to tighten the fitting.  The mechanic told one of the helpers to move his hand so he could see where to tighten the fitting.  The guy removed his hand and we were all instantly soaked with hydraulic oil.  Lesson Learned:  Do NOT wear your good clothes to a job site!  You never know what will happen.  As with all set backs, it was overcome – we tightened the fittings and the piers were installed.  But my wife never did get the oil out of my pants or shirt!

Helical Pier, Helical Pile,Danbro Distributors

One year, in the heart of winter, the temperature was very low and the wind was blowing at 30 miles per hour.  I received a call from a customer that had to perform a load test on a helical pier so that a large job could move forward.  His crew had already run one load test that did not pass.  In spite of the conditions, I said OK.  I was on the site the next morning and it was COLD.  The crew did not seem very friendly at the start of the day.  After spending an hour and a half setting up the load test again, the crew let me know that they viewed my arrival with mixed emotions.  Their boss had given them a rough time for having to get help from the manufacturer’s rep to get the test to pass.  On the other hand, it was COLD and WINDY on site and they did not want to be out there either.  The test set up went well, and by 2PM, the load test had successfully passed.  An hour long, steaming hot shower was the perfect (and only!) way to end that day.

Up next: Overcoming Naysayers!

Check back tomorrow for the next installment of “The Best Laid Plans of Mice, Men, and Machinery: Tales from the Field.”


Walter Smith, Danbro Distributors, Field Installation, Civil Construction, Helical Piers, Helical Piles, The Sandy SolutionWalter Smith is Danbro Distributor’s Installation Field Specialist and Territory Manager for Central & Northeastern PA, Hudson Valley and Upstate NY, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.  With over 20 years in the helical pile industry, Walter guides all new installers through their first job.