Augusta Industrial Services Inc., is based out of Augusta, Georgia and is currently in its 30th year of operation. This company’s main focus is on industrial cleaning and the servicing of nuclear power plants in the local area…
The company works in an industry fraught with danger, so safety is of paramount importance, and Augusta Industrial has proven itself more than competent in that area. We spoke with David Beckum, Vice President, Gordon Hardy, Vice President, and Bill Phillips, Remote Visual Inspection Technician, to learn more.
Gordon’s brother-in-law, Clyde Pilcher, started the company in 1977 – just one man with an old Chevrolet pickup truck. Eventually, Clyde rounded out his business with state-of-the-art equipment, and elected to branch out from the residential sewer and drain sector, through to commercial, and finally to industrial and nuclear facilities, where the company operates today.
“He and I were in-laws, and have known each other a long time,” shares Hardy. “Clyde incorporated Augusta Industrial, and I left the business I was in to join him. Trust is always a major consideration when starting a business; as a family-run business, we have had our ups and downs, but grew steady and sure.”
Valuing its people
Beckum believes that being family-owned created a positive and supportive atmosphere within the company. The company has always valued employees and their families, a philosophy exemplified in its move to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) in 2015. Augusta Industrial Services employees now own 100 percent of the company’s stock. “We in the management team strongly feel that our people should control the destiny of Augusta Industrial and as importantly, have the opportunity to experience the fulfillment of ownership,” says the company’s website proudly.
“Our employees have their 401K for retirement, and stock in the company. We decided that this was the best option moving forward, providing retirement for the owners and rewarding everybody that was already involved,” says Hardy.
“It is also a benefit for morale,” says Phillips. “It becomes attractive in the recruitment process as well.” With all employees invested in the productivity and performance of the company, “it helps us look for ways to minimize waste and increase efficiency and profitability.”
A breadth of expertise
The main markets Augusta Industrial operates in are the industrial, nuclear, environmental, and utilities sectors. Within the industrial sphere, it began in the chemical pulp and paper industry. From there the company delved into pharmaceuticals. “We moved into nuclear because at the time of my joining in the 80s, the first phase of a commercial nuclear power plant was in construction here,” explains Hardy. “We are now in the second phase, with two more reactors being added. We also have the Department of Energy’s defense facility at The Savannah River Site.”
Augusta Industrial works in many different types of facilities, whether it be for the DOE or the private sector. The company was certified for environmental work for emergency response in the 1980s at Georgia Tech. Eventually that training was brought in-house. All employees are trained in hazardous materials.
In the nuclear arena, Augusta Industrial has several projects on the go – the construction of two nuclear reactors, and work on the active side of the plant. Augusta Industrial has effectively become the environmental department for the construction site, managing the storm water and providing quality assurance and quality control. The company has oversight of the spill prevention control and counter measure plan. It also oversees all of the hazardous and universal waste for the site.
Augusta Industrial also operates the HAZMAT emergency response team, and tends to the potable water and sewage systems. Wildlife control and various sampling are done on site and reported to the appropriate governmental agencies. Vacuum excavation is also performed on the active nuclear side.
The scope of Augusta Industrial’s work does not end there. “We clean and filter underground diesel storage tanks for the auxiliary diesel generators. We use dry ice blasting for the decontamination of radioactive plant equipment, and we provide video inspection services,” explains Hardy. In addition, a remote operated vehicle (ROV) can go down into the river and look up into the river intake pumps; Augusta Industrial makes sure those pumps are clean. This eliminates the need for a diver, the old school way of checking on the pumps.
Automated hands-free blasting is a move that was made several years ago in the hydro blasting industry, to remove the high pressure hoses and guns from operators’ hands. The blasting goes all the way up to 40,000 PSI. There are also remote-controlled rotating hose feeding devices for cleaning small and large diameter pipes, multiple lance feeders for cleaning heat exchanger and condenser tubes, and another remote-controlled high pressure water blasting gun. “Normally, someone is holding a gun with a lot of pressure and back thrust. We can now do it with a robot, and move it around pretty easily using remote controls,” says Beckum.
There has been a big push in tank cleaning toward 3D tank cleaning nozzles. These eliminate confined space issues and save the customer time as they get the tanks ready for cleaning. Remote-controlled cold cutting equipment cuts steel tanks or concrete with high pressured water.
“This is really beneficial in a chemical plant where there is a hazardous atmosphere or flammables,” explains Beckum. “The equipment replaces a torch or spark-producing cutting equipment to eliminate any explosion.”
Camera inspections are a crucial aspect of the work Augusta Industrial undertakes. A Quick View pole camera can provide a look down a length of storm water, or sewer pipe, while there is also the traditional push camera, useful for laterals and storm drains. This is a camera on a coaxial cable reel which is pushed by hand. The company has also started to integrate a jet scan camera that goes in front of a water jet hose and shoots down the pipe. Information is gathered down the length of the pipe and recorded.
Recently, Augusta Industrial received a Pipeline Assessment Certification Program (PACP) credential through the National Association of Sewer Service Companies (NASSCO). This allows integration of a Rovver-X crawler, which can go from six to 72 inches in diameter, and allows for a lot more versatility. This works especially well for municipalities working under consent decrees or administrative orders for preventative maintenance on their storm drain or sewer systems.
“The PACP certification is a designation and also a type of coding administered by NASSCO. It’s the gold standard for coding pipes,” explains Phillips.
As for vacuum technology, Augusta Industrial has vacuum trucks, otherwise known as “air movers”, that are used for wet or dry vacuuming. “We also have liquid vacuum trucks used for pumping a lot of liquids, either hazardous or non-hazardous,” says Beckum. “They are Department of Transportation (DOT) trucks, rated for hazardous material transportation.”
A focus on safety
Of course, one of the main focuses for Augusta Industrial – and for the industry as a whole – is safety. Often, this means trying to find new ways to remove the operator from the hazard. “People are now starting to incorporate more safety devices in their manufacturing design to really eliminate operator error,” says Beckum.
Augusta Industrial belongs to several organizations across different sectors who approve qualified members as contractors. “Everything has to be in place not only at a local level, but through corporate and national levels for requirements they set across the board. We have achieved approval through them all,” says Hardy.
What does all of this equate to? The company has just hit 25 months without any type of injury or recordable incident. This is accomplished through continuous training both in-house and through third parties. Augusta Industrial has teamed up with one of the most recognized trainers in the industry for vacuum and water blasting, and they come in once a month to provide operator and mechanical training.
In 2016 and again this year, Augusta Industrial will receive a Supervisor Safety Award from Associated General Contractors (AGC), which recognizes the company and each supervisor for going a whole year without injury. “We are proud of that as it really recognizes the supervisor; at that level you really know it’s working,” says Beckum. “We have been a member of the AGC since 1993. The reason I joined was for the proactive safety, and the fact that it was recognized nationally.”
This award gives Augusta Industrial tremendous credibility as a specialty operator in its field. Never content to rest upon its laurels, the company is continuously evolving, training, and staying abreast of the latest technologies and developments in the field. When paired with motivated employees and a culture of safety, it is proving to be a winning combination.