Business News

February 2016

Michels Leads World with Most Direct Pipe installations

Michels Corporation is ending 2015 on a strong note by completing the most Direct Pipe installations of any single company in the world.

Michels completed its 11th and 12th installations on Friday, Dec. 11, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The latest installations were 1,300 feet of a 42-inch pipe and 823 feet of a 36-inch pipe. Michels is capable of using Direct Pipe on diameters that range between 36 and 60 inches and to lengths of more than 4,000 feet.

Direct Pipe is a one-pass system for trenchless installations that combines a thruster with a steerable microtunneling machine. Michels has the experience and equipment to simultaneously complete multiple Direct Pipe projects throughout North America. In addition to completing the longest Direct Pipe installation in North America, Michels has successfully used Direct Pipe on projects that cross under levees, rivers, rail lines and international borders.

Shawcor Pockets Lake Superior Consulting

 Shawcor Ltd. announced that it has acquired the units of Lake Superior Consulting LLC for an undisclosed sum plus a potential earn out payment payable in 2016. Lake Superior is a Duluth, MN based professional services firm, specializing in pipeline engineering and integrity management services to major pipeline operators. The business operates from facilities in Minnesota, Texas, Nebraska, Kansas and North Dakota, provides pipeline design, engineering, inspection and commissioning as well as integrity management services, and has estimated 2015 revenue of approximately $45 million.

Railroad Commissioners Appoint New Executive Director for Agency

Chairman David Porter and Commissioners Christi Craddick and Ryan Sitton voted unanimously to appoint Kimberly Corley executive director of the Railroad Commission of Texas. Corley brings to the Commission more than 30 years of technical, policy and strategic expertise in oil and gas and pipeline operations.

Corley retired from the Shell Oil Company earlier this year, where she held several executive leadership positions, most recently as Business Development Manager for Gas Monetization and General Manager of Construction Risk Mitigation and Workforce Development for Shell Upstream Americas. Previously, she served in various executive leadership roles within Shell Oil. Before joining Shell Oil, Corley held various executive and leadership positions with oil and gas and pipeline companies, including Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, El Paso Corporation and Tenneco Energy.

Corley earned a Bachelor’s of Business Administration from Sam Houston State University and Masters of Liberal Studies with concentration in Environmental Science and Policy from Rice University. She has also served on several professional boards, including Chair of the North American Carbon Capture and Storage Association, National Center for Construction Education & Research, Texas Oil and Gas Association and The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership.

Ditch Witch Founder Dies

The utility construction industry lost a giant with the Dec. 11 death of Ed Malzahn, chairman of the Charles Machine Works Inc. (CMW). Malzahn’s invention of a compact trenching machine paved the way for changes in the way essential utility services are delivered to customers.

Malzahn, 94, died in Perry, OK, the small northern Oklahoma town that was Malzahn’s lifelong home and where CMW is headquartered. A memorial service was held Dec. 18 at the Ditch Witch training center on The Charles Machine Works campus with funeral services on Dec. 19 at the First Presbyterian Church of Perry, Malzahn’s long-time family church.

In 1948, Malzahn designed the world’s first compact trenching machine, a product he envisioned could be used to dig water and gas service lines to houses which at that time was done by hand. Malzahn, a recent engineering graduate of Oklahoma A&M College (now Oklahoma State University), devoted two years working in his father’s Perry machine shop to perfect the new product.

The first model had small buckets mounted on a vertical chain which cut into the ground as the chain rotated, digging a narrow trench. The machine’s steel frame had four small wheels with pneumatic tires. The operator sat on a side-mounted tractor seat and moved the machine forward or backward with a lever-controlled ratchet. In 1950, Malzahn was satisfied the new product was ready to sell.

“I hired an advertising man in Tulsa to print a sales sheet,” Malzahn said. “He asked what the name of the product was, and I said it didn’t have a name – it was being called ‘Ed’s Ditcher’. That didn’t seem suitable, and we tossed around ideas for names, but nothing seemed right. The ad man said, ‘Well, what does it do?’ I said, ‘It digs ditch.’ We began looking for words to put with ‘ditch’. It was getting late in the day, and ‘witch’ rhymed, so that was it, Ditch Witch was the name.”

In 1951, Malzahn placed the first Ditch Witch ad in Popular Mechanics magazine; it was one column wide, two inches deep. Trenchers began to sell, and Charlie’s Machine Shop was expanded several times to increase production to meet growing demand. The Charles Machine Works (CMW) was incorporated,160 acres west of Perry was acquired and a new 24,000-square-foot manufacturing plant and 8,000-square-foot office were built there.

That first compact trenching machine set the stage for development of equipment which would install not only water and sewer pipe, but also telephone, electrical cable and later CATV cables underground, out of sight and safe from weather outages. By the 1970s, new subdivisions were advertising all underground utilities – no unsightly wires, no service lines to fall or fail due to weather or accidents.

“In addition to equipment,” he once explained, “before electric and telephone cable could be placed in the ground, wire products had to be improved. In fact, early power cable carried warnings not to bury it in the ground. A lot of things had to come together to get us where we are today.”

Malzahn guided his company from a country town machine show to a global corporation. With the steadily expanding Ditch Witch line of equipment and later the products of companies CMW acquired, the Perry company today claims it offers to the world’s broadest line of equipment for installing utilities under the ground.

(Article originally published in December 2015 of Underground Construction)

MPG Pipeline Names Murphy Quality Assurance Manager

MPG Pipeline Contractors, a leading North American pipeline contractor, has named Dan Murphy as quality assurance manager in its Houston office.

Murphy will enhance and implement a comprehensive quality assurance program to manage quality control, ensure traceability of components and materials and organize construction turnover through commissioning and startup functions.

Murphy joins MPG with more than 30 years’ experience in operations, quality assurance, engineering and project management. Most recently, he worked as the compliance and quality manager for TransCanada Pipelines Ltd.

Murphy holds a Bachelor of Science in electrical electronics engineering and a Master of business administration from the University of Houston, as well as a Master of Science in quality assurance from Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, GA.

Engineers are not widely recognized for marketing savvy, but as a young engineer, Malzahn understood in the beginning what business schools later would call the marketing concept: identify a product that is needed; develop the product to fill that need; manufacture the product with a high level of quality; advertise and promote it to the people who will buy it; and establish a method to distribute and sell it to customers. Malzahn said it was just common sense.