Taking Control By Making Controls

By Loren Faulkner | September 28, 2010

Shannon Creson and David Shupe are into drill rigs. They own Drill Tech Drilling & Shoring, Inc. and Hustler Hydraulics out of Antioch and Corona, CA. What started as a home-grown business in 1994 now employs 154 workers on projects within and outside California including Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona.

"Drill Tech Drilling & Shoring, Inc. does the actual physical work on our projects," says Creson, president of the companies. "Hustler Hydraulics, its subsidiary, designs and manufactures equipment."

"We provide engineering, design and construction for earth retention systems," adds Shupe, the v.p. "We also do seismic retrofitting, foundations, landslide mitigation, tunneling, dewatering, and architectural sculpting using soil nails, shot-crete, tiebacks, tie-downs, micro-piles, soldier piles, slurry walls, and other CIDH anchor systems."

Machine Controls Retrofitting and Rig Inventions

After years of working for other companies, Creson and Shupe saw opportunities to break into a new niche in the drilling industry.

"We had a vision of a specialty type of drill rig," said Shupe. "One that could articulate and had the capability to reach hard-to-access locations, such as down over a cliff or high up the side of a hill."

"Years ago, we started off using cable remotes with Rexroth valves on Hitachi and Komatsu excavators," Creson continued. "But lately, we moved to Hyundai 140LC excavators with Omnex radio controls on some units, and coupled with cab controls, use Sure Grip multifunction control sticks and STW Canbus controller for the logic control circuit." The pair retrofits everything themselves, in-house.

The configurations caught the eye of Hyundai — so much so that Drill Tech's retrofitting was exhibited at Hyundai's booth at CONEXPO-CON/AGG this year.

Necessity Is the Mother of Invention

"Although we have many different machines, we needed to upgrade to the new CARB emission standards for Tier 2 and Tier 3 engines," Shupe said. They chose Hyundai — after consultation — liking its reliability record and local support from Rick Albert Machinery (RAM).

Creson and Shupe say their inventions perform two tasks: "Finessing the machine controls allows these Hyundai excavators to work as cranes that not only lift drill rigs up to high-reach areas of 20 feet, but the boom can allow the drill to articulate and also be lowered downhill more easily," said Creson. "And, by being able to sit in a cab with multifunction sticks, the operators have fewer distractions and can concentrate more intently."

More Hurdles

Although these two companies have been inventing, testing and using their gear for 15 years, they are staring at their biggest hurdle with the newly adopted CARB (California Air Resources Board) Regs.

"We understand what CARB is trying to accomplish for the environment; however, in doing so, it is also putting a tremendous amount of financial pressure on contractors, small and large," said Shupe.

"To say all the old, 'outdated' equipment that doesn't meet their standards must be replaced is hard to swallow. Is the technology ready for all the new requirements? It will push many small contractors out of business and it puts a strain on the ones who can stay in business. What happens to the one-man operation who must update his one or two machines and can't afford it?"

Creson adds, "And those of us who have registered our equipment are on the firing line, as our equipment is being checked and double checked on our job sites. If we have missed one piece of equipment, it's a serious fine.

"We need to be able to compromise between the environmental issues and the financial issues. Come to a more feasible and affordable solution, especially during the current economic situation.

"The individual taxpayer doesn't pay much attention to these issues with CARB and they don't believe it applies to them; however, ultimately the contractors who do continue to stay in business will have to pass on some of the financial burden to the taxpayers. Something not many individuals in this day and age can afford to add to their list of bills."