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Maine Company Forges Strategic Partnership With Sandvik

Fri September 23, 2005 - Northeast Edition
CEG



Sometimes employees of Maine Drilling & Blasting get to work at locations that are a bit more glamorous than the typical job site. These have included jobs where they’ve prepared work sites for movie and television stars’ summer island homes off Maine’s coast; they once even performed excavation for a former president’s new tennis court.

And there have been other high-profile (if not sensitive) projects, too, such as the time crews worked in a tunnel under the Maine’s capital building in Augusta, while the governor remained at his desk.

But most of the time, the backbone of the company’s efforts remains the smaller, less glamorous, less public projects throughout the six New England states and New York.

As President and CEO Bill Purington put it, “We probably do more cellar holes, foundations and swimming pools than anyone else in the industry. Smaller projects are integral to our business.”

Because of the company’s many and diverse jobs, getting the right equipment for its crews is a challenge that Purington has met head-on by forming strategic alliances with manufacturers.

ME-Based Firm Works With Swedish Manufacturer

According to Purington, a key element to his company’s success is an unofficial — and mutually beneficial — partnership with Sandvik Mining and Construction Tools, located in Sandviken, Sweden, and represented in the United States by Sandvik Mining and Construction of Atlanta, GA.

Maine Drilling & Blasting began buying tools for its drill rigs from Sandvik Mining and Construction approximately 15 years ago. Since then, the relationship between the two companies has grown into one of mutual respect and cooperation. Maine Drilling & Blasting now buys nearly all its tooling products from Sandvik, working closely with both Atlanta and corporate headquarters in Sweden.

“We look at all our suppliers in the same way, seeking strategic relationships in our business environment. We’re pleased we’ve been able to formulate that relationship with Sandvik. Especially over the last five years, it’s been a win-win situation for both of our companies,” Purington said.

“We think of each other more as business partners than as vendor and customer. We are the perfect test laboratory for Sandvik because we see such a large variety of rock. In a week, we see more rock than smaller companies see in a lifetime,” said Al Perozzi, Maine Drilling & Blasting’s purchasing manager, who has worked closely with his Sandvik counterparts for several years. “The rock here is so different that not all tools will work in the different conditions we face. We’ve learned that Sandvik produces rock tools that work well in all areas.”

Sandvik Mining and Construction also has benefited from its relationship with Maine Drilling & Blasting.

Rick Kant, who represents Sandvik Mining and Construction Tools’ Top Hammer products, explained why the relationship between the two companies has been beneficial. “Maine Drilling & Blasting is a cutting-edge company, and they like to be the first to get new tools. They keep very careful records of their tool use, so we believe we get good feedback from them on how our tools are working and any improvements that can be made to them.”

Maine Drilling & Blasting uses a number of Sandvik tools in its operation, including the new generation of MF-rods (male/female), the Sandvik Tough bench-drilling rods; the GT60 System; CAPP Black Label Bits; and shank adaptors.

Companies Cooperate To Develop Sandvik Tough Rods

In the case of the Sandvik Tough rods, the companies worked together to bring them to the marketplace. Maine Drilling & Blasting was the first in the United States to use the Sandvik Tough rods.

The latest evolution of the Sandvik MF-rods, which were brought to the market approximately 20 years ago, Sandvik Tough rods use selected metallurgy in various parts of the rod to achieve a drill string with virtually no weak spots. This, according to Sandvik, is achieved because of its in-house manufacturing facilities for producing steel, where workers can machine and tailor it for specific applications, which allows Sandvik Tough rods to have specific material characteristics in different areas that minimize wear and fatigue.

This manufacturing process reduces the risk of pitting on the threads, which in turn increases service life of the rods, according to Sandvik. Because the coupling sleeve is integrated in an MF-rod, as opposed to the traditional method of using a separate coupling, the coupling is designed with less mass, which reduces energy loss in each joint. This better energy transfer through the drill string results in faster drilling and eliminates the danger of damaging the threads of the drill string when handled incorrectly.

Regarding the Sandvik Tough rods, Purington said, “We are always looking to be leaders in our field, and Sandvik is looking to be a leader in its industry. That facilitates both of us to push the edge of the envelope. We had some thoughts on what was appropriate for that product, and Sandvik had the technology to enable us to put that program together. We’ve both been pleased with the results.”

Equipment Manager Terry Bower, who supervises the use of all Maine Drilling & Blasting’s drill rigs, a number that can grow to 85 at peak production season, added, “By going with the Sandvik Tough rod, you can eliminate the couplings, keep your inventory lower and stock less. It’s quieter; it’s flexible, which gives you longer steel rod life in rock formations prone to hole deviations; and it’s safer for the operator because you’re not flipping the rods end-for-end the way we used to.”

Maine Drilling & Blasting and Sandvik worked together in yet another way: Both companies worked out a shipping arrangement to bring the Tough rods by ship from Sweden to an East Coast port, and then transport them by truck in their original sea-borne containers. By doing this, it eliminates several steps of handling — and all the potential damage to the rods that could occur. Still carefully wrapped in their original bundles from Sweden, the rods are stored in a large container in Auburn, NH, ready to take to drillers throughout New England as needed.

“The fewer touches by both Sandvik and us mean less chance for damage or breakage of the rods,” Perozzi said. “We’ve also consolidated our requirements into four shipments a year, down from 12, and that helps eliminate overall handling.”

Maine Drilling & Blasting also relies on other Sandvik tools:

• CAPP Black Label Drill Bits

“[With these bits] we’ve found we can get one more hole out of each bit before we have to exchange it for another, re-sharpened bit,” said Bower. “Once you start re-sharpening the bits, you can get a few more of those with the CAPP bits … because of Sandvik’s better carbide. Overall, they last longer. And even less experienced drillers get more footage out of CAPP bits because of the superior carbide.”

• GT60 drilling Tool System

“It’s good stuff and we’re impressed,” said Bower. “We’ve been able to straighten out our hole deviation issues with it, and we get very good life out of the system. We can drill from 25,000 feet up to in excess of 35,000 feet. You’re talking miles now. The best part for us is getting into areas with the 51 mm hammer and using this system to straighten holes, minimize hole deviation and get better rock fragmentation.”

• Shank adaptors

“We use Sandvik shanks on our Atlas Copco and Ingersoll-Rand drill rigs because they expand the life expectancy of the shanks on those units,” explained Bower. “I can pretty much set my budget by the projected life expectancy because it’s so reliable. When you can use one manufacturer for the shank all the way down the hole, you’ve got a great system. We’ve pretty much eliminated shank adaptor failures with Sandvik.”

• Everything From Quarries To Colleges

Headquartered in Gardiner, ME, Maine Drilling & Blasting has four other office locations in Auburn, NH; Barre, VT; Bloomfield, CT; and Hudson, MA.

More than 120 quarries in seven states use Maine Drilling & Blasting. Because quarry work is such a large part of the company’s business, it offers a range of quarry services, such as turnkey operations; planning and development; boretrack drill hole deviation monitoring; laser profiling; bulk explosives technology; seismic monitoring and individual shot video recording.

In addition to all those cellars and swimming pools, the list of more visible projects recently handled by Maine Drilling & Blasting is impressive, including the Maine Turnpike Widening Project; I-89 in Vermont, I-90 in New York; Highway 101 in New Hampshire (Portsmouth to Manchester); and I-95 in Massachusetts; site preparation for stores and distribution centers on behalf of Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Lowe’s; Target; L.L. Bean; Intel and IBM; airports in Manchester, NH, Burlington, VT, and Portland and Auburn, ME; and institutions from Dartmouth College and the University of Maine to the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY.