There isn’t a “typical” day in Midwest Mole’s shop. There’s always a lot going on, and everything can change at a moment’s notice. We have to remain fluid. The most common tasks we have in our shop are performing scheduled maintenance, along with fixing hydraulic and electrical systems.
That said, we take care of some complex jobs here as well. We recently worked on completely revamping a small diameter tunneling machine for a job out in Arizona. That included rebuilding components, updating the wiring, and bringing old parts of the machine up to current code and current safety specs. We replumbed the whole thing and rewired the entire machine.
Often, there’s a job somewhere that we thought we had ready and prepared to go, but for environmental reasons or other unforeseen circumstances, all of a sudden, there are changes needed. In that situation, we might take some guys off of routine maintenance duty to work on something specific to get that job back on track.
For example, we were recently tunneling under a railroad. We hammered a pipe through an existing culvert, but we didn’t have the right size adapter for the pipe hammer, which is a violent piece of equipment. It was going to take five or six weeks to get a new one made from the manufacturer, but we made one ourselves in a couple of days. We took a situation that went from “we can’t do this, and we can’t buy one soon enough,” to make a success out of it ourselves.
In that same timeframe, we still had to service excavators and trucks, build some new storage and trailers, etc. When we have those bigger, trickier tasks come up, it becomes more challenging to juggle our routine maintenance. Thankfully, for some of the simpler jobs, we can sub work out to our partners.
That might include sending pickups to the Ford dealer or a local mechanic or sending excavators to the dealer. We try to do as much as we can in-house, but as the craziness level ratchets up, that’s sometimes not possible. We can’t rely on anyone else with our specialized equipment like tunneling machines, but we can sub some of those simpler repairs out when necessary.
We currently have 20 employees working between the shop and the yard. We have a great team, and everybody thinks a little bit differently. That allows us to blend a lot of different ideas and come up with the right solution for just about any problem. We’re responsive when situations on the job change, and when something we’ve planned for months doesn’t work. We put our heads together and figure out another way to get to the other side.
We take a lot of pride in the fact that we don’t ever give up. We do everything we can to build what we need to complete a job. Finally, we try to make every piece of equipment better than it was initially, whether that’s safer, faster, or more efficient. It’s not enough for us to restore a piece of equipment to its original state.