KPH Updates 55-Year-old North Dakota Water Main
The $2.7 million water main replacement in Arthur, North Dakota, is progressing well and on track for a 2017 completion by Kindred Plumbing & Heating (KPH). Eric Merhiy, Owner of KPH of Kindred, North Dakota, credits his "great employees" and having the right equipment with delivering a successful project.
KPH received a $2.1 million prime contract in 2016 to replace 12,000 linear feet of water main piping, complete street rehabilitation, install water services to 110 current customers and perform some miscellaneous work.
The work is necessary, because most of Arthur's water main was installed in 1961 with asbestos cement pipe, which is closing in on its useful life span. The city's fire hydrants, curb stops and nonfunctioning gate valves contribute to difficult maintenance. The city teamed up with Moore Engineering in West Fargo, North Dakota, to apply for and, ultimately, receive a $1,338,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture - Rural Development and a federal $1,687,000 in low interest loan funds for the project.
KPH is excavating trenches in which to place the water lines. It uses Topcon GPS positioning equipment on its bulldozers and excavators for fine grading and placing gravel base.
"That has sped up our production tremendously," Merhiy says. "Our production in some cases has doubled using GPS equipment. The accuracy and not having overages are perfect."
Merhiy adds that he believes in having the right equipment to properly tackle each job.
"I want to make sure the people on the job have a large enough dozer or a big enough backhoe or a small enough backhoe to get the project done and do it in a timely fashion," Merhiy says.
The company owns one Komatsu D61PXi Dozer, two D61PX dozers and one D51PXi. The dozers use a GNSS antenna, stroke sensing cylinders, and an enhanced inertial measurement unit to control the machine for maximum efficiency and productivity. Whether rough dozing or performing finish grading, all passes are made with the auto blade control. The operator selects the dozing mode and load size. The machine keeps this information as-built data.
"The [intelligent dozers] have been a great working asset for us," Merhiy says. "Some of the older guys are tougher to convert. They like to say "˜they like to run it by the seat of their pants.' But they are starting to see the value and are accepting the new technology. The younger guys, the 20 to 30 year old guys, it's just amazing how efficient those operators can be. They may be a good operator, but when they get in those dozers, they become a great operator."
KPH is using an eBee drone in conjunction with a Topcon base station to fly over surfaces to do a surface check and determine the quantity of supplies needed prior to starting a job. It also uses a DJI drone to measure gravel, clay and aggregate piles.
KPH purchases its heavy machinery from General Equipment & Supplies of Fargo, North Dakota. The company sells, rents and provides 24-hour service, seven days a week. It is dedicated to helping its customers increase their efficiency and profitability.
"General Equipment has been great," Merhiy says. "We have been with General for a long time. We use them for a lot of resources, new equipment we are short on. And they are phenomenal in the service department."
KPH is building a 31,000-square-foot shop to store its equipment in Fargo and also will move its offices into that new location.
Family Business Grows Through New Opportunities
Merhiy is the third generation to operate this family-owned business, which was started in 1952 as Kindred Plumbing & Heating. Eric's grandfather began performing plumbing and heating, but with the growth of rural water, the company began laying water pipes throughout North and South Dakota.
"We did a lot of big mechanical jobs, including some schools in Pelican Rapids," Merhiy recalls.
When Eric's father took over in 1974, the company began doing site and underground work. When Eric took the reins of the business from his parents, in 2007, about 90 percent of its work was site work. Now about 30 percent of the company's work is site preparation and 60 percent to 70 percent contract work. Eric Merhiy continues to look for new opportunities and adapts to a changing environment and economy.
"Never turning down a job is a company goal that helps our growing, Merhiy says. "We are open to any new opportunities or ideas."
This year, the company started a crushing and recycling division for concrete and asphalt.
"So far that has been great," Merhiy reports. We always look outside the box to get the next job we are looking for."
KPH performs heavy municipal water, sewer, stormwater and grading within a 300-mile radius around Fargo. The company self-performs the underground and earthwork and contracts out curbing and paving. KPH recently completed a project at the Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, site work several big-box retailers and three 100-lot housing developments.
Merhiy credits much of the company's success to its employees, who "take pride in what they do and want to be part of something big."
The company also is working on a $10 million sewer, stormwater and water line replacement project at North Dakota State College of Science, the single largest project in the company's history.
"We tore out the whole campus," Merhiy says. "It's been a difficult project with utility conflicts, everything from gas lines to fiber lines to electric lines are in the way. But you get through it. It comes with the nature of the business. You have frustrating days, but there are also a lot of rewarding days."