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In touch with our customers, UK version!

As a Dutch marketing and communication manager working in the HDD Industry I get to visit a lot of jobsites in the Netherlands. I work for SiteTec, a company that offers specific and flexible solutions for bentonite mixing, storage, recycling and pumping units. We believe it is important to regularly meet up with our customers. Online, offline, at the office, but preferably at the place where our machines are being used, at the jobsite!

Since there is plenty of work in the Netherlands, I have come across British companies like OCU Group, drilling in Dutch soil. This September was my first visit to jobsites in the UK, so I am very pleased to share my experience during visits to three leading UK drilling companies.

In the Netherlands the focus is currently on environment; we just had the first emission-free drilling of a distance over 800 meters completed in Breda. One of our Dutch customers has pulled in 4 x 200mm ducts, using a revolutionary electric drilling rig powered by powerful batteries supplied with exclusively green energy. In the UK the focus currently seems to be on jobsite safety and efficiency.

During my 3-day visit to the UK, Ian Anderson, product support engineer from TA Drilling took me to several jobsites. TA Drilling has been our partner for the last 15 years in the UK. To offer the very best possible service and support to our customers SiteTec has an extensive international dealer network. Our customers benefit from local contact without language barriers and with local engineers. Ian Anderson explained to me more about the UK market, about the strict health and safety regulations of all UK projects. About accidents that happened in the past and the consequences that they bring. On certain jobsites a handsfree automated breakout system is mandatory. We will be visiting three jobsites where some of these units are running.

OCU Group

Our first stop is in Bicester where OCU Group are drilling through limestone on a 350-meter-long drill with multiple reams up to 28”. They have a nice set up beside the road, causing as little disruption as possible. Besides their 50-ton drill rig is the newly modified SiteTec R2000E recycling unit, new panel shakers with quick change screens; shining in the British sun. Crossing the road walking to exit side is their brand new 20-tonne Finnings Cat 320 excavator with a Tonghand XS from LaValley Industries attached. Where traditional wrenches had been the way forward for many years, with at least 3 men needed on exit side; we met up with Tony Wainwright and his colleague who is being trained to be an operator of the Tonghand XS. The Tonghand attachments can be operated by one sole cab driver, eliminating the need for additional labour to manually unscrew and move the heavy HDD drill rods; enabling operators to work in a safer and more efficient way.

I previously met Tony Wainwright in Holland on their outfall job in Callantsoog, it is great to see him again in the UK. The smaller version of the Tonghand will allow the OCU Group the flexibility to use the Tonghands on their fleet of midi rigs, increasing productivity, and giving capacity to complete projects on time and to budget. Off course Tony Wainwright is happy sitting in his brand-new excavator operating the Tonghand, but it’s not just the comfort and safety that he is pleased about.

“The making, breaking and pipe handling is that much faster and more precise than with chains and slings. It enables us to finish jobs a lot quicker.”

In fact Ian and I missed most of the action, as they were already ready to pull pipe when we arrived. They intended to pull pipe during the night to cause as little disruption as possible and then off to their next jobsite. Thanks to the OCU Group for the visit and allowing us to take some pictures of their new ‘toys’!


The next day Ian drives me up to Peterborough, where VolkerStevin are drilling for water supplies, a 478 meter long drill going through lots of gravel. The jobsite of VolkerStevin looks very much how I would see it in Holland, organized, gated, driving plates and the big flags of VolkerStevin waving in the wind. Because of safety regulations, we do not get to go close to the drill rig. Gary Hamilton, site manager, takes us round to exit side where they are using one of SiteTec’s rental Deckhand units, a DHLT from LaValley Industries. This pipe handler is used in conjunction with the making and breaking static wrenches that VolkerStevin use. The operator tells me it was easy for him to become proficient in the use of the DHLT after training from TA Drilling. The joysticks are mounted in their own excavator, enabling the operator to pick up pipe, poles, casings, or road mats and securely lift, lower, rotate, and tilt the load under his total control.

Purpose-built and optimized for HDD, the Deckhand LT offers a safe and cost-effective way to handle drill pipe and tooling on the job site, increasing efficiency and reducing risk to crew. The Deckhand LT  with Directional Drilling LT (DDLT) Arms gives precision in loading drill rigs, positioning pipe, and moving drill rod and tooling around the work area. Exactly the work that you don’t want to be done manually by men onsite! Just like in Holland, the shortage of qualified staff is a challenge. Working with these units saves time and hands, whilst optimizing safety on site. Thanks to Gary Hamilton for showing us around.

McCormack drilling

The next stop is Ireland, meeting up with Marty McCormack from McCormack Drilling. With their 500 ton American Augers rig, the biggest rig in the UK, they are carrying out a drilling project for a new water supply. The rig can easily handle the 380 meters long drill through mainly rock. The site has a great setup in the beautiful Irish countryside. Partly surrounded by a noise barrier built out of lots of sound insulated containers, making sure the neighbors don’t experience too much inconvenience.

We drive around to exit side where McCormack’s operator is showing off with his new Tonghand attached to a 38 tons New Holland excavator. After an installation and training from TA Drilling, he quickly learned how good the Tonghand is and how much it improved the exit side operation. Standing and looking at him operate the Tonghand, makes me realize that this is the reason why the Tonghand was designed. Engineered to be the HDD industry’s ultimate exit-side tool, Tonghand allows drill rod to be torqued and un-torqued with precision by a single operator from the comfort and safety of the excavator cab. The operator looks happy and proud of his newly developed skills, making this jobsite a lot more efficient and safer.

Later that day I found out that this doesn’t even come close to how proud Marty McCormack is of his crew and company. Running the company with his brother and other members of the family, they are still very much hands on and part of the team. Looking at the pictures in the office they all grew together, giving the company a strong base, with all the same attitude and working mentality. But even in Ireland the shortage of the right staff is a challenge, but with jobs running parallel in Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England his way of commuting to work makes it all possible. He is involved in all aspects of the jobs with the help of specialists in the drilling field, Kingsley Emerson being one of them.

Thanks a lot Marty McCormack for showing me the jobsite and showing me what a great company you have! And off course showing me how beautiful Ireland is.

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