There’s an old adage…”use the right tool for the job.” J.F. Kiely Construction Company of Long Branch, NJ, takes this saying very literally.
Founded in 1952, J.F. Kiely Construction Company has established itself as a leader of gas distribution and underground utility contracts. This includes the installation of new and replacement mains and services, and annual blanket contract work. In addition to their main office, they also have operating divisions in Beachwood, Swainton, Pleasantville, and Richland, NJ. With 180 employees, this Distribution Contractors Association member covers the vast majority of the Garden State.
J.F. Kiely’s bread and butter is in performing underground bores for gas line installations. In fact, this company performs over 11,000 bores per year, and depends heavily upon a variety of piercing tools.
Piercing Tool Evolution
Piercing tools were first introduced in Europe over 30 years ago because utilities and contractors there were looking for an economical alternative to the disruptive trench and replace method of installing pipe and conduit. A pneumatic tool was developed that could be launched directly into the soil, eliminating the need for open trenching in many applications.
With America’s aging infrastructure becoming more congested, piercing tools have become a welcome addition to domestic utility contractors the same way they did in Europe years ago. The simplicity of design, featuring few moving parts and the ability to simultaneously pull in pipe, looks very attractive to large and small contractors alike.
According to John F. Kiely, Jr., President of J.F. Kiely Construction and son of the founder, their company presently owns over forty piercing tools. Responding to why his company has use for nearly four dozen tools, Kiely stated, “Many utility construction standards request or demand the use of moles as compared to blowing pipe. The convenience and efficiency of moles make them cost effective. So, we outfit as many crews as possible with moles.”
In a discussion about the many advantages of piercing tools, Treasurer John M. Kiely (grandson of the founder), Supervisor Arthur Hughes III, and Warehouse Mechanic Wayne Pierce concluded that moles provided them with greater flexibility when installing pipe. This was especially true in areas which are unsuitable for pipe pullers or trenching machines, such as between buildings.
Equally important to the three men was the piercing tool’s ability to minimize restoration time as compared to large pulling and trenching machines, particularly when installing pipe beneath driveways and roadways. Using piercing tools for pipe installations beneath roadways also allows traffic to flow completely uninterrupted. Last, but certainly not least, they stated that moles are easy to use. “Installation of pipe using a piercing tool does not require an extreme use of labor hours,” offered Kiely.
Because of the many types of difficult soils that they encounter in New Jersey, J.F. Kiely primarily purchases tools with reciprocating stepped-cone heads. These tools, known by the trade name of Grundomat, are manufactured by TT Technologies Inc., of Aurora, IL. In fact, over 90 percent of his present stock of piercing tools are Grundomats. The reciprocating stepped-cone head is important because of its unique ability to penetrate compressed soils. J.F. Kiely’s forty-plus piercing tools range from 1 3/4-inches to 5 inches in diameter to cover all of their boring needs. In order to keep these tools operating at peak efficiency, J.F. Kiely has staff devoted to the routine maintenance of the tools.
As owners of all their equipment from trucks to tools (they don’t rent or lease), J.F. Kiely employs seven full time mechanics for their maintenance shop. Two employees are devoted to the smaller tools, including piercing tools. This is necessary for the proper upkeep of the piercing tools, which are out in the field six days a week, plus night emergency work. “Our program includes completely disassembling, cleaning, and checking for wear once a month,” stated Warehouse Mechanic Pierce. J.F. Kiely’s premise is that a regular maintenance program will virtually eliminate down-time in the field and maintain optimum punching power of the tool.
A recent development in piercing tools is the ability to track the tool. TT Technologies offers the Grundocrack electronic tracking device for Grundomat tools. It allows operators to bore without a predetermined exit area, resulting in longer bores.
The J.F. Kiely crews have found many situations where a piercing tool can substitute for a directional drilling machine. “Many times your work location will prohibit the use of a directional drilling machine due to space limitations,” Kiely stated. In these instances, the company can perform the bore very efficiently with a piercing tool because it requires less setup and fewer crew. A minimal crew simply aims the tool with the proper vertical and horizontal alignment, then launches it.
For those who are new to piercing tools, Kiely has some advice. “The accurate setup and preparation (aiming) of the piercing tool before the procedure begins will greatly increase your success rate.” And, after all, who would know better than a man with forty-three piercing tools?
Pipeline & Utilities Construction, October 1995, reprint