Mastec using a Grundomat piercing tool.

Piercing Tool Power! MasTec Achieves High Production Through Horizontal Boring

The pace of upgrading fiber networks in Florida and around the United States continues to pick up pace as large media companies push to offer faster and faster service.  One major service provide, for example, has invested nearly $900 million in their Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County wireless and wired networks from 2013 to 2015. So far in 2016, the pace of that investment doesn’t appear to be slowing. 

Mastec using a Grundomat piercing tool.

In order to facilitate the aggressive network enhancement that many of these companies are pursuing, MasTec, Coral Gables, Fla., has been contracted to build the infrastructure needed for these fiber installation programs.  According to MasTec Division Vice President Manuel Arismendy, last year MasTec crews installed approximately 3 million feet of inner duct in existing subdivisions.  This year Arismendy estimates that crews will install in upwards of 5 million feet of inner duct.

With that amount of inner duct being installed, efficiency and limiting restoration are key to overall success.  Arismendy’s crews are reducing disruption to neighborhoods through the use of trenchless technology, specifically piercing tools.  Arismendy said, “The missiles are the way to go because of the small amount of space that they take up and their capability.  Limited disruption and less restoration are very important when working in neighborhoods.” 

For the conduit installation program, MasTec crews are using Grundomat piercing tools from trenchless equipment manufacturer TT Technologies, Aurora, Il. 

About MasTec

MasTec is a leading infrastructure construction company operating mainly throughout North America.  With a diversified customer base, the company has approximately 16,600 employees and 475 locations worldwide. MasTec provides turnkey solutions for a variety of water, sewer, and civil infrastructure projects with established divisions specializing in heavy construction, roadway construction, earth moving, water and wastewater treatment, transmission, and distribution.

Safety is a top priority.  All supervisory staff receive OSHA certification and continuous training to keep current with upgrades in equipment and changes to rules and regulations. Formal safety audits are performed as part of every project. The company also prides itself on innovation and looking for ways to increase efficiency within the projects and within its own organization.

MasTec has also been a leader in broadband construction from the very beginning of the industry and have remained at the top of the industry throughout each successive phase of its evolution.  MasTec crews have installed countless miles of fiber systems, and their expertise has become a driving factor in next-generation networks as well.  That fact is very evident in the company’s approach to the conduit installation projects currently underway in Florida.

Piercing Tool Capabilities

Mastec using a Grundomat piercing tool.

Piercing tools are some of the most versatile trenchless tools available.  The tool can be used in a wide variety of trenchless applications.  TT Technologies Piercing Tool Specialist Frank Fresneda said it is hard to match the productivity and capability of piercing tools.  He said, “Obviously they can be used as a boring tool, but when you factor in that they can also be used as a ramming tool and a pipe bursting tool, it is easy to see how effective this piece of trenchless equipment actually is. Piercing tools are used in water, gas, sewer, electrical and FTTH applications.  In addition, for shorter boring projects, like the ones MasTec is using them for, they are very economical on a per foot basis when compared to a directional drilling application.”

Installing pipe or conduit with the piercing tool can be accomplished in a number of ways.  Fresneda explained, “Often, the piercing tool will pull in mule tape during the bore. Once the run is complete, the conduit can be pulled in with the mule tape. In certain circumstances after the bore is complete, the conduit is attached to the front of the tool. The tool can be backed through the borehole, pulling in the conduit.  Sometimes the conduit can be attached to the tool’s air hose after the bore and pulled in that way.  At MasTec, crews are pulling the conduit behind the tool and running the air hose inside the inner duct.  There are a lot of different installation configurations available depending on the requirements of the jobsite.”

In the Neighborhood

In Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties crews are installing conduit from the hand holes through the easement.  The path of the work includes boring in residential areas.  Maintaining positive relations with the general public is very important to MasTec and boring through neighborhoods can sometimes cause homeowners concern.

Mastec horizontal boring under driveways.

Arismendy said, “Any time you are digging up someone’s yard, there is the potential for people to become upset.  In order to help homeowners, as well as homeowner associations, understand the process, we developed a short PowerPoint presentation that highlights a typical project from start to finish.  Using trenchless piercing tools helps ease homeowners’ fears as well.”

According to Fresneda MasTec crews are getting the most out of their piercing tools. He said. “Their two-man crews are boring under driveways, sidewalks and yards everyday, stitch boring with the Grundomat piercing tool.  Crews dig small pits on either side of the driveway then launch the tool from one side to the other, then onto the next driveway pit or sidewalk. Using the piercing tool is an ideal application.  With small pits, you’ve eliminated a large portion of restoration and two-man crews can be extremely productive.”

For a majority of the work, crews are using 3-inch diameter Grundomat pneumatic piercing tools.  MasTec crews start by placing conduit just outside of the subdivision.  From there, installations go from the pedestal to the easement of the home to the set up box.  Crews place hand holes every two homes and bore approximately 50 feet at a time.  Difficult and complex soil conditions and high water tables make the process difficult.  Many areas are laden with compact fill used as a base for building houses.  Powerful and accurate piercing tools help overcome the conditions.

Fresneda said, “Accuracy is really a function of the design of the tool itself.  The chisel-head assembly on the Grundomat is spring-loaded and pushes forward from the main casing. This creates a pilot bore and helps the tool maintain accuracy. The reciprocating action and stepped-cone design allow the tool to power through difficult soils like the ones in south Florida without being pushed off course.”

According to Arismendy, MasTec has approximately 600 people currently installing conduit.  Two man crews are installing between 250 and 300 feet of 1.5-inch diameter conduit per day.  He said, “Using horizontal boring tools is a very inexpensive way to do the conduit installation as opposed to an HDD rig which is a more significant capital expenditure.” 

Project Impact

Arismendy is very proud of his crews, what they are able to accomplish and the impact this project has on a larger scale.  He said, “It’s all about connecting the dots.  You want every single person in that circle to make money from your vendors to your subcontractors to your employees, your community and back to the customer.  If we’re able to connect all those dots, were able to have a successful project.  No matter how you do it or where, as long as you take care of all those individuals, you will run a successful project.”

Fresneda said, “The fact that Manuel and his crews are able to take on the incredible amount of installation work that they’re doing and doing it at such a high level, is really a reflection of what a quality company MasTec is and what a great job Manuel does.  They really set the standard in the industry.”