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Ep020 – Specialty Services with Rope Access

Discover the implementation of rope access in industrial maintenance, highlighting its advantages in safety, cost savings, and efficiency over traditional scaffolding methods. It outlines how this approach is being applied to leak repairs, flange bolting, pipe cutting, and more, demonstrating significant benefits in terms of lead times, installation times, and overall costs. The conversation also touches on the development of rope access techniques for specialized services, emphasizing real-world success stories and the potential for widespread adoption across different industry sectors.

 

 

Don Cooper 0:03
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the next episode of the Industrial Innovators Podcast. I’m Don Cooper, your host. Today, I’m really excited because we’ve got some of our own on the show, and we’re going to be talking about rope access and how it can be leveraged in specialty services. Today on the show, we’ve got our operations leader, Mr. Mike Brown, and our own resident Spider-Man, rope access technician, and leak repair technician, Brodie Kelman. Guys, welcome to the show. 

Mike Brown 0:33
Hey, thanks for having us. 

Don Cooper 0:36
So we’re talking about rope access today and how we are applying it with our customers. So give me a brief description of what rope access is, you know, and what we’re doing with Innovator in terms of taking care of our customers with Mike. 

Mike Brown 0:56
Yeah, so from a 1000-foot view, what it boils down to is we had a couple of clients reaching out to us, and they had a need for addressing those pesky little leaks that are up in high places, call them $1,500 jobs, maybe some small packings here and there, and they were building these massive scaffolding structures to get to them and get these leaks sealed up. So at the end of the day, what we wanted to do is work with our end user and be able to come up with a program where we can hang our individuals that are cross-trained in all of our services for leak repair, flange bolting, composites, pipe cutting, and be able to service them without them needing to build scaffolding. Essentially, that’s the 1000-foot view. 

Don Cooper 1:48
And so right now, we’re applying that, you mentioned, leak repair. What other things are you thinking about, or are you already 

Mike Brown 1:57
Yeah, so we’re already in the process of creating our own procedures for bolting from ropes, pipe cutting from ropes. We can do stop gapping from ropes, 3D scanning. So, for instance, if you have a leak in a highline where we need to start engineering an enclosure right away, we can get Brodie or whoever to come up, get the original dimensions. And then while they’re building the scaffolding, we’re starting the design phase and even fabrication so that once that scaffold is complete, we’re on-site, and we’re ready to install. So, really cutting down on lead times, install times. And, at the end of the day, a big item is cost. 

Don Cooper 2:45
Yeah, I never thought about that application before, Mike. So, you know, when I was thinking about this, I was thinking about completely replacing scaffolding, and we’ll talk about the cost benefits of that in a minute. But, you know, I don’t know if you guys know this about me, but my entry into industrial services 30-some years ago, I started as a scaffolder. And it was the very first thing I did. Well, scaffolding, installation of asbestos removal, but I was a scaffolder’s helper. And, you know, we were always building scaffolds, days, weeks ahead of when the pipefitters or, you know, the technicians who were going on that scaffold needed it. And from a company point of view, we wanted to build them because we could start charging for the equipment right away. Obviously, there’s a cost benefit conversation around eliminating the scaffold altogether. But I hadn’t considered lead times and speeding up repairs, but even you’ve been able to do a chunk of the work ahead of the scaffold, even though you’re going to need a scaffold for a bigger component. Right? That’s an interesting use case. 

Mike Brown 3:57
And, you know, there are scenarios out there as well, where some scaffolding companies will refuse to build it under certain styles or leaks of certain natures. So what we can do is we can actually come out to site, perform the stopgap, which could be a method of, you know, robotic clamps. It could be just as simple as a hose clamp or even composites in some scenarios over the top of these leaks, so then that secures the area and allows them to build the scaffold, at which point we can do the final repair or, in some scenarios, it’s not even needed because we can just stopgap it and do the composite repair. So it’s kind of a win-win for both people, but it gives us an advantage to be able to go and safely secure the area and allow other people access for the NDAs, building the scaffold, installation, removal, whatever they need. 

 

Don Cooper 4:55
Just making it safe so that the scaffolders can or will get up there to do the next day. That’s interesting. There are a whole bunch of different ways it can be leveraged from an effectiveness standpoint. Now, over to our resident Spider-Man, Brodie. So, you’ve got some insight; you’ve been out there doing rope access jobs. What are you seeing, hearing, reading about, learning about in terms of the cost-benefit analysis that you’re seeing between you working on ropes versus what your customers were traditionally doing? 

Brodie Kelman 5:27
So, a couple of things that I’m seeing now is that we’re really the first company out there that’s offering these specialized services through a rope access program, and there’s lots of amazing feedback. Just hearing things from the clients in terms of the amount of money they’re saving. It would have taken them a week to build the scaffold; it would have taken a five to six-guy crew to get up this 100 feet or 60 feet. And we went in there, and we were able to get the ropes rigged, get the job complete in less than two hours. So, the past roughly eight jobs that we’ve got so far under our belt have gone extremely well. And the clients have been happy. They’re actually to the point where they’re talking to other business units, different areas, and mentioning this work. And I think it’s great for what we can offer our clients. 

Don Cooper 6:21
And you’re gonna have the insight into what are the studies have gone on in terms of overall at a high level? I mean, we’ve got our own use cases. And Mike spoke a little bit about some really interesting time efficiency, safety efficiency, uses of even combining rope with scaffold in a different way than was traditionally done. But at a high level, what’s the comparison that people are seeing in terms of cost-benefit analysis? 

Brodie Kelman 6:48
Yeah, for sure. So, I got a little bit of documentation here from the National Petroleum and Refining Association. And essentially, they broke down three major jobs and did cost comparisons within those three major jobs. And the average cost savings we’re seeing here is roughly around 40 to 65% cost savings using rope access methods. And the number one thing that really sticks out to me and a lot of people is there have been no safety incidents that have ever occurred with these massive jobs. Rope access is one of the safest services that you can offer by statistics. But to get right down to some of the exact cost comparisons, this is more so of removing some insulation and doing some NDT. In some situations, but so, conventional scaffolding, based on price fixed quotes, the cost savings were roughly 65% on a job at one of the sites, and I got a couple more here. Let me just go over what they’re doing exactly. So, to remove the insulation around all insulation penetrations not accessible by platforms, 50 nozzles, remove 100% of the insulation from a 12-inch overhead line, and visually inspect and take ultrasonic thickness readings, clean and prepare the surface using hand tool methods, coat and primer, and top coat. With the rope access method, they gave a quote out that would have taken them 14 days to complete this work. With the scaffold, it would have taken to build around all these nozzles, remove all this insulation; their call came in at 32 days in total. So, massive, massive cost savings there. As we’re moving through it, we’ll definitely be able to look at our cost savings that we’re doing and building some case studies with what we’re doing. But from what we’re seeing, it’s definitely a lot of money being saved for the client. 

Don Cooper 8:55
So, the use of rope access has been commonplace in the offshore industry, oil and gas offshore industry, for 20 plus years. And any of our listeners who come from that market know that they do this all the time. Now, in the onshore market, and particularly I think in Canada and throughout, and it’s been evolving in the United States, some of the first adopters of rope access have been in the companies, and that’s why you’ve got case studies there that are talking about removing insulation and doing UT. But no one else is doing specialty mechanical that I’ve seen so far. They’re certainly not pushing it and developing it in the way that we are. Now, you’ve done. You’ve got a half a dozen, a dozen jobs under your belt. I mean, this is brand new for us over the last. We’ve been working on the training and the procedures and the implementation and doing pilot projects with really one client, and you’ve got what, six to ten jobs under your belt so far with that client. 

 

Brodie Kelman 9:59
Yep, exactly, around nine jobs we’ve completed. Rather than taking a full day to do one job, we are actually really pushing for it. So we’re getting close to four or five jobs done in one day, just really showing the client what we can do. So we’re not there waiting for scaffolds; we’re not waiting time for scaffolds to get approved or whatever; we just go in, set the ropes up, go and knock the work off, and then move on. 

Don Cooper 10:26
And, you know, I’m going to give a shout-out to our rope access partners in this. We’ve been developing all these procedures and doing all of our training and executing this in the field with whom, like, Accurate? Accurate has been our partner in developing this strategy. Accurate, obviously, is a large NDT company; they’ve developed this for themselves, for their own use cases. And now we’re working with them to figure out how to implement rope access for all these specialized mechanical services. As you mentioned, we’re doing it with leak repair, stopgaps, certain composite repairs, certain types of bolting, and certain types of field machining. And I’m assuming that we’re not trying to boil the ocean with this; we’re starting small and learning, and, you know, we’re not going to be trying to do large scale leak repair enclosure installations with this at this point. 

Mike Brown 11:24
Yeah. So that’s actually kind of a funny story. So initially, when we started to think about this idea, we knew that we would want to start with training wheels on for sure. So we’ve put limitations in place, like, you know, certain products, hydrocarbons, anything over a certain pressure and temperature, kind of depending on what the service is. It’s all guidelines that we follow. So we really wanted to make sure that as we rolled this out, we went through all of the do’s and don’ts, and we’ve stuck to it. So the first job that one of our clients came to us to do off ropes fell outside of that. And as an organization, we just kind of held strong and we were like, unfortunately, we’ve got to try this out on a couple of other ones before we’re even going to entertain something like that, which at the end of the day, I think, is a must, when you’re introducing a new service like this. We really want to make sure the safety of our guys, and we’ve put a lot of work into it, right. So our procedures are all in place, but they’re ever-evolving. This thing, I guess what I could say is, over the next couple of months, the training wheels of this project will come off, and we’ll start to entertain, you know, outside of what our original parameters were. 

Don Cooper 12:41
You know, we kind of set starter training wheel limits, just, you know, obviously, the work that we do in leak repair, bolting, and machining already inherently has its own risks. It requires its own safety procedures, when we’re doing it standing on our feet. What have you had to do in terms of the development and the review and approval for key safety and technical procedures to adapt it for doing it off ropes? 

Mike Brown 13:17
That came out of, you know, several meetings internally with our safety department. And then also some that we’ve done with Accurate. So right off the bat, we asked them what kind of things they would come up against that would pose difficulty when hanging off the ropes. We took that into consideration. And then, after we put Brodie and a couple more of our individuals through the course, we asked them what the actual struggles were, and what we found was, you have the use of your hands, for sure, but you can’t really multitask on a couple of items. So, right now, for instance, if we’re drilling high-pressure leaks and we’re using a high-pressure packing gland, that whole entire process kind of takes up all of your hands, and you need to have the pump all at one time. So anything that, you know, is going to require a two-man crew, at this time, we’re pausing that, and we want to get it to a place where one individual can be doing the work. And as it evolves, we can start to hang more fellows around to do the work. And, you know, if you’re doing big bore flanges or big bore wraps, then you can have two guys there and kind of tackle the job that way, right. 

Don Cooper 14:32
So limiting it to what two hands can do with one person, as  

opposed to complex work tasks that require someone using both of their hands to hold the equipment, while someone else has to operate a pump and activate those things. Those are the next phases of what you’re going to do, and how you’ve kind of limited it to “two hands, one body” hanging off a rope for these kinds of activities. Yep, exactly. Gotcha. 

Don Cooper 15:18
Let’s talk about a little more of the nuance of what you are doing. What are the kinds of leak repair jobs? What other kinds of bolting jobs and machining jobs you’re doing right now? And then we’ll pivot into the vision. 

Mike Brown 15:31
I don’t know, Brodie, I’ll take this one. I think, you know, I’d say probably 90% of the opportunities that have come through so far are belt packs. Actually, that was right off the hop, and those are kind of the jobs that we’ve been executing as of late. However, just recently, we’ve gotten into bonnet repairs and measurements, like we were talking about, so we can go up, we can measure the EP, and I believe this one is a small enough one that we should be able to install it even off of ropes. It’s a small three-quarter inch gap, and we can eliminate the scaffold altogether. You know, there are weight limitations to things that can go up there. So, for instance, you’re not going to be putting big bore enclosures on, but it is something that we can entertain as the training wheels come off, I would say, right. 

This nuanced approach ensures that each job is tailored to what can safely and effectively be accomplished via rope access, with an eye toward expanding capabilities cautiously and strategically. The emphasis on safety, efficiency, and cost savings highlights the potential for rope access to revolutionize certain aspects of industrial maintenance and repair, particularly in difficult-to-access areas. By starting with less complex tasks and gradually taking on more challenging projects, the team is carefully navigating the integration of rope access into their service offerings, demonstrating the versatility and benefits of this method while prioritizing safety and effectiveness. 

 

Don Cooper 16:11
And within your current procedures, you’ve got some ability to do certain kinds of bolting and certain kinds of machining jobs today. 

Mike Brown 16:20
Yes, we do. 

Don Cooper 16:22
And what are the limitations? What capabilities are there right now? 

Mike Brown 16:26
What we’ve put on those, for like the actual machining and stuff like that, is 12 inches. We just wanted to start with a number that was reasonable. Um, we don’t want to be getting machines up there that are much bigger than that until we have a little bit of experience under our belt. The main thing is, when we come up against an issue, whether it be on a machining job or a bolting job, we want it to be handled appropriately. So we don’t want it to be a crazy big machining job or anything like that. We just want to work out all the kinks and make sure that this thing proves to be successful time and time again. 

Don Cooper 17:06
With the jobs you’ve done so far, what are our clients saying? What’s the kind of feedback you’re getting on how it’s helping them? 

Brodie Kelman 17:16
Well, similar to what we were chatting about earlier, in terms of the time it takes to build these scaffolds and how much money they need to sink into it, it’s just a huge savings. For example, I actually have a case study here from some of the first four jobs that we did. I’ll quickly go over this case study. It was in the Fort McMurray oil sands. The client faced a situation with four cell separate valve leaks in their upgrading unit. They were causing huge ice concerns, and traditional leak repair methods would have required extensive scaffolding to access the area, leading to some safety concerns, which was the ice buildup that caused the biggest safety concern. Falling ice is a major issue. Scaffolding construction can be time-consuming as well, and it would pose safety risks as the workers were exposed to that area. Additionally, there were high costs involved because some of these locations were really high up in congested areas, pipe racks. They were getting estimates of around three to four days to build the scaffold with a three to four-man crew. So we posed a solution where we’d be utilizing our new rope access program. This approach offered them several advantages: the rapid deployment of our team that were mobilized quickly, eliminating the need for lengthy scaffolding construction, zero downtime for the repairs that were performed, cost-effectiveness as rope access eliminated the scaffolding costs, enhanced safety as our rope access technicians are highly trained and utilize rigorous safety protocols, minimizing all fall hazards and potentials, and then there was unmatched access. The rope access allowed technicians to reach even the most intricate locations to make leak repair in a congested area possible. Innovators’ rope access team arrived on-site and completed all four leak repairs within eight hours. 

Mike Brown 19:28
And real quick, if I could jump in on that one. Weren’t you hung up in one of the scenarios? They actually hung you from the crane in the building? Yeah, they had a, it wasn’t your traditional method of hanging off ropes anchored or whatever. He was actually hanging right off the crane himself, which is kind of neat because then you can move him around, get him to the area you needed to be at, and bang out all four jobs in an eight-hour shift. 

Brodie Kelman 19:54
And so keep in mind too, like these were causing a lot of ice falling. These massive red tape areas in their plants, people can’t go around them, causing a mess on assets below that as well. So, with us going in there and completing those four jobs in a period of eight hours, they were stunned, to be honest with you. I actually got a quote from one of the clients: “Innovators’ rope access has saved us big on time and money by avoiding complex scaffolding in tight, elevated areas. Definitely recommending it to other business units.” So in conclusion, this case study demonstrated the clear advantages of using rope access services for leak repair. Our ability to rapidly respond, zero downtime, cost-effectiveness, and commitment to safety make us the ideal partner for tackling critical maintenance challenges. And so, by leveraging innovative techniques and skilled personnel, Innovator empowers clients to achieve efficient and cost-effective solutions. So, Walter, that was just read from this case study here that was built. But yeah, they, as a matter of fact, were extremely impressed and definitely recommending it. 

Mike Brown 21:13
They loved it so much, actually, that they’ve shared it along with their other colleagues in different locations. So, you know, it’s starting to catch a lot of momentum around the industry. And I know that, myself as the operations leader, and Brodie as kind of the champion rope access guy, we’re really looking forward to where this thing goes. We’ve got the most traction with it out of our western locations right now. But we’re ready for this straight across Canada, you know, Atlantic and central kind of Canada. All of those locations are ready to deploy at any time. So we’re there for any of these rope access jobs that are required. 

Don Cooper 21:58
Very cool. Brodie, that case study you just talked about, was that your first rope access job? 

Brodie Kelman Yes, it was. 

Don Cooper I love it. That’s a really cool story. It’s a really cool story. For the first time out of the gate, you get to put your new skills into action. And that’s the kind of result you give a client. I mean, that doesn’t take a whole lot of convincing. That’s a pretty compelling story. 

Brodie Kelman Yeah, yeah. Thanks, Don. 

Don Cooper That’s awesome. Where are we going with this, guys? 

Mike Brown 22:41
I personally see this going in a direction where we’re going to end up doing so much of it that I think it’s going to kind of branch off into its own little entity of our company. Like, I think that, eventually down the road, we may have like a rope access division of just people that are strictly hanging off ropes doing these kinds of repairs, because it’s just like, you know, as soon as people start to figure out the real savings behind it, and how easy we are to deal with to come onto site. I think that, you know, this time next year, the workload for it is going to be, you know, 10 times what we currently are up against. 

Don Cooper 23:32
So, Brodie is going to go from being our in-house resident Spider-Man to being the leader of the Avengers. Exactly. Maybe we can start calling him Captain Innovator. You mentioned other regions. I know that as you were developing this, Mike, with your team, you focused on developing all the procedures, and the training and the competency and deploying the training with an all-hands approach to bringing it into the field here in the West, specifically with some clients in Fort McMurray. What’s the plan in terms of the training and deployment? For that you see for other offices like what’s the timeframe and the thought process around adding more people to that team in the west and then bringing it to our Ontario teams and our Atlantic teams. 

Mike Brown 24:26
Right now, we’re currently certified in both locations. We have a minimum of one technician that can hang off a rope tomorrow if a job were to pop up. The majority of the folks that are qualified are out here in the West. I think that as soon as we start to market it in the right locations, it’s going to start to pick up in the central and the Atlantic region. But to answer your question, if we got an inquiry off of this tomorrow, we can make this happen anywhere in Canada. 

Don Cooper 25:01
I mean, Brodie has been bouncing all over the country doing a range of different things. So, you know, ropes or ropes, whether it’s in New Brunswick, Newfoundland, or Alberta, right? 

Mike Brown 25:12
Guys got more air miles than a bird. 

Don Cooper 25:17
Well, you know, now that he has got ropes, maybe he doesn’t need wings. Wherever we go with this now, how do you deploy this from an emergency standpoint? Because like, you know, what I love about this conversation is I knew you guys were developing this and deploying it, but I was really hands-off. You mean you kind of quarterbacked this whole thing from procedures to training to deployment? What happens differently from a traditional job when it’s an emergency job, and you want to deploy rope access? Walk me through what’s different. 

Mike Brown 26:01
So the main key thing, I would say to that, is having a good relationship with Accurate on-site. So you have to remember, Brodie’s not a rope access guy that can go up there and lift other people; he’s simply a level one. So we’re not looking to get into the business of being a rope access supplier by any means. We just want our trained, competent technicians—cross-trained, competent technicians, is what I should say—to be able to be suspended in the air and do the actual work. So in an emergency basis, we can respond; we’re 24/7, 365. What’s key is making sure that our partners at whatever location we’re working at are aware that we are a 24-hour business and just making sure that they have a response time that matches ours, right? So we need those guys on site to pull these jobs off. And that relationship is kind of key in making this a successful thing on an emergency basis. As far as turning it around, like product-wise, most of our stuff is housed in all of our locations. So, you know, we can have composite wrap on site within an hour from receiving a call if need be. And that kind of goes for all of our locations across Canada. So, on an emergency basis, as long as we keep tight communication with the folks that are hanging us up from Accurate, then we can get out there fairly quickly. 

Don Cooper 27:41
I think that’s an important thing to emphasize. When I talked to a few of our clients, and you know, the language you use, a lot of people here sometimes need to make sure you clarify. I introduced the idea that we were offering rope access for our services to one client. And they said, “Well, we’ve already got three or four different rope access providers.” And I’m like, “I don’t think anyone is doing what we’re doing on ropes.” But what they meant was they had rope access providers who were designing and setting up the ropes, not people who are doing what we do off ropes. So, you know, our strategy is not to be the rope access general contractor. Our approach is to work with those on-site preferred rope access design installers, the level threes, you know, to do what we do, which no one else is doing. Right. I mean, I think that’s a very important thing. We’re talking about rope access leak repair, rope access composite repair, rope access bolting services, rope access field machining services, not being the on-site general rope access contractor. Yeah, and we’re doing that right now. The partnership that we’ve sort of developed has been with Accurate, where we’re working together on these solutions, then bringing their strong capabilities and us bringing our strong capabilities to put this unique offering together for clients. 

Brodie Kelman 29:18
Yeah, what it’s kind of looking like out there from a field perspective is, it seemed like 70% of these clients, like you were just talking about, see us as a stage rope access provider out there. So, our first job, how it worked out was, I went out there the day before, and we just had a meeting with them, whoever this provider was, Accurate in this situation. We had a quick meeting; they didn’t really know what I was doing, I didn’t fully know what they needed to do. We collaborated together and came up with a plan. Then, from a field perspective, they rigged the ropes up. I kind of let them know where I wanted the ropes, where I wanted to climb up and down, and once it was all set up, they’re just there to have that level three there for you as IRATA requirements, and you pretty much go up, we climb up the ropes, we do all the work, they’re just there in case they got to do a rescue or just IRATA standard just to have them there. So, if this were to go on, say, with Accurate not there, we could definitely make this work with whoever that rope access provider is on these sites. 

Don Cooper 30:31
So, if our facility client has a different embedded rope access contractor, we’re fully capable of working with them with our procedures and qualifications as long as we collaborate and plan the job effectively. I’m curious about what you’ve learned, you know, from doing it compared to what you expected going in, Brodie. Like, can you tell me the journey? Mike, I mean, you’ve been one of our fastest learning, rapidly deploying leak repair guys over the last three years or so. And you know, you’re out there doing a ton of leak repair all over the country and a lot of composite repair. When you started, when Mike approached you to kind of become Spider-Man, first off, what did you think about that? What attracted you to it? 

Brodie Kelman 31:37
So, the initial time I was kind of asked about this, we were actually out on a client’s site, and a client pointed up into a pipe rack and mentioned how that leak would be really expensive to scaffold for. Rope access technicians were just walking by, and he actually mentioned that we should get involved in ropes. He was a bit higher up at Suncor, so he must have talked to Mike at some point. That’s when Mike came to me. I was looking forward to the challenge, always eager to learn something new. My theory is that more challenges lead to better problem-solving skills. I was super nervous for the training, started getting a bit more active, more treadmill time before the certification course happened. And then, when we took the course, there were actually 14 people. On the final assessment day, only four of us passed. It’s very rigorous training, which really shows why it’s one of the safest industries out there due to the high safety standards. But other than that, when it came to the first job, my biggest concern was not forgetting a tool. That’s the only thing I kept thinking about. I cannot climb all the way up there and forget a tool. 

Mike Brown 33:07
My thought when I first approached Brodie to be the guy to kind of champion it and be the first one to go through the training was due to his background. Before Brodie joined us here at Innovator, he spent most of his adult life climbing around on roofs and in harnesses, building houses. So, no fear of heights, which is obviously a big plus, and spending a lot of his time already kind of harnessed up and walking around on ladders and that kind of stuff. I just thought that it would be the perfect fit for him to head up, and it’s proven very successful. 

Don Cooper 33:47
I knew your background with no fear of heights but a strong respect for it, obviously, because you put yourself in those height situations every day for most of your life. Had you ever worked on ropes, or used ropes even recreationally like rock climbing or rappelling, or those kinds of activities? 

 

 

Brodie Kelman 34:11
Um, to be honest with you, no. The only rope work I ever really looked into was maybe a few odd times rock climbing back in the day. But like Mike was just saying, we built massive condos and buildings at huge heights, and I was dealing with pretty big crews around there. So rope safety or harness safety, me being a supervisor and a lead hand on those big crews, was extremely important. It definitely helped having that knowledge and being organized with ropes. So when you’re climbing with ropes, there’s a lot of ropes and tool organization required, right? I noticed in the rope access course, a lot of the newer participants didn’t really have that natural, comfortable feel when they were up there on the ropes. Like, once you start climbing up there, and you’ve got tools tied off to you and all sorts of stuff, I just remember thinking organization was such an important part of it, right? So it definitely helped out. Yeah, but not so much rock climbing or anything like that, or rappelling. Okay. 

Don Cooper 35:18
I wasn’t sure. You know, when I was a kid, I did a lot of rock climbing and rappelling, and then I went through airborne training with the Canadian Airborne Regiment. And what I found fascinating about that training is we had six weeks of equipment practice before we actually started to jump out of planes. So much of that training was about equipment on your body when you’re in those situations. We had to learn how to store our weapons and our rucksacks, checking equipment, checking our partner’s equipment. So much of that training was all about safety and the organization of your gear. So, when I found myself in those situations, it’s completely different. All the planning and preparation when you’re on the ground, you think you’re ready, and then you’re standing on the back of the C-130, looking down at the city of Edmonton, and you’re like, “Oh, this wasn’t what I was expecting.” So how was it the first time you were working off ropes? Because you know, all the experience of working on buildings, going through the training, and fortunately, you have the benefit of thinking about the organization of tools. But what was it like, and what was different for you that first day when you did those first four jobs, as you described earlier? 

Brodie Kelman 36:56
So, I guess I’ll start from the beginning. I had my junior there, and oddly enough, this client actually brought out a media team to take pictures, to show other business units. So I was definitely a little nervous, to be honest. I remember talking to my junior, and I just kept walking through every step of what was going to happen—where I was going to climb, here are the tools I’m going to have. Once I felt fully prepared, we walked through the job exactly like we would do a job not on ropes. It was time to climb. Honestly, I just hooked up to it, remembered my training from two or three months prior, and started to climb. Once I finally got up there and felt comfortable, it just kind of came naturally, to be honest. It wasn’t too much fumbling; I was focused on getting the job done and getting out of there. 

Mike Brown 38:01
One thing that helped us was, prior to this, Brodie requested a bunch of modified, well, not modified tooling, but smaller tooling. For instance, like our Interpack pumps for injections and stuff like that, we got the smaller sawed-off one. It’s much smaller and more manageable for him, all of his tools tied off. The forethought we put into the project is what made it so successful right off the hop. 

Don Cooper 38:33
As you work through that, you’re likely going to develop a standardized toolkit with the right lanyards and tools for each of your crews so that they’re different and equipment dedicated to when you’re working off ropes, right? 

Mike Brown 38:48
That’s the thing, you know, with composite repair, there are a couple of means of wetting out your fabric and everything else. When it comes to doing ropes, you need to go with what’s called the bag wet-out method. So, the epoxy may be in a little bag on the ground, where we can hoist it up to ourselves, and it’s already pre-wetted out, and you can do the application that way. So, you know, that’s why we really put a lot of thought into what limitations we want to start with when it comes to size of piping, temperatures, pressures, that kind of stuff. It was a big collaboration through our safety group,  our quality group, all those guys that went through the training, and our operations team, kind of over two to three months, and really thought it all out well. What about this, what about that? And then, you know, we were able to come up with a plan where, you know, the nine jobs we’ve done, we’ve come up against zero issues. 

Don Cooper 39:52
Are we using, at this point, have we, or do we have a plan to use any air tools in these situations? 

Mike Brown 40:00
So right now, we tried to eliminate that. We’ve gone with cordless drills and everything else. But at this point, you know, there are going to be things, for instance, clamshells, that are going to need air. But you can correct me if I’m wrong, you can run air lines if you need to for any of it, right? 

Brodie Kelman 40:18
One hundred percent. Like part of the meeting we had with Accurate on site as well was just going over limitations that we’d have, and what they told us was, we can pretty much rig anything up to you and rig anything down. For me, there’s no limitations whatsoever. So, we’ve got this flange injection actually coming up. So, it’s the first time we’re going to kind of get outside of the valve packings. And we’ve already kind of seen the location; I’ve already actually been to that location up on ropes because they misdiagnosed it, they thought it was a valve packing. Nobody really got up there; I climbed up there and was like, “That’s not a valve packing,” it was causing a huge ice mess, right. So, while I was out there, I kind of had that conversation with the Accurate technicians that were out there, and I was like, “I’m gonna need air set up,” and there was no problem whatsoever in terms of limitations on their end. 

Don Cooper 41:13
Now, it’s going to be interesting to come up with novel tool approaches, depending on what the application is, whether that’s some of our new battery-operated torque guns, or potentially electric power field machining equipment or air-powered field machining equipment. What I was curious about was how the rigging of energy sources that you might need to work on would work because obviously, you’re not holding an air hose under your arm when you’re trying to work; it has to be rigged in place so you can have access to it, or water, or electricity, or whatever those things are. But those things in the job plan get baked into the job so they can be rigged into place as needed. 

Mike Brown 42:31
Yeah, you’d be surprised what some of the stuff these guys can rig into place, like we’re talking fairly big fittings here. That’s why we didn’t want to put an absolute showstopper on certain sizes of EPs. I think maybe one day down the road, we can go that route, where they have the EPs kind of hoisted in place, and we’re bolting them together and doing the install. You know, that would come with piles of testing and some sign-offs and some procedural changes on our end. In the leak repair industry, it’s always good to have some sort of way to, let’s call it, dual access to scaffolding; you want to have a way to get out of there. You never want to be in between the leak and somewhere else, which is kind of cool with rope access because I think you guys can kind of drop out of the way whenever you need to if the leak gets too bad, which we haven’t come across, but sometimes those are realities when you’re doing leak repairs. You’ve got to have a contingency for the line of fire for sure. 

Don Cooper 43:42
Exactly. And for the enclosures, and like where they’re going to hoist stuff and where our procedure goes in the future, that’ll be ever-evolving. I think we’ll kind of grow some legs on this thing as the years go on. But right now, what we’re trying to do is keep it to battery-operated stuff, airlines stuff, with water streams 650 psi and under at this point. And then, if it’s outside of those, I will take a firm stand as an operations leader and request a scaffold at this point. 

Don Cooper 44:24
So we’ve got our limits while we continue to learn and evolve what the capabilities are and what the limitations are of what we’re doing. It’s fantastic. I’m super excited and so proud of what you guys have done. And for a listener who hears us talking, how do they find out more and get in touch with you to talk about their rope access leak repair, their rope access specialty services applications? What should they do next? 

Mike Brown 44:55
Yeah, so I mean, they can reach out to us through our website. Uh, you know, we’ve got LinkedIn, they can get a hold of me anytime directly—I answer my phone, even in the dentist’s chair—that’s 780-230-4000. Yeah, email, you guys can get a hold of us however you’d like. And we do pride ourselves on response time. So anytime you reach out, we definitely will be getting back to you the same day, maybe not with a solution the same day. But you’ll hear from us and we’ll give you a timeline the same day, that’s a guarantee. 

Don Cooper 45:35
Well, we’ll make sure that our team puts some contact information in all of the places that the video and audio show up. You know, our core purpose as a business is to use innovation to create value. And the kind of value that we’re looking to create is improved safety, improved productivity, improved cost-effectiveness, just like my T-shirt says. This is why we exist. And it’s not always about some new gadget. It’s about innovation in delivery, innovation in technology, innovation in delivery. Innovation in delivery is combining two or three things in a completely different way and creating something completely new. And this, my friends, is exactly what you guys did here. Rope access, rope access specialty services, and rope access leak repair is a fantastic use of innovation in delivery. I’m really, really excited and proud about what you guys have done. 

Mike Brown 46:34
Yeah, I guess I’d like to note as well, like, this whole service line exists because of one of our core values, which is collaboration. One of our three uniques is literally collaboration with our client. This was at a client’s request that, you know, “Hey, would sure be nice if you guys did rope access leak repair.” Well, you know what, okay, we care about what you guys want, and we actually want to adapt to what you guys need to continue your operation in your plant. And if it’s rope access, then that’s what we’ll do. I really like the fact that we will adapt to our client needs, and I’m really looking forward to what else we come up with. I mean, who knows? 

Don Cooper 47:18
Super exciting. And so true. Given our customers a collaborative experience is a really important part of our intentional culture. So great, guys. Fantastic. Thank you for coming on the show. I’m really excited about where you guys are going to take this. And for everyone listening, thank you. Reach out to us, reach out to Mike and his team. Rope access leak repair, rope access composite repair, rope access bolting, rope access field machining, and, as Mike says, as he takes the training wheels off, rope access everything. 

Brodie Kelman 47:57
Thanks for having us. 

Don Cooper Thanks, guys. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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