Leaner Machines for a Changed World
Kaiser Premier boasts a fine engineering pedigree. Parent company Kaiser AG traces its history to Liechtenstein in 1913 and the building of heavy-duty machinery across Europe. Its North American entity, Kaiser Premier, now faces a new era with confidence.
With a North American lineage going back to Colorado-based Premier Oilfield Equipment, which Kaiser AG formally acquired in 2017, Kaiser Premier, three years on, is continuing to reinvent itself, manufacturing and distributing unique machinery to an equally unique North American market.
Kaiser Premier’s purpose-built vehicles are able to perform in all conditions. The power and simplicity of Kaiser Premier’s hydro excavators mean reliable results in even the harshest applications. The CV Series Hydro Excavator is a safer alternative to traditional shovel or backhoe excavation methods. Pressurized water (or air) is used to break up soil, earth, dirt, clay, or other materials. The excavated material is then vacuumed into the hydrovac’s debris tank.
Hydro excavation is an environmentally friendly excavation method that protects existing utilities, pipelines, and cables from being damaged by mechanical or destructive excavation equipment.
Currently, Kaiser is able to put ten new trucks into service every month.
But Kaiser’s newest endeavors are not in excavation but in sewer cleaning, also showcasing its expertise in water recycling technology.
The AquaStar Water Recycler is a Kaiser AG technology that was introduced in Europe in 1996. Its sewer cleaning technology is simple: A high-pressure jetting hose is fed through a sewer pipe to break up material in the line. The jetting action sends the debris and water back toward the AquaStar where a powerful suction hose vacuums the water and material out of the manhole and into the debris body of the truck. The AquaStar’s single-stage water filtration system filters out any particulates above 500 microns. The resulting filtered water is then recycled back to the high-pressure jetting system where it is used to continue cleaning the sewer pipe – hence the name “water recycler.”
The AquaStar delivers water at volumes up to 132 gallons per minute, up to a pressure of 2,900 psi. With a hose reel capable of holding 55 feet of suction hose and 985 feet of jetting hose, additional suction hose extensions are largely unnecessary for most jobs.
Kaiser Premier introduced the AquaStar Water Recycler into North America in early 2018. With these products backed by a century of expertise, Kaiser Premier offers heavy-duty machinery that can accomplish the complete job with no extra equipment needed.
We first spoke with Kaiser Premier CEO Dan Weber in February of 2020, when he traced out not only the story of the company’s founding but its continuing reinvention. Now, in a greatly changed world, Vice President of Engineering Marcus Thomas explains how the company is continuing to expand and adapt.
A shifting world
Even before COVID-19 changed everything, Kaiser’s own world was beginning to gently shift on its axis due to a natural slowdown in the oil industry, which had been one of its main market sectors. “As a company, we had to make some adjustments,” Thomas recalls. He notes that the slowdown came just as COVID was beginning to affect Canada and the United States.
True to form, the Kaiser team changed gear smoothly, shifting focus to adapting proven Kaiser AG products for the North American market and engineering additional products of their own. Thomas says, “It’s given us a chance to focus much more on development work right now.”
As a measure of this broadening output, Kaiser Premier is introducing a line of new products to its sewer-cleaner and hydro excavation line-ups. Thomas says that it was a simple matter of diversification: “We were just looking for ways to branch out beyond oilfield equipment.”
“We were determined to bring a feature-rich build quality into a smaller trailer, and offer something new and easier to work with,” Thomas says.
Big results, less machinery
The company’s new TerraVac Xpose 800 is a trailer-mounted hydro excavator, capable of delivering results comparable to the heavy stuff but in a smaller footprint at a lower cost. Actually, with Kaiser Premier’s long expertise with heavy equipment, designing a smaller model able to deliver similar results was less of a challenge than expected.
“When the machine’s size comes down, its complexities come down – as do the costs,” Thomas says. With an estimated 3,000 small excavation trailers sold annually in the North American market, he expects that Kaiser Premier will have few problems bringing its high degree of professional expertise to this market.
The TerraVac has an 800-gallon debris tank in contrast to the 12.8 cubic-yard capacity of the CV Series Hydro Excavator. The trailer provides hydro excavation capabilities in a much smaller device, providing 4,000 psi of pressure at a rate of 4.5 gallons per minute, thanks to a 49-horse diesel engine. The blower can operate at 960 cubic feet per minute, and can deliver 15 inches of mercury and up to five positive psi.
Like Kaiser’s flagship offerings, the TerraVac offers additional equipment to help get any job done, including a 30-foot, three-inch diameter suction hose, as well as a six-foot lance for digging operations. By providing a scalpel rather than a sledgehammer, the TerraVac gets similar results for much less cost than bigger machinery.
Continuing to diversify
This move toward smaller machinery reflects Kaiser’s desire to market itself to a more diverse clientele. These new clients vary from startup companies to other experienced outfits looking to add a more diverse selection of equipment to their toolkits.
“That’s really helped us connect with more clients,” Thomas says, pointing out that companies can rent-to-own machines and apply a large percentage of the rental fees to the purchase price – often a really smart investment for fledgling companies. “This gives them an opportunity to start growing into that,” he says.
The rental option doesn’t only suit new businesses. It’s also optimal for mid-size companies which need additional equipment for the occasional large contract, or are looking to expand. All in all, Thomas says, “it’s brought a lot of stability for us in the long-term, and a lot of creative advantages as far as being able to support customers goes.”
Meanwhile, newly engineered features of the CV Series are being developed. This will debut, along with other new equipment solutions, in Q1 of 2021. “There’s a lot of activity related to pretty much everything we do here,” Thomas says. “It’s fun.”
This product development and redevelopment is a hallmark of Kaiser’s workplace environment, which, like its products, continues to evolve. Thomas notes how the company’s collaborative atmosphere and open communication leads to a strong and productive camaraderie.
“The best ideas come from group discussion,” he says. “It really helps to push development forward.” With no opinion left unheard and multiple perspectives explored, the end result is enhanced creativity and product reliability. “Coming to work isn’t something you dread,” Thomas says. “You’re coming up with new ideas and working on challenges.”
Challenge of bouncing back
The largest of these challenges is, naturally, bouncing back from COVID-19. Like many other companies, Kaiser was forced to furlough employees. Even now it’s working at a reduced capacity, though, as Thomas points out, the company is a large machine manufacturer, so many employees are inherently socially distanced from the way the factory is laid out.
The company is also now taking this opportunity to implement a new ERP software to promote internal efficiencies, which presents “a momentous task all on its own,” and will carry this focus, and other internal developments, through into 2021. Kaiser is also working to make its vehicles more efficient; using less fuel, less water and longer-lasting parts to reduce both operating costs and environmental footprint.
As Kaiser Premier looks to 2021, the company is continuing to reinvent itself. But it remains focused on its founding mission: to continue innovating in the realm of heavy machinery, and to build strong relationships with its customers.
While the parent company maintains an international presence, Kaiser Premier is moving toward manufacturing more of its products in North America. As Kaiser investigates a potential new world of trailer-mounted products for urban environments, a new market of customers is sure to follow.
This development, Thomas tells us, is in keeping with the company’s overarching goals, and Kaiser will continue to evolve and develop. “The company has always had a flair for simple, innovative and productive methods of industrial cleaning,” he says.