Dimmick Wastewater Services

The theme of this month’s issue is blowers and pumps and so we spoke with one of our Spotlight business owners, Mr. Robert Dimmick, owner of NewTech, Inc. d/b/a Dimmick Wastewater Services operating out of Randolph Center, Vermont, to get his first hand expertise.

Q: What have your general experiences have been over the years regarding your use and choice of blowers and pumps that you use for your business?
Since I have started using blowers, I have discovered that on jobs where the vacuum pumps may be running for hours, blowers don’t heat up, and perform much, much better. Vein pumps are fine for pump jobs where the vacuum pump is running for a short time, basic pumping that won’t involve high elevations from tank to truck and long distances. And, since I have not yet had to rebuild a blower pump in all my years of experience, my costs have been kept at an operational minimum. On the other hand, I have spent a lot of money and downtime time rebuilding vein pumps. I’ve had my two blower trucks for over five years, I have not had to make or have any repairs done and I am extremely satisfied with them. I do have to say that I have an idea what they may cost to repair when they do go down. I currently rebuild vein pumps at our own shop, but I believe that a blower pump would probably need to be sent out for repairs. This could potentially be a negative. I currently run four Wallerstein vein pumps, five Massports, and our two 4200 gallon trucks have NVE 900 CFM blowers.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your background? Can you say a few words about your education and training? How does what you did before you started your own business inform and influence your current business in the liquid waste industry?
I grew up on the family dairy farm in Central Vermont. My grandfather owned a septic service business in Connecticut that my father started before he moved to Vermont. In Vermont as a dairy farmer, my father started our septic service business in 1975 as an additional income to our family farm. I grew up always working, every day of the year. As soon as I received my driver’s license at age 16, I was pumping septic tanks for my father. I went to college in Connecticut for diesel mechanics. While I was there I was able to work for my grandfather’s septic service company on nights and weekends. Then it was back to the family farm in Vermont where I purchased the septic service business from my parents in 1988 (they had started a cattle trailer, horse trailer, and equipment trailer business that was growing by leaps and bounds and were looking to focus on that). I also took over the family dairy farm in 1990.
When I purchased the septic service business it consisted of one truck. That first year I added 25 portable toilets to the business because I was getting phone calls requesting them. Over the years customers have requested additional services like thawing frozen lines, repairing blockages, repairing broken pipes, camera work, lift station work, etc. I have enjoyed the challenge of learning each of these types of services and get much enjoyment from all the variety. From growing up on the farm, I have learned that there is always an efficient solution to problems when they arise. I like to tell my kids, “Pretend you are an astronaut, and you must solve this problem before you can safely land back on earth. Failure is not an option!”

Q: Please tell me a little bit about the history of your company—when it started, who worked there? What changes or modifications have you made since you took over.
The company was started in 1975 by my father. It was one 1500 gallon tank truck. I purchased the business in 1988 and it started to grow. In the beginning it was just myself as the technician and my sister Darlene doing customer service and bookkeeping. After I got married my wife Linda joined the business with bookkeeping and eventually payroll. We ran the business out of our shop at the dairy farm, and eventually purchased our own facility in our local town in 2002. It is located adjacent to our town’s waste water treatment facility. This building is 75,000 square feet and seemed like way too much space for what we needed at the time, but now we are bursting at the seams. We have grown our fleet to contain 3 service vans, equipped with jetters, camera equipment, augers, etc., a jetter trailer, 3 portable toilet vacuum trucks, a toilet platform truck for deliveries, 550 portable toilets, 2 bathroom trailers, a crane service truck, an excavator, 4 vacuum trucks for septic pumping, a dewatering truck, a vactor truck, a tractor truck that hauls our tanker trailers or roll-off dewatering boxes. We reconstructed about a third of the building to contain our own in-house dewatering facility, with our own leachfield for effluent water. We can also flow effluent to the town waste water treatment facility. This facility has been a great addition to the business in that we can process our own waste and unload trucks here. There is a huge time advantage, no waiting in long lines at disposal facilities to unload trucks. Plus it brings our disposal costs down.

Q: Tell us about all of the different services that you offer. Which division is the most successful? Why do you think that is the case?
The services we offer basically fall under 5 divisions: a portable toilet rental division; commercial and residential septic pumping; jetting, augering, and camera inspections division; an excavating division; dewatering division that does our in-house dewatering and also consulting and sales for our own dewatering equipment. The most successful division is the jetting, augering, and camera inspection division. We are extremely busy in this division in that it covers such a wide area of services. Service in this division includes blockages, broken lines, frozen lines, inspections, lift station/pump repairs, etc. We do much emergency work in this area. This emergency work will quite often turn into return maintenance service work to keep problems from arising again. We will put the customer on a service recall system if they need it.

Q: What are some of the distinguishing features and services of your company that are unique and that no other local company has, so that you can deliver the greatest value to customers at a price-point cost comparable to, or lower than, your competition?
Our company, NewTech, Inc. d/b/a Dimmick Wastewater Services has our name on it. We feel we need to provide the best customer service possible. We don’t want a customer to last just one visit. We want them to return time and time again when they need us. We want to make a difficult situation for our customers a positive learning experience about their systems and how they should be maintained. Another thing we really focus on is over the phone diagnostics as best we can to know before we leave what equipment/trucks need to visit the job site. By asking very specific questions ahead of time, we can do diagnosis over the phone and save the customer a site visit with the wrong equipment to do the job. We really spend extra time on this, something we know many other companies do not do. Another distinguishing feature of our company is our 24-Hour emergency service. We have a live person on the phones at all times. Since our staff is cross-trained, they can take turns being on call for emergency work.
We strive to have our great customer service be our image that identifies our company over others. We also like to operate up to date equipment that is clean and efficient at completing the job. Looking professional is a priority for us, both for our service people and equipment.

Q: How do you identify and respond to existing/new market segments that provide the best opportunities for growth and why? Tell us about the company’s growth model. What growth potential do you see for your business?
We have experienced steady growth over the years. In the last five years we have grown each year by 20-30 %. We never say no to customers and will add on new equipment as needed to fill the demand. Each year we strive to grow and plan on it. Again, it can be difficult finding the right people to fill positions to keep up with the work. We get many referrals for new customers through our existing customers. Happy customers are an important part of our growth. We also have a part time salesman that is on the road visiting commercial and potential commercial customers in our entire service region.

Q: I am interested in all of the employees that work for the company. Who works at the company? How many employees? What are their titles (managers, administrative, drivers, truck mechanics, technicians, etc)? How is your managerial and employee structure organized and implemented?
We currently have about 20 employees working with us. I work mostly on bidding jobs. My wife Linda helps with payroll and permitting and registering trucks. My sister Darlene manages the Accounts Receivables/Accounts Payables and the Portable Toilet division. My son Billy is also full time with us, working wherever needed in the pumping and/or jetting/camera service division. Our oldest son Bobby is going to be taking that business over this year. Our youngest son Billy works with us at the septic service business. Interestingly enough, both sons also graduated with diesel mechanics degrees like I did. We have a wonderful staff of dedicated service technicians and both non-CDL and CDL drivers. Our crew is carrying on our tradition of focusing on customer service and follow up.
We have added a new Operations Manager this year, Mark White, who is doing a fantastic job at supervising employees and managing recall systems. We also have Bruce Messier heading up customer service; he is excellent on the phones with our customers. He is very knowledgeable about all aspects of our service since he has worked in the field. We have an engineer on staff, Suzanne Pickett, that can help with our permits and also customer’s design work needed for repairs and installations of septic systems. Account Receivable is headed up by Cindy Currier. Richie Spinks, II is our lift station field supervisor. James Larkins, II does most of our service van inspection work. Dylan Sistare runs our excavating division where we repair or install new septic systems. Gene Bartlett, Jr. operates our on-site dewatering facility. Pumping service technicians include Brian Langlois, Jason Gregoire, and Clayton Taylor. Byron Peters, Michael Howe and Richard Spinks, Sr. work in our shop at various projects like parts inventory, cleaning and maintaining trucks and portable toilets. Bruce Brian is our portable toilet driver/tech. Joe Matz is an excellent on the road salesman, selling our services to commercial accounts for any of our service work such as restaurant grease trap pumping, car wash pumping, portable toilet rentals, lift station work and maintenance, etc. Many of our technicians are cross-trained and can work in any of our service vehicles.
Q: How do you boost efficiency in your jobs and your workers? How do you boost morale in your workers? What do you expect of them? Who trains them? Tell us about the training process for the different roles and responsibilities your employees have working for the company. What particular employee challenges do you face? Not enough qualified workers, etc?
We boost efficiency in our workers by matching them in positions where their strengths work the best. We have a great crew that gets along well with each other. New employees are trained by veteran employees in the position they are going to work in. Our employees are thanked every day for the great job they do. We do face the challenge of finding CDL drivers that want to be Service Technicians.

Q: Tell us about your fleet of pumper and other trucks.
In our pumping division we have Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks. We run Cummins and Paccar engines, Eaton Fuller and Allison transmissions. We have steel tanks and aluminum tanks, sizes 2500 gallon and 4200 gallon.Our 3 toilet service trucks are Ram 5500 models mounted with 800 gallon, 300 gallon/fresh water tanks and made of stainless steel. Our tanks are mounted by L. T. & E., Inc. of Arcola, Illinois. We have really been impressed with their customer service and mounting of truck tanks onto our chassis.

Q: Tell us about all of the equipment that you operate on a regular basis.
We have 3 jetter/camera/auger equipped service vans for work. Chevrolet Express Custom vans are equipped with Water Cannon Jetters. We have previously used steam jetters; but these work well by using a higher psi with a special nozzle that is just as effective. Camera equipment that we use is Pearpoint. We like the monitor that has a battery in it, so it doesn’t always need to be hooked up to a power source. It also has an internal memory so you can view what you record. The heads and cameras hold up better than what we previously used. For the last three years we have used the SPX Corporation RD7000+ Radiodetection units in conjunction with our camera work. This system has been very accurate and user friendly in detecting breaks and blockages in lines.
We use Rigid Augers, 3 sizes seem to work well for our applications: one is a kitchen sink size, a medium 3/8” size cable by 75 feet, and a larger 5/8” cable by 100 feet. We also have an O’Brien jetting trailer for larger line cleaning such as 6” to 28” pipes. This has 2000 PSI @ 40 GPM and works well for us cleaning farm manure pit lines and commercial/municipal lines. It also has the cutter attachment that works great for root problems. All of our service vans are equipped for confined space entry for use at lift stations, sewer and man holes. We have used Conney Safety Products Company to supply many of our items needed.

Q: Tell us about your portable toilet division.
We own and operate about 550 portable toilet units, and probably have about 1000 customers a year. The average units used on each site is probably around 3. We mostly use Five Peaks Portable Restrooms, but also purchased a toilet company that had Satellite units. We have standard units and deluxe models with flushing units and hand-sinks, either inside or outside. We also run two bathroom trailers for mostly weddings. One is a Rich Bathroom Trailer and the other is an ACSI unit. Again, we provide the best service possible, emphasizing super clean units. Darlene has provided awesome customer service, leading each client through proper planning for each event.

Q: How do you communicate with customers? Follow up reminders? Emails? What other ways?
Communication with customers is mostly by phone. We do correspond by email also. We send reminder cards to residential customers that are on a recall program. Through phone calls and personal visits by our salesman we keep a close relationship going with our commercial accounts.

Q: How much liquid and/or solid waste do you collect and dispose of? Where do you dispose it? How does the whole disposal process work in your particular municipality of state?
We process portable toilet waste, grease trap waste and septage by dewatering at our own facility. Final disposal can be digesters and landfills. Effluent goes to our local WWTP. We are always open to more recycling of waste and are interested in possible composting in the future. Having our own facility at our shop really helps unloading and travel time for our trucks. It is a real luxury not having to go to waste water treatment plants very often.

Q: What kind of strategies and policies do you have when it comes to environmental issues?
By dewatering liquid waste at our own facility, we are saving a lot of trucking on liquid waste that may only be up to 3 % solids. By increasing solids percentage in the final product for disposal we can save a lot on the environment by reducing trucking.

Q: What are the most challenging aspects of your business and industry? What hurdles do you confront and how do you handle them?
Winter can be a difficult time for our business. We are required to get our equipment in and under cover each and every day and night. But on the good side of winter, we can stay busy helping customers out with frozen or broken lines in addition to recall service.

Q: What do you see or expect, or how do you handle seen or unseen outside forces, that may affect your company’s success?
We have to be flexible in responding to the current economy in our business. During recessions we may not purchase as much new equipment and end of repairing what we have to keep expenses to a minimum. We have experienced good growth each year and are confident this will continue into the future.

Q: How much of an eye do you keep on new and emerging technologies that could change/modify how you and your competitors do business and provide the best services?
I have been attending the WWETT show for the last 26 years, missing only one show. I enjoy attending this show to view new technologies and equipment. The networking with other industry leaders from all over the country is also very helpful. I also keep up on what technologies other companies in New England and New York are currently using.
For more information on please visit their website:

http://www.dimmickseptic.com.

Story by Mark Joseph Manion

RESOURCES:
www.kenworth.com
www.peterbilt.com
www.cumminsengine.com
www.paccar.com
www.eatonfuller.com
www.allisiontransmission.com
www.dodgetrucks.com
www.wallensteinpumps.com
www.natvac.com
www.chevrolet.com
www.watercannon.com
www.pearpointcamera.com
www.spx.com
www.rigid.com
www.obrien.com
www.conney.com
www.fivepeaks.com
www.sattelite.com.
www.richrestrooms.com
www.acsi-us.com

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