The Phoenix of Colorado – Kaiser Premier Reinvents Itself
Eighty miles northeast of Denver, Kaiser Premier is reinvigorated and moving into a bold new future. Thanks to international financing, fresh innovation and a new company culture, Kaiser Premier is bringing new excavator technology in addition to its hydro excavator and sewer recycler technology into growing sectors.
Kaiser Premier traces its roots to the Colorado-based Premier Oilfield Equipment Company, which built hydro excavators and distributed through Caterpillar dealerships. These truck-mounted excavators primarily served the oil and gas field through both the exploration and pipelaying markets.
But that changed in 2014 with a major slowdown in oil and with Caterpillar bowing out of the vocational-truck business. With the company facing an uncertain future, it searched for investors to no avail.
“I went to all the typical financial institutions, as well as strategic buyers that are already in our market space in the U.S.,” recalls present CEO Dan Weber, who was initially hired as a consultant.
Meeting of minds
His search led him to Lichtenstein, in Europe, where Kaiser AG Chairman Markus Kaiser is the latest of his family to lead Kaiser and its various subsidiaries. Weber’s timing was fortunate; Kaiser was looking to expand its American holdings, and had in fact been eyeing Premier Oilfield Equipment as a suitable vehicle for Kaiser’s advanced technology.
The deal that the two men put together was formalized in May 2017. Kaiser Premier was born. As one of the Kaiser family of business entities around the world, Kaiser Premier would benefit from international financing and globally-leading technology.
With Kaiser’s support for the company, Kaiser Premier could press on with manufacturing and distributing its hydro excavators. With strategic intent, it formed a subsidiary division, Kaiser Rental, shortly after Kaiser Premier’s formation.
As well as expanding the business, this action was intended as a clear statement to the business community at large. As Weber explains: “We felt we needed to reassure the marketplace that the chassis issues are behind us.”
Thanks to the rental process, client companies could now sample (and purchase) Kaiser Premier’s hydro excavators and sewer cleaner recyclers. From a production capacity of two new hydro excavators per month in July 2017, the company can now put ten on the road every month.
New products, new performance
Kaiser Premier’s CV Series, the latest in its hydro excavators, is the culmination of decades of development. Powered by a Robushi three-lobe PD blower, these hydro excavators have a suction power of 6,600 cubic feet of air per minute with a vacuum level of up to 27” of Hg.
The CV’s design provides 342 degrees of boom rotation, and is able reach 26 feet out or 20 feet down without any additional suction hose extensions required. An internal 700,000 BTU boiler provides hot water as needed for cold weather applications.
This ruggedness and reliability showcases Kaiser’s global presence. The company designed its trucks for deployment in harsh conditions such as the Canadian oil fields, thereby creating a system capable of doing its job under any condition, as Weber remarks: “It’s a very robust, strong, simple design, and over the course of the last few years… we have started reintroducing the hydro excavator back into the market.”
Kaiser Premier’s advanced technology also extends to truck-mounted sewer cleaning systems. The company’s trucks are able to service any sewer line, from 6-inch to 100-inch pipes. Proprietary Kaiser technology allows Kaiser Premier’s trucks to save and recycle water during cleaning, reducing cleaning times.
Weber estimates that cleaning productivity improves by between 50 to 150 percent. “This is the technology that, over the past year and a half, we’ve been introducing to the North American market,” he says. “Recycling is a mature technology in Europe, but an emerging technology in North America. With over 2,000 recyclers delivered to the global market, Kaiser is the definitive leader in the industry,” Weber added.
Kaiser Premier’s AquaStar line of sewer cleaners, with its advanced KDU jetting pump, delivers water at up to 132 gallons per minute (gpm) at a pressure of up to 2,900 psi. Its large hose reel capacity of up to 985 feet of jetting hose and 55.6 feet of suction hose largely negates the use of suction tube extensions. The placement of the vacuum pump inside the fresh water chamber helps reduce noise, cool the system and increase suction power due to shortened suction lines.
In addition to these improvements, both the CV and AquaStar utilize Kaiser innovations from around the world to increase efficiency and safety. Advances in automation now allow operators to operate trucks remotely through full radio control, with an intuitive LCD display delivering all relevant feedback on some models.
Finally, KAISERteleservice allows for unprecedented remote diagnostics, allowing service engineers to access all data and adjust service parameters remotely.
These innovations are the product of Kaiser’s international focus, true in both Lichtenstein and Colorado. “We sell our product in multiple countries all around the world, so the technology has been developed and proven in various conditions,” Weber says. “The conditions of a sewer pipe in Houston, Texas, are very different from the conditions of a sewer pipe in New York City.”
As part of the Kaiser family, Kaiser Premier benefits from some of the most rigorous testing and advanced technology available today. On a local and international level, the company is continuously receiving feedback from clients and operators.
“This is a constant cycle that never ends,” Weber explains. “We have over 30 engineers on staff to support this improvement and development. It’s our firm belief that we can distinguish ourselves by having a technology better than anything else on the market.”
As an example, Kaiser Premier has been continuously refining the water filtration system on its sewer cleaners to minimize or prevent the chronic issue of clogging. The company has managed to only require single filtration, no mean feat.
Rigorous testing has also resulted in a liquid-ring hydro excavator, a first for the industry. “We’re the only manufacturer in the world… that provides a liquid-ring vacuum pump in the hydro excavation application,” Weber says. This liquid ring mitigates risk by removing the possibility of metal-on-metal contact, eliminating the risk of sparks and explosions.
Like any Kaiser product, these new vacuum pumps endure rigorous testing to ensure they work anytime, anyplace. “That’s an advantage of our existing product technology,” Weber concludes. “We’re taking a large leap forward by introducing this application.”
Kaiser Premier’s innovation is now being extended to adapting existing Kaiser products to the U.S. market. The company’s trademark walking excavators, its mainstay in all-terrain excavation, are being utilized in steep cliff work in the Rocky Mountains to swampland clean-up projects in Florida.
Thanks to their unique design, the walking excavators eliminate the need for environmentally-disruptive rigging. “This excavator has been proven to work in some very severe conditions – 30, 40 degree slopes,” Weber remarks. In true Kaiser fashion, the excavators are also highly automated, with independently functioning arms requiring little input from an operator.
Needed: a few good people
Yet, as Kaiser Premier moves forward under its new banner, it faces the growing pains of any expanding company. Finding qualified personnel remains a perpetual challenge, particularly skilled-trades professionals such as welders and machine operators.
Growing from an initial workforce of 25, Kaiser Premier now boasts over 100 employees, and Weber says the company plans to continue its bounce back – but with caveats.
“We see us growing to 150 employees within the next three years, but we’re going to need qualified people to make sure we do not, in any way, suffer from a lapse in quality, design and representation.”
To ensure smooth growth, he and his team are striving to build a new, strong, workplace culture at Kaiser Premier. Formalized top-down leadership-training classes place a heavy emphasis on personal development, delicately balancing the act of motivating employees without creating negative repercussions.
But Weber says the risk is worth the reward. “The purpose of it is so we can understand our strengths and our tendencies, so that by understanding them, we’ll be able to work forward together and challenge each other in areas where we might not otherwise, because we’re concerned that we might be stepping on each other’s’ toes.”