Modified trenching machine reduces installation times for California company
A modified Zahn tool carrier from Ditch Witch takes productivity to a new level at two affiliated companies: Septic Pumping Service in Fallbrook, California, owned by Nathan Officer and his wife, Kaisha; and Septic Solutions, owned by Nathan’s father, Wayne, and a partner, Jon Wilder.
Septic Solutions uses the machine to do onsite system installations and Septic Pumping uses it for digging up tank lids and backfilling. The unit features four articulating, triangle-shaped rubber tracks and can be used with four different attachments: an excavating bucket, a vibratory plow, forklift forks and a rock bucket, Officer explains. But it’s the vibratory plow attachment powered by an auxiliary hydraulic system that really ratchets up productivity during septic system installations, he says.
When in vibratory-plow mode, the machine can simultaneously trench, lay drip pipe and backfill the trench. The pipe gets attached to the machine, which pulls it off a spool of pipe as it moves. “It really flies,” says Officer, noting it can lay up to 50 feet of pipe a minute under ideal conditions. “It’s a pretty amazing little piece of equipment.”
Before, Septic Solutions’ employees either dug trenches by hand or used a 1-inch-wide rock saw. “They’d have to dig a trench, lay the pipe and then backfill the trench,” Officer explains. But by performing all three steps at one time, Septic Solutions’ employees can do a typical drainfield installation in half a day as opposed to a whole week — or even two weeks for larger projects, he notes.
For even more efficiency, the company — which works closely with Septic Pumping — added an optional automatic leveling system that ensures trenches are dug at a uniform level. “When you’re doing it by eye, it’s not always as level as you want it,” he says.
Officer calls the machine “a make-or-break piece of equipment” that probably increases profitability on installation jobs by 30 to 40 percent because by completing jobs so much faster, it can do more jobs per year. It also increases customer satisfaction because yards get disrupted for shorter time periods and Septic Solutions can price jobs more competitively, which saves customers money.