Investments Into New Technologies Give Your Business a Competitive Edge

Feikema Plumbing & Sanitation of Munster, Indiana, has made investments into new wastewater technologies a company tradition since 1956

Investments Into New Technologies Give Your Business a Competitive Edge

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Although the business name has changed several times and spanned three generations of the Feikema family since 1956, one thing has remained constant for Feikema Plumbing & Sanitation: A sharp focus on investing in productivity.

Peter and Wesley Feikema set the tone for the business in the first two generations when the father-and-son team made it a priority to obtain machines, tools and equipment to enhance profitability and provide a competitive edge. That’s why they pooled their financial resources to buy a tractor outfitted with an aftermarket backhoe.

“They mostly did excavating for plumbers,” says Wesley Feikema’s son, Dirk Feikema, who bought the company in 2006. “They were the only guys in town with a backhoe, so they got a lot of work."

Years ago, Feikema’s father bought a Terralift soil-restoration machine (now made by the Terralift International Family of Cos.).

“My dad always was willing to invest in new technology, too, sometimes even before it was practical,” he says. “The first inspection cameras he bought, for example, were expensive and didn’t work well, but he saw they had potential and value. So I inherited some of that mentality from him.”

How does Feikema know when it’s right to buy a new piece of equipment? There’s no magic formula or crystal ball, he notes. “You just have to play your hunch,” he says. And the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport (WWETT) Show slated for Feb. 20-24 in Indianapolis is a great place to play those hunches, he adds, noting he’s attended the event since 1991.

“I’m always going to the show with the hope of finding something new that will be useful,” he says. “Sometimes you see something there and just know it’s the right piece of equipment for you. I’m all about spending money that’ll make things better for my crew or my customers.”

As an example, Feikema cites a tool made by AirSpade Division, Guardair Corp., that uses compressed air for safer soil excavation. “I immediately ordered one right on the spot,” he says. “Even if we use it only three or four times year, it would be worth spending a couple thousand dollars just to avoid the high potential cost of damaging a utility line during excavation.”

Moreover, the more equipment Feikema owns, the better he can serve customers as a one-stop shop. It also diversifies the company so it’s not so dependent on just a few services. And inevitably, one service often leads to another, just as performing septic system inspections can lead to pumping and installation work, he says.

For example, Feikema points to service calls for clogged drainline. If he can’t get it open, he uses an inspection camera to do some detective work. If it turns out to be a broken pipe, then he has the equipment to do a pipe repair. “One hand basically feeds the other,” he says.


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