When you’ve spent 40 years building a reputation for getting the job done “on time and on budget,” unplanned downtime isn’t just costly – it’s unacceptable.
For oilfield services provider DFI, keeping its versatile fleet of equipment up and running has been crucial to the company’s success.
“Downtime is costly on a number of different fronts,” says DFI shop foreman, Chris Whitford. “For one, you’re not working for the customer when your equipment’s down but also, what does it cost you to leave their site? Are they going to call you back? What has it done to your name and reputation?”
DFI is an oilfield services provider that specializes in driving piles that are custom-built at its own pipe mill in Edmonton, Alberta. At any given time, the company has up to 35 work crews driving piles throughout Western Canada. It also runs a fleet of highway trucks, vacuum trucks, winch trucks, pickers and cranes. About 90% of DFI’s equipment is powered by Detroit Diesel and backed by Waterous Power Systems.
“One of the reasons we use Waterous Power Systems as much as we do is because of the service side,” says Whitford. “The product is good, but the service is what makes it for us. They have a lot of good branch locations spread all over the province and field mechanics we can actually get a hold of.”
DFI made the switch to Detroit Diesel power in 1991, after growing frustrated with the poor support it was receiving from other suppliers, says DFI general manager Sean Freeland.
Keeping a fleet as diverse as DFI’s running smoothly requires a supplier that’s every bit as versatile, Freeland points out.
“If it’s a road tractor, I can go rent one of them. But I can’t rent one of these cranes, we build them ourselves and they have a very sophisticated hydraulics system on there,” he says.
Building its own equipment is nothing new to DFI. It also builds its own hammers and piledriving leads. But DFI is most proud of the pipe mill it constructed in Edmonton.
“We have a crew of young guys on our design and engineering staff that just love building new equipment,” Freeland says.
DFI has been able to differentiate itself from its competitors thanks to its custom-built solutions. But the company still requires a strong partner to service its vehicles and get them back on the road quickly in the event of a breakdown.
Freeland acknowledges equipment failures are inevitable in trucking and in oilfield services. It’s how you respond that can make or break a business. He recalls an incident with a Western Star picker truck in the mid-90s, shortly after making the conversion to Detroit Diesel power. The truck was still under warranty but Waterous Power Systems went beyond his expectations.
“We had a problem that caused the engine to seize up,” Freeland says. “We hauled it in to Waterous on a cold, miserable Friday night around midnight. I went back Monday morning and picked that truck up, it had a brand new engine in it and they didn’t charge me a nickel. They worked all weekend on it.”
With the recent integration of Allison automatic transmissions into the fleet, Freeland says he also appreciates being able to turn to one company to service both the engine and the transmission.
“It’s not left for me to be fighting between two different companies,” he says. “Things get done. There’s a nice marriage there.”
As the oilfield industry and the economy bounce back, DFI is too busy focusing on its own customers and new opportunities to be worrying about its equipment. In fact, Freeland says the company is considering opening a satellite office in Regina as it makes its first foray into Saskatchewan.
“I wonder if Waterous has a branch there?” he asks. They do.