Thursday 30th Mar, 2017

How mobile is your microtunnelling contractor?


According to Stuart Harrison, Managing Director of Edge Underground, the mobility of your microtunnelling contractor is an important factor to consider when choosing a suitable team for your project.

A good microtunnelling contractor is one that can arrive at the jobsite – no matter the location – and bring with them a sufficient number of personnel and the correct equipment to carry out works.

According to Harrison, efficiency is key during microtunnelling installations.

“Project managers are keen to have trenchless crossings completed on schedule, as this allows them to focus on construction of the rest of the pipeline.

“If a contractor is used to working at different locations, they are more likely to have good systems in place to ensure that they arrive on time, are fully prepared with the right number of staff, as well as the correct equipment including spare parts and back-ups,” he said.

“At Edge Underground, we have between four and six mobile crews depending on demand.

“Following an extended period of time completing international works in North America, as well as projects in Europe and Asia with the launch of the Vermeer Axis machines worldwide, our teams have been back working in Australia for the past five years.

“Over time, we have developed a system for transporting equipment and organising personnel that is efficient and seamless.

“As we have multiple crews, this also gives us the option to split up teams to bring in more personnel if required in times of increased workload,” said Harrison.

Edge Underground’s business model lends itself to the development of mobile teams, each sharing the common goal of producing well executed installations within the best possible time frame.

“Our business model is focussed on bringing the best people into Edge Underground, and training them up to run job sites from the perspective of an owner in the business.


“This means that we now have teams of three or four contractors able to work on job sites right across Australia,” said Harrison.

“As each contractor earns a percentage of the gross profit generated from a job, this encourages all microtunnelling teams to run job sites efficiently. Every single person working for Edge has an interest in the job being completed to the highest standard and in the best possible time frame.

“Edge Underground’s future and success is in the hands of the contractor. From the outset we invest our time in problem solving, the development of machinery, job preparation and most importantly client satisfaction, which helps ensure future works.

“It’s for this reason that councils and utilities are contacting Edge Underground wanting to work with us again and again.”

Contractors that travel across Australia to work on multiple jobsites are more likely to have increased expertise and experience.

A microtunnelling contractor, with multiple teams working across the country, will most likely have personnel that are experienced in handling a range of different ground conditions.

“Understanding prevailing ground conditions is paramount to achieving successful outcomes in microtunnelling.

“The more the contractor is experienced in tunnelling through a wide range of ground conditions, the less likely it is that unexpected complications will occur,” said Harrison.

“Familiarity with equipment and how to best adapt cutter faces for different ground conditions is something that can only be gained from working on projects in a variety of locations.”

At Edge Underground, each crew member has expert understanding of how to most effectively utilise the Vermeer AXIS guided boring system to accurately test ground conditions to help avoid any problems before they arise.

“As the creator of the AXIS system, Edge personnel are privy to my knowledge of the machine.

“As well as this, the AXIS system itself has mechanisms in place to help the operator navigate changing ground.

“Pressure gauges including a vacuum gauge are located at the rear of the machine. These feed information to the operator, notifying them of changes in ground pressure,” said Harrison.

Mobile microtunnelling teams will also be more familiar with varying work practices in different states.

“Microtunnelling contractors that understand different state practices will be better equipped in knowing what is expected of them during construction.

“This should eliminate any confusion or project holdups,” he said.

“High level training for your microtunnelling staff is very important to ensure that installations are carried out safely and professionally. Each member of our microtunnelling teams has an insight into drilling techniques and best practices.

“The international experience in our team means that Edge Underground effectively has a common link with microtunnelling companies in the USA, Canada and a number of countries in Europe and Asia. This gives our crews access to an international network for problem solving,” said Harrison.

“Project managers can feel secure, knowing that their contractor has an additional support network to find solutions to overcome any unexpected challenges that may arise.

“This is very different to most microtunnelling companies with crew members that have only worked in Australia.

“As a general rule, these companies can be hindered by the effects of industry competition, which often encourages them to keep their knowledge a secret and therefore rely solely on the skillset of their workers. This means that they are rarely being exposed to new or better ways of doing things.”