It was a great start to the New Year in 2023 for the Melcar Group as their Akkerman SL82P MTBM holed-out on the Sims Bayou tunnel project in Houston, TX. The $18.9 million project was designed to increase the overall capacity of the region’s drinking water by making the critical connection of the large diameter water line from one of the City’s treatment plants. Since the 524-ft microtunnel was the last segment of infrastructure to be installed, project representatives as well as the 285,000 plus residents of the Sims Bayou watershed are pleased to see the project completed.
Awarded in the fall of 2017, the estimated construction schedule for the entire scope of the project was originally 655 calendar days (21 months) to complete, however shaft construction proved to be extremely difficult along Houston’s Sims Bayou which caused delays. A combination of flowing ground and high hydrostatic forces created safety issues during the initial shaft construction which require project teams to mitigate prior to tunneling.
The Melcar Group mobilized their Akkerman SL82P slurry microtunneling system to the Sims Bayou project jobsite in the fall of 2022 while the launch shaft construction was being safely completed. The SL82P MTBM included a mixed face cutterhead designed for the varying soil strata with running sand and significant ground water. To battle the extreme hydrostatic loads that hindered shaft construction, Akkerman supplied a launch portal and pipe brake that integrated with the MTBM jacking system to maintain face balance and eliminate any push-back that may occur. The periphery-drive MTBM was powered by a 400-hp onboard electric power pack and could produce over 350,000 ft-lbs of torque while being remotely controlled and monitored from above ground.
Melcar launched the Akkerman SL82P on December 9th and it arrived at the reception shaft on line and grade after 23 days of operation. Although the installation time for a 20-ft section of 80-in steel casing averaged just over two hours during the microtunneling process, setting additional sections of pipe in the launch shaft often required the remainder of the shift. Since microtunneling was originally scheduled to begin in 2020, the stored pipe developed inconsistencies that required attention before it could be put together. This limited the crew to an average of around 20-ft per shift with a few days installing 40-ft per shift. Other factors contributing to production levels including very limited site space with only 4,700sq.ft. of laydown and setup area, pipe staging 0.90 miles away, deep shaft depths and working in a densely populated residential neighborhood. Overall thrust loads gradually increased along the alignment and a sealed intermediate jacking station was installed, however not used. With the assistance of an Akkerman MTBM technician that was onsite for the duration of the tunneling, daily operations were monitored including the break-out thrust which peaked at 625-tons and quickly dropped to a dynamic thrust load of 320-tons after movement and additional lubrication was applied.
The City of Houston has a history of using innovative approaches while enhancing their public works infrastructure. As early as the 1940’s, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USCOE) and the local flood control district worked with the local community to strategize a plan to widen the Sims Bayou for flood and erosion control while maintaining natural ecosystem to encourage habitat diversity. The reconstruction of the Sims Bayou was the first of its kind to incorporate this type of floodway construction and has influenced other professionals to seek similar innovative solutions. Today, the City of Houston is using innovative trenchless technologies such as the Akkerman slurry microtunneling systems to tunnel underneath the Sims Bayou to provide clean water for their residents while minimizing the social and environmental impacts other construction methods can impose. As North America’s only manufacturer of slurry microtunneling equipment, Akkerman, Inc. is proud to have been a part of this team and look forward to the continued advancement of the industry.
Congratulations to the Melcar Group, MC2 Civil, Inc., Stiver Engineering, McNorton Dewatering, and the City of Houston on the successful completion of a challenging project.
In 2016 Akkerman started manufacturing 5.5-in OD 45 degree steering heads and in the Fall of 2022 GBM power packs included one of these heads in each power pack. Akkerman technicians reported that many Customers were wrapping their 5.0-in 45 degree heads in the field to open up the over cut in certain ground conditions. When you purchase an Akkerman GBM power pack your power pack includes the most common tools to install a pilot tube in displaceable grounds rather than sell these tools separately after the sale on an as needed basis.
Nancy Orwick came to Akkerman on January 30, 1978, as an office assistant to first-generation owners D.H. and Marlys Akkerman. She has loyally performed her duties for 45 years and is a significant player in the Akkerman business story.
Before Akkerman, Nancy worked for about a decade at Austin Communications Center. This retail store sold televisions, radios, and C.B. radios and also owned the Lobster House in Spring Valley. Nancy did these businesses’ bookkeeping and payroll.
In 1978, Akkerman needed an office assistant to help Marlys with her growing business responsibilities. The owners of Austin Communications Center, planning for closure, referred Nancy to Emmett DeVany, Akkerman Plant Manager.
On the day of her interview, it was cold and snowy – no surprise in January. Although new, she recalls that the trailer house that served as the corporate office was cold and smelled of mice. They tried to spiff up the digs a bit for Nancy’s interview by spraying Lysol to mask the mouse smell, which she appreciated. Shortly after that, they spray-foamed the underside, remedying both issues.
It’s hard to envision what Akkerman was like in 1978. Aside from Maynard and Nancy, no one else that was here then is still employed. In 1978, there was a mix of 20 manufacturing and construction business employees. Everyone chipped in to help where they were able.
Nancy answered the phone and performed bookkeeping, payroll, and many other duties. She recalls working with draftsman Bob Mentow in engineering. She did yearly inventory counts with Emmett in the parts room, recording part inventories and alternately answering the phone.
Expanded pipe jacking systems sales became possible in 1982 through our first equipment representative Lampland Equipment, Inc. At times, Nancy had to put her foot down and demand payment before the equipment left the yard.
Nancy remembers the acquisition of the Betts vertical boring mill in 1986 and the 2,500-square-foot building constructed to house it, built by D.H.’s brother. She also recounted when Maynard’s sister Barb got married in January (year), and Red Low was parking valet.
In 1987, newly appointed company president Maynard made many positive changes to grow the company. Nancy remarks, “Maynard is responsible for significant company growth, and look at all he’s done.”
Maynard built the first official corporate office in 1987, and soon after that, Nancy received her first computer and dot matrix printer for print carbon copy checks.
Nancy’s affinity with the company did not end with her work relationships. She’s watched kids and house sat many generations of our employees. Today, she is often found making inquiries about our family’s health and happiness.
When reflecting on her time at Akkerman, she humbly says, “it’s been a big part of my life and has been a good company to work for.”
Jay Zimmerman, Nancy’s supervisor, shares a few comments about Nancy’s milestone. “It’s amazing to consider that as a company, we are preparing to celebrate our 50th anniversary, and yet we have a current employee with a work anniversary that mirrors that same span, less just five years. Nancy and Akkerman have gone hand in hand from nearly day one. Nancy has pretty much seen it all in her time here and has an impressive memory of recalling people, events, and business milestones.”
“One thing I find impressive about Nancy is that despite her long tenure on the job, she has not become complacent in the execution of her job duties. For example, our company VISA card statement has around 150 individual line-item charges on it in any given month – and you can be assured that Nancy will have matched each one of these charges with a receipt, e-mail, expense report, or other documentation to support it. And if she doesn’t have one of these forms of backup, you can count on getting a phone call from her! On her job in Accounts Payable, Nancy processes massive volumes of transactions.”
Concluding, Jay says, “Nancy exemplifies loyalty and possesses and the character traits we look for in our employees. She most certainly bleeds Akkerman blue and is always genuinely concerned about what is best for the company.”
Weston Alberts, Chief Systems Engineer, came to Akkerman on April 3, 2017. Weston was nominated for Employee of the Month for his competency and positive demeanor.
“Weston is always willing to help in any situation and does it with a smile.”
“Weston is knowledgeable and helpful in every aspect of the company. He can troubleshoot and fix anything.”