From its beginning, tunneling has been a specialty of Akkerman Inc. As the company celebrates its 40th year of continuous operation in 2013, Akkerman remains a leader in underground construction through its development, manufacture and support of quality pipe jacking and microtunneling equipment used to install a variety of underground infrastructure.
The company continues to evolve from its early days when company founder Don Akkerman established a utility contracting business in 1954 which turned into Akkerman Manufacturing in 1973 after he invented his first trenchless machine in 1963, a 44-inch OD tunnel boring machine. Many more inventions and patents would follow before he retired and sold the company in 1987 to his son, Maynard Akkerman.
Under Maynard’s direction, the firm has changed its name to Akkerman Inc. and enlarged the facility to cover 26 acres of wooded property in Brownsdale, MN. From the original 5,000 square-foot pre-cast building where all operations took place and was staffed by three full-time employees, the plant and engineering facilities now encompass 65,000-square-feet of space and a newly built corporate office that is 5,200-square-feet. Today, the company employs 65 people, many of whom have been employed by Akkerman for more than 20 years. Key personnel include Maynard Akkerman, president and chief executive officer; Jay Zimmerman, chief financial officer; Brad Wheeler, engineering manager; Doug Luinstra, plant manager; Randy Gasner, materials control manager; and Jason Holden, director of sales.
Asked what has contributed to Akkerman’s success, Maynard describes a two-pronged approach that combines putting customers first and being unique in the trenchless industry for being the only North American manufacturer of remote-controlled microtunneling equipment.
“Our approach is customer centric,” Maynard explains. “We value customer input, and many of our product developments are derived from customer experience. Akkerman’s manufacturing business was created as an offshoot of its construction company back in 1973. Early equipment prototypes were first used in the construction business to tackle difficult projects. Today, our equipment is engineered with operators in real project conditions in mind. We back this ideal with quick availability of parts and factory-trained field technicians. In addition, Akkerman’s equipment systems are diverse, and our presence and strategic alliances are far reaching while maintaining small business values.”
Akkerman’s Guided Boring Machine (GBM) systems or pilot tube microtunneling products are able to achieve longer drive distances due to enhanced optics in the guidance system and by maximizing the hydraulic capabilities of power packs. And the company’s manned pipe jacking equipment is designed as a complete, all-in-one system.
Akkerman equipment installs a range of pipe materials in numerous lengths although they specialize in equipment for minimal diameter shafts. The systems are used to install reinforced concrete pipe, clay pipe, polymer concrete, centrifugally cast fiberglass reinforced polymer mortar, and steel casing, as well as liner plate, ring-beam and lagging and concrete segments.
Rolled out just this year, the newest guided boring machine – the 4815a GBM – features a maximum jacking thrust of 265 tons with a fast advance speed rated at 100 tons. The rotational torque operates in two ranges, 0-10,500 foot-pounds and 0-26,000 foot-pounds maximum torque. Each torque range offers a two-speed option, 35 rpm and 50 rpm in the low torque setting; and 23 and 35 rpm in the high torque setting. The 4815A is designed to work out of 15-feet minimum round or square shaft. The frame’s 7.5-inch cylinders have a 30-inch stroke and reposition on center every 24 inches to allow for up to 96-inch pipe segments. The 4815A performs with all existing GBM tooling currently used on 240, 308 and 4812 jacking frames.
Maynard says that immediate growth plans include continued efforts to leverage Akkerman’s core assets – experience and varied product lines.
“We will continue to evaluate our equipment lines and offer enhancements and new developments as necessitated by the industry,” he says. “And keeping up with changes in the trenchless industry, specifically the slowdown in domestic municipal spending on infrastructure projects, has necessitated we make a more concerted effort to grow our foreign sales. Thus far, Akkerman machines have completed jobs in 17 countries.”
To mark the occasion of its 40th anniversary, Akkerman hosted an open house at its Brownsdale manufacturing facility on July 18 for more than 50 customers, representatives and industry peers. The day began with an off-site presentation and was followed with facility tours and equipment demonstrations. Guests were able to see the GBM 4815A jacking frame prototype, manipulate the newest GBM guidance system and microtunneling software, and view a live demonstration of the 5000 Series II TBM 600 and Series II pump unit along with many other static displays and equipment at various stages of development in the plant. They day concluded with a picnic featuring live music and entertainment on the corporate office patio.
Looking back on the success of the company, Maynard is quick to point out the contributions of its customers and staff. “I credit Akkerman’s customers for their faith in us and our products throughout the years, and our dedicated team of loyal and competent staff,” he says. “Combined, they make us what we are today.”
For more information:
Akkerman Inc., (800) 533-0386, www.akkerman.com