Oklahoma PRO Relies On New Technology And Trade Association Networking For Long-Lasting Success

Emphasis on improved management, use of new technology and networking through his trade association fuel growth and pay dividends for industry pioneer Dwayne Siegmann.
Oklahoma PRO Relies On New Technology And Trade Association Networking For Long-Lasting Success
Dwayne Siegmann, owner of Chem-Can Services Inc., is shown with an International vacuum truck from Mid-State Tank and a Jurop pump. The truck was built by CCSI.

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In 1971, at age 21, Dwayne Siegmann knew the importance of working hard, long hours when he entered the portable sanitation industry by starting Chem-Can Services Inc.

It took a minor car accident in the mid-1980s for him to learn how to work smarter and manage better. The first 40 portable restrooms he purchased have evolved to about 3,500 units. His first location in Enid, Okla., has expanded to five locations covering a good portion of the state. Through the years, Siegmann diversified his services and learned to be flexible to survive the fluctuation of the oil and construction industries.

But aside from building CCSI into a successful business, his experience and involvement with the Portable Sanitation Association International (PSAI) has given him a passion and appreciation for the importance of the sanitation industry and how, when done right, it contributes to a healthy and safe environment for all consumers.

BACKGROUND

Siegmann’s father, Roland Siegmann, launched a septic service business in 1952, and Dwayne worked with him from the time he was old enough to carry a shovel. Eventually they began servicing restrooms for other companies. So he knew what he was getting into when his father helped him buy 40 restrooms to start a business.

“You’re young. You work 24/7 – really hard. We had competitors in all corners. You stick it out and work long hours,” he recalls.

In addition to doing his own pumping, he built his own vacuum tanks.“You just do a little of everything to save money and keep going,” he says.

When the oilfields prospered in the late ‘70s, it was a healthy boost to his business, and he could afford to hire workers.

“The biggest thing that caused me to get out of the trucks and start managing my company instead of being out there doing it all myself was – we joke – when we say my wife, Diana, ran over me with the car,” he says with a laugh. “That’ll slow you down.”

An explanation is in order: Siegmann had a vehicle that occasionally fell into reverse on its own. When he stepped out of it while running an errand at the post office it went into gear. As he made an effort to get in and stop it, his wife reached over to change gears, and Siegmann’s foot got caught underneath the vehicle. An ankle injury required surgery, and he was on crutches for months.

“I couldn’t drive a service truck,” he recalls. “But I can’t sit still, so I started working more on how to manage the company.”

He purchased his first cellphone and first rudimentary computer. “Those things helped me learn to manage the company better and develop it,” he notes.

CREATING OPPORTUNITY

The management lesson came at a good time – about the same time the “Windfall Profit Tax” was enacted and oilfield work slowed down.

“I’ve been in Oklahoma around the oil industry long enough to see two or three of those cycles,” he says. Percentages of work constantly shift with cycles in the economy, so it’s important to have varied clientele in construction, oilfields and events to pick up the slack when one sector is down.

“About 15 years ago it became obvious that due to the disposal challenges presented by grease trap waste and the fact that disposal options in general in our area were very limited, we started looking for other alternatives,” Siegmann notes.

After a year of researching and working with local governments to obtain appropriate permits, he purchased a dewatering system manufactured by Flo Trend Systems. The 30-yard screening box and two 12,000-gallon storage tanks have proven effective. Grease, septic and portable restroom waste are blended and aerated (to reduce BOD), the pH is adjusted and the waste is injected with polymer, then run through the filter box. The effluent goes into the sewer system and the dry cake to the landfill for disposal.

Ultimately, his cost to operate the system is comparable to disposal fees, Siegmann says. But it offers convenience since the nearest municipal facility is more than 60 miles away.

DISASTER RELIEF

Located in Tornado Alley, disaster relief is an inevitable part of the business. CCSI crews have responded after many tornadoes. One of the largest was an EF5 twister that tore through Moore, Okla., in May 1999. Another EF5 followed a similar path through Moore on May 20, 2013. It killed 25 people and destroyed a school and much of the Oklahoma City suburb.

“When you go down to try to set things up and put things back together, you just want to stand in the middle of it and cry,” Siegmann says. “It’s just the most horrible, devastating thing you can experience, and it’s hard on my service drivers – especially in the early stages when they are still disoriented.”

Logistically, it’s impossible to have a cookie cutter response plan, but CCSI workers have learned to respond immediately and prepare to deploy.

“When it comes to the immediate aftermath there isn’t such a thing as efficiency,” he explains. “You have all the agencies trying to move in and set up. Areas are blocked off. Traffic is absolutely horrible.”

In 2013, CCSI’s Oklahoma City location was 11 miles from the middle of the Moore tornado path. Having been through it before, drivers were called in and loaded more than 30 portable restrooms in the middle of the night before orders could start coming in. These were set up in appropriate areas for first responders to use until emergency services could get on site and organize. Later, workers set up more restrooms as requested by emergency response teams and organizations such as FEMA, the Red Cross and the City of Moore Emergency Management Team.

The following weekend, another tornado of similar magnitude took a swipe at the same general area, following I-40 and angling a little further north and taking out about 100 of the company’s restrooms.

“Some were destroyed, some damaged, some we never found. We put so much in there for the first one, we were so exposed out there,” Siegmann says. “The good thing was it didn’t hit our yard. It came within a few miles and at one point was on a path to our yard. It was pretty scary whether we were going to take a direct hit.”

Having multiple yards is an advantage. Though it may cost more in road time, units can be pulled from different areas when needed. In addition to tornadoes, CCSI restrooms are used for other disasters such as wildfires.

Though difficult – and sometimes not profitable – CCSI is glad to provide a needed service.

“We feel like it’s part of our responsibility to the community to go in and help put it back together. We are proud of the fact that we are there and load up equipment immediately and start heading in to help out where we can,” he says.

EQUIPMENT

Siegmann likes to find good deals on equipment, such as a couple of cab-over Chevrolet T8500 trucks he found that were new but 2 years old.

Siegmann and friend and employee Trip Ramsey used their combined design and fabrication skills to build out most of the company’s trucks through its biggest growth period. In the last five years, with other demands on the company’s fabrication department and a desire to add lighter aluminum vacuum tanks, Siegmann turned to Mid-State Tank for its newest trucks.

Having a fabricator on staff provides drivers with user-friendly options.

“Even trucks we’re having built use the designs we’ve developed over a lot of years,” he says. “One thing that is not uncommon to the industry is the workstation approach to the driver’s side of the truck. When the driver gets out of the truck he turns toward his tank and has all of his needed equipment handy.”

Another customization he orders for restroom service truck tanks isn’t as common.

“We always run three-compartment tanks. We run one tank for water to recharge the unit, one for the wastewater we’re pumping out of the unit, and one tank for washdown. We don’t use the same water for recharging and washdown,” he says.

The extra tank allows technicians to premix the recharge water for colder temperatures, for example. The mix wouldn’t be appropriate for washing the unit because it would leave a residue.

Most of the 61-truck fleet is vacuum trucks for portable sanitation service. Included are 18 International, eight GM, five Ford and three Freightliner rigs. The tanks vary from a 500-gallon slide-in unit to 2,200 gallons. The portable restroom service tanks usually have about a 65-25-10 percent division of waste/fresh/washdown water. Five trucks are equipped as septic/grease pumpers with 2,000- to 2,200-gallon tanks. All pumps are Jurop brand from Chandler Equipment. Chandler also supplies most of the tank components, manways, primary shutoffs, secondary shutoffs, etc., used in fabrication.

In addition, there are 27 delivery/pickup vehicles ranging from 3/4-ton pickups to flatbeds (five International, 21 GM and a Dodge).

The majority of the 3,500 portable restrooms are from Satellite Industries. There is a mix of construction and special event units, as well as special-needs units. Polylift high-rise units from PolyJohn Enterprises were especially helpful during the construction of the Devin Tower (Oklahoma’s tallest building), completed in early 2013.

Inventory also includes 94 freestanding sinks from T.S.F. Company, as well as 115 300-gallon holding tanks from Satellite and Kentucky Tank. For work site trailers, CCSI offers 25 freshwater delivery systems (non-potable) fabricated in house.

The restroom trailer fleet includes nine trailers, including four from Ameri-Can Engineering.

SITE-TO-SITE COMMUNICATION

While the company has its roots in Enid, the business evolved from there, expanding through acquisitions to Oklahoma City, Ponca City and Woodward, as well as establishing a yard in Stillwater.

With the growth has come experience in managing multiple sites.

“For the most part it’s a combination of email, cellphones and staying in contact with people. We have a central call station in Enid that distributes the work orders to the various yards,” Siegmann says. “We have a management-level person [at each site] to keep the flow going and maintain close contact. We currently have a managers’ meeting, drawing us together in one spot, every six weeks, and I also have an operational manager who goes to the yards and has meetings as needed.”

CCSI offers health insurance, a retirement plan and a pleasant atmosphere to attract good workers, Siegmann says. Managers focus on getting to know each employee, and new workers are paired with employees who are good at training.

“We emphasize that when you [workers] leave the yard, the next inspector you get will be the customer. We don’t push quantity of units. They have to be clean – we push quality and want them to spend more time if necessary,” Siegmann says. “When we get complaints, as any company will, it’s a high priority to find out why and to find a remedy.”

IN THE FUTURE

Using technology to better manage companies and networking with other industry professionals will help portable sanitation companies moving forward.

“I think the biggest changes in the future for our company and the industry is how we manage our trucks and our people,” he says. “We use a company called Universal Tracking for our truck tracking system. All trucks, delivery through septic, have a tracker in them allowing for better equipment management.

“Using advancements in electronics is making it much more efficient to run a company and branch services; because of better tracking equipment and routing software as well as office communication systems we can do things today we only dreamed about 20 years ago.”

Siegmann looks to the world through his work with PSAI. He stresses the trade association’s commitment to education about the need for basic sanitation and preserving safe drinking water.

“I’m very excited and dedicated to bringing these issues to the forefront and effecting change to the world and the industry,” he says. He values the PSAI’s mission and the networking help membership presents.

“The PSAI helps make you a better operator,” he says. “If you don’t get involved in it, you are taking the long, hard road. It’s such a source to help you know and understand how to meet your challenges. Better competitors make the industry better and improve public perception of what we do. People start realizing the value in what we provide.”

MORE INFORMATION

Ameri-Can Engineering - 574/892-5151 - www.ameri-can.com

Chandler Equipment, Inc. - 800/342-0887 - www.chandlerequipment.com

Flo Trend Systems, Inc. - 800/833-2040 - www.flomatic.com

Jurop - www.jurop.it/eng

Kentucky Tank, Inc. - 888/459-8265 - www.kentuckytank.com

Mid-State Tank Co., Inc. - 800/722-8384 - www.midstatetank.com

PolyJohn Enterprises - 800/292-1305 - www.polyjohn.com

Satellite Industries - 800/328-3332 - www.satelliteindustries.com

T.S.F. Company, Inc. - 800/843-9286 - www.tuff-jon.com



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