Jim Lee, Auger Boring Guru: Industry Profile

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | November 2012, Vol. 67, No. 11
Jim Lee (left) talks auger boring specifics.

Jim Lee explains auger boring operations at a recent customer event.

Lee values his time at home in Mississippi, but Hoffman said he never really stops working.

“Jimmy always gets up early, 5 a.m. or so,” says Hoffman. “He shakes the rooster awake, and he’s ready for the day. Much of his off time at home is spent on the telephone advising boring crews.”

Lee says that’s true -- he’s always on call.

“My wife and I took a trip to Gulfport,” says Lee, “and she said we never said a word to each other on the drive -- I was always on the phone. Many problems I can solve by telephone. I just have to have complete information about the situation. Sometimes a crew chief will leave out a mistake that led to the situation, and that complicates knowing how to proceed. I need to know everything, and then I can offer practical advice to get them going again.”

Lee still maintains his always-on-the-go schedule, but it hasn’t prevented his career taking a new turn -- he’s now actively involved in product planning.

“Jimmy knows so much,” Hoffman says, “we try to mine his experience in planning for product improvements and new products.”

For example, Lee is credited with a key role in the design and development of American Augers new 36GM8000 guided auger boring system. American Augers conducts hands-on boring schools at its facilities in Ohio, and Lee is there to teach and advise.

“I believe management and engineering listens to me and values what I know,” Lee says. “From being in the field, I can identify features that are needed to improve equipment, and users tell me what they believe is needed that could help them do their work better. That’s important information when planning machine designs. I respect that our company wants to put out the best possible products and that I am able to participate in achieving that goal.”

Now in his 60s, Lee is at the peak of his career. He admits the pace can be tiring.

“Sometimes I do get tired physically,” he says, “but I’m not tired of the job. I love punching holes through the ground . . . it’s a thrill of accomplishment to get from one side of the road to the other.”