March 2017 Vol. 72 No. 3


Eight Minor Adjustments To Improve HDD Productivity

Peter Melsheimer Melfred Borzallby Peter Melsheimer

Productivity on the job is about more than just choosing the right HDD tools. It’s about looking at the job from all angles to make sure you’re prepared to tackle anything that might slow down your drilling progress. During our decades of experience, we have seen lots of ways drillers can make minor adjustments to achieve maximum productivity. Here are 8 tips that show you how to improve your HDD productivity:

Get organized.
Before your job begins, make a comprehensive list of every piece of equipment you’ll need, down to the nuts and bolts. We’ve seen drillers shut down work for hours because they tried to hook up their backreamer and realized they were missing the adapter to connect to the swivel. Don’t let this happen to you.

Sweat the small stuff.
Double check that all the thread types on all connecting parts match before you begin your job. Review the website or catalogue from your HDD manufacturer when ordering new parts to make sure they’ll work. Also, be sure you have every hand tool required to assemble the parts.

Get the right tools for the job.
Not only do you need to make sure you have all the tools for your job, you must be sure that they’re the correct tools. Speak with your HDD manufacturer about your ground conditions and drill rig to make sure you have the best size and type of tools for the job.

Do a dry run assembly.
Assemble all your parts and accessories one time before hauling everything out to the site. Look closely at thread and bolt patters, torque requirements and any other minor specifications that could grind production to a halt. If you’re missing a part or need an adapter, it’s better to discover it before the job begins than on day one at the site.

Inspect your tools closely.
The impact of drilling puts stress on the small parts of tools and after one job wraps, it’s easy to store your equipment and forget about the damage. Take a close look at all of your tools, paying close attention to the parts that connect, swivel, rub and chew. Are threads worn down? Are there cutters missing on the bit? Have the bearings seized up on the swivel? Little things like this can stop you in your tracks. Replace any parts that are worn or look questionable before beginning your job.

Walk the job before you drill.
Visiting the drill site when bidding a job is not enough. We recommend touring the site a week or so before drilling to get a clearer sense of the conditions you’ll run into as you work. Take notes on ground conditions and survey the profile of your bore path, looking for drastic elevation changes or barriers that your locator and drill operator will need to be aware of. Knowing what to expect will ensure that you have the right HDD tools and equipment on hand, and help you draft the best game plan for your crew.

Decide how to step up your hole size.
Think about the number of drill passes you’ll need to get from your pilot hole to the ultimate finished hole, especially when drilling big holes (18 inches or greater). Drilling big holes the right way requires swapping out drill heads and using additional equipment, so plan your steps carefully to make sure you have everything you will need.

Don’t let drill fluid management slow you down.
Talk to your HDD manufacturer about the size of equipment you will be using for pilot boring and backreaming, and calculating how much fluid you should have for your job, including extra. During drilling, pay attention to the best times to refill and dispose of your fluid, using natural breaks in drilling to refill tanks that might not be completely empty and swap out disposal tanker trucks, though the first might not be completely full.

Underground drilling is a tough job and every project has its own surprises. But by planning ahead and checking all the boxes before you get started, you can save yourself from unnecessary headaches, lost time and emergency spending.

About the Author: Peter Melsheimer, marketing director at Melfred Borzall, has been in the HDD industry since 1989, and by 1991 was out demonstrating and educating the world about the advantages of HDD for utility installation. Contact him at

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