Insight Pipe Contracting Celebrating Silver Anniversary
Vision Prompts Growth, Longevity
By Mike Kezdi Aug 20, 2014
A company that makes it to the quarter century mark must be doing something right. If you ask Mike Marburger, owner of Insight Pipe Contracting L.P., one of the keys to that success is building the right team.
The family-owned and operated company founded in 1989 by Marburger and his wife, Jill, in Harmony, Pa., — about 30 minutes north of Pittsburgh — plans to celebrate its 25th year with a Sept. 19 open house. The event includes tours of the headquarters and manufacturing facility, several demonstrations, as well as a barbecue lunch.
Insight Pipe, a full-service sewer maintenance company, specializes in trenchless rehabilitation, inspection and cleaning of storm, sanitary and water pipelines.
“We originally started out doing utility (sanitary, storm and water) installations in new developments,” Marburger says. “During that period, we were well-informed of the technology out there for cleaning and internal inspection of sanitary and storms sewers, and it was our objective from the beginning to get into that. However, the utility work was a bit of a stepping stone to that industry.”
At that point, the company was comprised of Marburger, with others helping when needed.
When the timing was right, Marburger began investigating CCTV equipment and started working with a CUES distributor in Ohio. That is when Marburger met Jim Mortell — a relationship that lasts to this day and helped shape Insight Pipe’s growth.
Mortell sold Marburger his first CUES portable camera system. From there, Insight Pipe began selling its services to local municipalities and sewer authorities.
“We were given some fine opportunities to go out and provide internal inspections. That was back in the day when color systems were just out, pan-and-tilts were very rare and there were very few portable systems available,” Marburger recalls. “We were very fortunate, had some success and got connected with great customers.”
Insight Pipe’s second employee, Michael “Francis” McCollough, worked for the company throughout college and, after serving in the Gulf War, was hired full time. Today, he is the company’s chief estimator.
“It’s kind of crazy to say when I came out of college and started working here, I didn’t envision 24 years later that I would still be here,” McCollough says. “It’s really fascinating to see the different techniques that came out throughout the years, the different processes, the different equipment and it’s just been a pleasure to work here with a number of different people.”
From those humble beginnings and two employees, Insight Pipe continued to pursue municipal clients, additional equipment and — when the economy took a downturn in the first decade of this century — an increased service area. This helped Insight Pipe grow to a company that now boasts 50 employees and a state-of-the-art headquarters and manufacturing facility. Capitalizing on the oil and gas boom in the surrounding Marcellus and Utica shale plays and helping weather the economic downturn, the Marburgers formed IPC Energy Services in 2011 for the oil and gas sector.
Through the years and dips in the economy, Insight Pipe survived and thrived because the Marburgers maintained their commitment to customers, their employees and the community.
Marburger says that though the company was involved with pipe installations, his interests skewed more toward the CCTV side, with a fascination with remotely seeing the inside of the pipe he was working on.
“Being on the installation side of it for quite a while, that really interested me and the fact that the technology was out there and we could merge those interests together was a big draw for us,” he explained. He also realized that the pipeline inspection and rehabilitation arena was one that would grow for years to come, and he stayed on the forefront of the technologies associated with both.
On the CCTV side, those advancements include the evolution of color systems, pan-and-tilt systems and now Insight Pipe can enter remote areas via a UTV with portable camera technologies.
“A big advancement in the CCTV inspection was all the efforts NASSCO put in for the PACP and the certification and the reporting software,” Marburger says. “That just gave the industry great uniformity from contractor to contractor and city to city. That has had, and will continue to have, a positive impact on the industry.”
As for the trenchless rehab side of the business, through the already formed relationship with Mortell, Insight Pipe worked as a sub-contractor, prepping lines and other preliminary work for fold and form projects. Taking the knowledge gleaned from the sub-contractor work, the company became a fold-and-form installer.
“Insight Pipe had jumped into the fold-and-form market with the HDPE as a counter-product to the CIPP (which was closely held in patents) and was successful with that. We were one of the only regional contractors providing that service and that product,” Marburger says. “At about the same time, we also started doing LMK’s sectional CIPP liners. Again we were the first in the area to provide that product or service.”
When the patents on the cured-in-place pipe technology (CIPP) expired in 1994, Marburger says the trenchless industry really opened up. One of those who took advantage of this opportunity was Mortell, who became the U.S. licensor of the Premier-Pipe CIPP method.
Once again, working on a solid relationship with Mortell, Insight Pipe became one of three Premier-Pipe USA installers. The Premier-Pipe team includes AM-Liner East Inc. and Michels Pipe Services.
“He was selective and we are glad we are one of the companies he selected to have as installers,” Marburger says. “Jim Mortell has done a great, great, job in bringing these three companies together in meetings and at events and we share knowledge and we share experiences and we help each other out.”
He adds, “It’s been a great part of our growth. I think that the good contractors gravitate toward others of like-mind. We’re fortunate that we gravitated toward the Premier Pipe group. Once we were there, that certainly helped our growth. I think it’s a special group.”
Teamwork Breeds Growth
However, Marburger adds, being part of the Premier-Pipe team is only one facet of Insight Pipe’s growth and brought the conversation back to strong relationships with vendors and suppliers, customers and among the Insight Pipe employees.
Speaking of vendors and suppliers, Marburger lauded LMK Technologies for its sectional liners, which the company still installs, Applied Felts, which is an integral part of the Premier-Pipe system, Saertex UV liners, Aries Industries and CUES for CCTV inspection equipment and Johnstown, Pa.-based GapVax for its cleaning equipment.
Insight Pipe president Jerry Maharg is relatively new to the family, having worked there only three years, but is quick to note that the relationship the Marburgers have with their employees has helped the company grow, weather a down economy and grow again.
“Our leadership staff is 100 percent committed to this company and to grow the company. In turn, our employees are 100 percent committed,” he says. “We want them to grow as an employee and in their lives. By doing so, we have created a great team here.”
“We feel the respect and love the whole way through. We all care about each other and we want to see each other succeed and, therefore, the business succeeds,” says Insight Pipe administrative manager Diane Reiber.
Looking ahead, employee and business growth is something that Marburger wants to continue.
“I want to continue to see us grow. That has always been one of our priorities. To do that, one of our goals is to be one of the leaders out there with new products; pursuing these opportunities, looking for them and developing them,” he says.
Overall, he sees the trenchless rehabilitation sector growing with stronger products and innovations that will allow for larger diameter lines to take advantage of the CIPP technology more economically, as well as more opportunities with pressure pipe and potable and non-potable water pipe applications.
As for the growth of his employees, he explains, “We really like to bring people in who are a cultural fit for us and we really like to grow opportunities from within. We have seen that as very successful for us.”
“This industry is very unique. It’s kind of humbling what we do,” Marburger says. “We recognize the importance of this industry and how it contributes to society (through) the service that we provide in maintaining clean water and I think it’s a privilege to be able to do that.”
Jill Marburger summed up the best part of the last 25 years.
“The people in this industry are great people to work with,” she says, adding that Insight Pipe has been blessed by the opportunity to meet great people, employees, vendors and customers in all areas of the business.
Mike Kezdi is an assistant editor for Trenchless Technology.