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Deep Foundation Group Takes on Unique Structural Project for North Dakota Caterpillar Facility

by: Debra Wood
A crew member uses a special attachment to drive the helical piles.
A crew member uses a special attachment to drive the helical piles.
Deep Foundation Group is reinforcing the foundation in a building at the Caterpillar Remanufacturing Drivetrain facility in West Fargo, in North Dakota’s Red River Valley, to prepare the structure for the installation of a heavy machine.

“This is a unique project, because the building was existing, and we had to excavate down under an existing structure,” says Brent Krohn, a Partner and Co-Founder of Deep Foundation Group in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. “If there is a challenge and others are running away, we are running toward it and figuring out how we can help.”

The contractor’s work on the site began nearly two years ago, when the remanufacturing facility experienced a structural issue. Krohn and Deep Foundation Partner Robbie Veurink designed some shoring and gained an understanding about the site.

“When the equipment pad needed to go in, they called us to take a look at it,” Krohn says.

The Caterpillar Remanufacturing Drivetrain project entails placing helical piles through about 75 feet of clay until they reach the hard soil of the glacial till, material deposited by glacial ice many years ago. The piles can hold a service load of 120,000 pounds each.

Veurink and Krohn work as engineers as well as installers. They can make adjustments in the field if necessary. When they start working, they usually don’t know what they will run into.

“It gives us the ability to modify and keep the project on schedule,” Veurink says. “If we run into obstructions, we can adapt on the go and not shut down the site.”

When that happens Veurink and Krohn will redesign in the evening and be ready to go first thing in the morning – no waiting for an outside engineer to make changes.

“There is a lack of understanding in the field as to what is important and needs to be done when it comes a project like this,” Veurink says.

The Right Equipment and Service Matters
Growing up on farms gave Krohn and Veurink a strong appreciation for heavy equipment and how it can make a job easier.

“You grow up carpet farming and playing with construction toys in a sandbox,” Krohn says. “It sticks with you. All of a sudden you are in a big sandbox with a 10-ton Caterpillar excavator. It’s been fun.”

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The partners rely on Caterpillar equipment from Butler Machinery Co. of Fargo, North Dakota. Founded in 1955 by former contractor Francis J. Butler, the company remains family owned and operated. The younger generations have maintained his vision “to provide the best in equipment and the best product support” while embracing new technologies. The company now has 18 locations in North and South Dakota and Nebraska. It sells new and used equipment and rents from its inventory of more than 700 machines.

“We switched to Caterpillar equipment because it comes down to the level of service and maintenance the dealer can provide,” Veurink says. “Cat makes great equipment, and Butler offers great service. It was a no brainer to switch over to Butler. Down time is too expensive, when we have schedules to meet.”

Butler offers in-shop and 24/7 field service, with portable diagnostic tools for accurate troubleshooting, cranes, special purpose Caterpillar tools, and field service technicians trained to deliver on-site and emergency service.

“We like working with Alan Harms at Butler; he’s responsive and helpful,” Krohn says.

Recently when Deep Foundation Group was locked out of one of its machines, they called Butler and a technician came out in 25 minutes to get the crew operational again. “That level of service keeps us coming back,” Krohn reports.

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On the Caterpillar Remanufacturing Drivetrain project, Deep Foundation Group is using a technology-laden next generation Caterpillar 320 Hydraulic Excavator, a fuel-efficient machine that can dig to 22 feet; a Caterpillar 299D3 compact track loader, with a powerful engine and quiet cab; and a Caterpillar 308 CR Mini Excavator, which can dig to 183 inches and operate in a range of settings.

On the 320 excavator, Deep Foundation Group has added a direct drive unit from Finland to install the piles. It provides 90,000-foot-pounds of torque.

Additionally, with electronic tools, the partners can monitor employees’ performance and ensure everything is completed correctly. “We have good quality control doing that,” Krohn says.

Continued Growth
Veurink and Krohn, the co-owners and managers of Midwest Engineering Co./Deep Foundation Group in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, met in graduate school at South Dakota State University in Brookings. They started Midwest Engineering in 2014, focusing on residential and agricultural structural design. The company then grew to include commercial and public projects.

“Every year, we have continued to grow that portion of the business,” Krohn reports.

Deep Foundation Group works in North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and Nebraska. “We are willing to travel for the right project,” Veurink says.

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The partners gained knowledge and respect for deep foundations in college. They applied that learning and created Deep Foundation Group.

“We morphed firm design into design-build and the construction side,” Veurink explains. “We started to do some helical piles and structural repair. Deep Foundation Group continues to grow and we find ourselves in more and more projects.”

They have designed foundations around the world, building a reputation for quality and overcoming adversity. The company remains busy, and the partners watch for new opportunities.

“We have a knack for being the people brought in when there isn’t an easy solution,” Veurink says. “It’s what we are known for.”

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