GPR Case Study 3 – Kiely Construction


GPR - Ground Penetrating Radar - Utility Locating

Since 1952, J.F. Kiely Construction Co., of Long Branch, New Jersey, has built a successful utility installation business by focusing on safety, reliability, and efficiency. While keeping focused on that three-pillared formula, Kiely willingly embraces new technologies that provide a competitive edge.For example, in 1986 J.F. Kiely got a head start on the competition when it became the first excavation contractor in New Jersey to perform directional drilling for the utility industry, safely and efficiently applying the new technology for installing gas lines, water lines, and electrical conduit.

More recently, the company’s early adoption of ground-penetrating radar (GPR) systems helped J.F. Kiely stay one step ahead of the crowd while addressing all three of its operational strategies. “We’re always open to new technology, as long as it improves our safety, reliability, and efficiency. Ground-penetrating radar addresses all three of those objectives—it’s an excellent tool to have in your toolbox,” says John M. Kiely, president and third generation of Kiely family leadership.

“Our company is committed to improvement,” he adds. “The idea of ground-penetrating radar made a lot of sense when it was first introduced, and it’s gotten better with each succeeding generation of equipment.

“We were one of the first contractors in the region to embrace the technology, so we have been working closely with US Radar for a very long time,” says Kiely of his company’s longtime reliance on GPR systems manufactured by its Matawan neighbor, US Radar Inc. “They continue to improve their products and technology—we are anxiously awaiting their new triple-frequency system later this year.”

Ground Penetrating Radar
J.F. Kiely Construction Co. was an early adopter of ground-penetrating radar (GPR) systems. It currently uses four GPR systems from US Radar, including this 500 Series model, designed for locating utilities up to 15 feet below the surface.

Value-Added Service
The company dispatches any of its four dual-frequency US Radar units to jobsites before the work begins. The cart-based, walk-behind systems employ radar frequencies that discover buried infrastructure components, construction remnants, and various sub-surface anomalies to enhance the safety, reliability, and efficiency of new excavations and installation of new utility network components. Each unit incorporates a portable computer that analyzes the radar signals and displays the results on a screen, easily visible to the GPR unit operator.

“GPR is a value-added service,” Kiely explains. “It’s not required on every job, but we rely on it to address challenging circumstances.” The benefits are numerous. “With GPR, we get a better idea of the unknown,” Kiely says. “The more we know about what’s underground, the better. It goes back to our focus on safety, reliability, and efficiency. One of the biggest benefits in using GPR is finding unmarked lines, and giving that information to the crew to help prevent damage. It’s a damage-reduction and avoidance technology.” The company’s GPR operators are specialists who not only understand the technology and know how to use it, but also have interpretive skills in analyzing the results.

Full-Service Utility Installation Contractor
J.F. Kiely Construction serves utility companies throughout New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. The company employs union workers and operates from four full-service shop locations throughout New Jersey. Its fleet encompasses mobile equipment, covering every category of equipment required for utility excavation and installation.

A self-described turnkey provider of underground utility services, J.F. Kiely Construction specializes in the installation of underground utilities, including natural gas, water, telecommunications, electric, and sewer. In addition to excavation, installation, and restoration of underground utilities, the company also offers pressure testing, welding, plastic fusion, and high-pressure tapping and stopping services.

Focus On Training
In 2013, J.F. Kiely Construction provided 12,412 hours of training to its workforce. Those hours included courses in more than 15 categories, such as general safety, operator qualification, trench and excavation (competent person) training, hazardous materials operations, fire extinguisher, natural gas emergency response, forklift safety, work zone safety, confined space operations, and pipeline facility locating.

“We develop our own talent and teach them the skills they need to build their careers,” Kiely says. “We’re a family-friendly business, three generations in the making. We’ve hired many inexperienced people over the years who have learned skills and applied them throughout successful careers with us. And, in some cases, their children also have come to work for us.” Recent market conditions have been challenging, Kiely notes, but says, “We’re a growth-oriented company, so we are focused on the pockets of success that exist even in the current economic climate.”

A continued strategic reliance on cutting-edge technologies—such as US Radar sub-surface imaging systems—will remain key to J.F. Kiely’s future growth and success.


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