Voice of experience

Rob Caho recently joined drilling-equipment manufacturer Geoprobe to lead its sales efforts in north-central US. GDI spoke to the industry veteran about his career to date
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Congratulations on your new appointment. To start, please tell us a bit about your work history.

I have more than 40 years of experience in the drilling industry.

I started out as a mechanic working on all different types of rigs and equipment and quickly transitioned into becoming a driller.

I have experience running all types of drilling rigs. This includes everything from drilling large-diameter water wells, to deep rock coring to depths of 1,000ft (305m), to probing, and a great deal of geotechnical, environmental, geothermal and exploration drilling.  Over the years, I've moved into leadership roles, including foreman, safety officer, field supervisor, operation manager, division manager, customer service and sales.

What have been some of the highlights of your career thus far?

It's difficult to single out all the projects I'm glad to have been a part of, but some of those highlights include sonic drilling for bauxite in Alabama and drilling for diamonds in Canada. 

I was also the project manager for large-diameter city wells drilled with cable tools - what an art!

In the early 80s, I took part in a drilling project in San Antonio, Texas, next to the Alamo for a 33-story Marriott Hotel. We discovered tunnels, pottery, coins and even a cannonball. It was a pretty crazy adventure. I've also drilled many Superfund sites over the years, up to and including Level A protection.

I really enjoy this industry and its challenges. I get great satisfaction knowing I can assist drillers and companies because of my past experiences and knowledge.

What does your work with the NGWA and NDA entail?

I'm the National Drilling Association (NDA) vice-president and membership committee chairman.  My role with the NDA includes helping start new chapters and attending all meetings throughout the US. When working to start a new chapter, I meet with contractors across the state, bringing them together to partner in bettering our industry. I provide guidance, support and training. Attending those meetings throughout the US enables me to stay connected and support their growth efforts.

For the National Ground Water Association (NGWA), I'm the chairman for the manufacturing board and on the board of directors. I've also served many years on the safety committee.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the industry?

The current state of the drilling industry is strong; however, we are challenged with the task of finding enough qualified workers.

As our industry continues to grow, we need to learn how to attract and retain employees who are able and willing to learn what it takes to be successful.  Most potential new drillers aren't knowledgeable when it comes to understanding the basics of hand tools or how to drive a truck, simply because they haven't been exposed to this type of work before.

We used to hire people from the farms, but it's becoming difficult to find anyone with that type of experience. Most drilling firms would consider expansion if they could find qualified workers. As an industry, we need to invest in our future and develop more training.

What technologies and innovations do you see changing the way drillers work in the future?

As technology continues to advance, I see more drilling operations becoming automated, making it safer and easier on the rig operators, while at the same time increasing production rates.

We also see a growth in downhole logging tools that in many cases provide site engineers valuable data in situ.

How is Geoprobe addressing the current needs and requirements of its drilling customers?

Many of our current machine offerings are considered combination rigs, because they've been designed to work in a wide range of subsurface conditions doing very diverse tasks. In the past, our customers would own specific rigs for specific types of projects. As the cost to own and maintain project-specific rigs has increased, combination rigs have provided our customers an advantage that goes directly to their bottom-line profits.

Additional aspects that we aim to excel include training - our experienced staff provides field training in the proper operation and maintenance of our machine and tooling systems. And service - we have a dedicated service team that is very focused on keeping Geoprobe machines operational.  In most cases, we can ship replacement parts on the same day an order is placed, too.

Can you discuss any developments that Geoprobe has been working on?

Just this month we expanded our geotechnical product line by releasing a Geoprobe 2060CPT, which is our 20 US ton cabin crawler for cone-penetration testing. 

The 3230DT diesel track combination rig is being utilised on a wide range of projects, from geotechnical and environmental to construction, and is now available with a six-speed rotary head, triple-winch configuration, and telescoping mast to run in low-clearance areas.

The 8150LS sonic is now available with a Tier 4 engine and can be equipped with GV5 50k sonic head, high-speed coring head and automatic drop hammer - all working over the centerline of the tool string with a simple touch at the operator controls. Plus, the 8150LS fits directly into a 40ft shipping container with no disassembly required for easy worldwide transportation. 

Lastly, our Direct Image team recently released the Optical Image Profiler (OIP), which provides users a tool to capture a visible image of the soil in real time. The OIP is capable of detecting and logging UV-induced hydrocarbon fluorescence.

As with many new innovations, it is nearly impossible to appreciate the benefits of these new offerings without seeing them in person and actually operating the equipment.  I strongly encourage anyone interested in the drilling industry to come see the Geoprobe engineering and manufacturing facility.

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