You Know the Drill: 102 Years and Counting
The drilling industry is a “whole new world” today, compared to what it was around 60 years ago, according to David Haupt, MGWC. The co-owner and vice president of Haupt Well & Pump Co. Inc., located in Auburndale, Wis., says that much time has passed since his water well drilling and pump installation experience kicked off. He was raised in a family of well drillers and grew acquainted with drilling equipment at a very young age. “We used to ride along and help some of the guys on the rig carry water and dump buckets,” he says.
Haupt’s father started the business back in 1914, making this year the company’s 102nd anniversary. He has seen drilling methods and speed evolve “big time” over the years, which is especially important in the area he works in. He says back in the cable tool era his crew would drill into the bedrock of Wisconsin. “It’s actually Precambrian age rock that is, in some folks’ opinion, the core of the Earth. In any case, we used to classify that rock as 3-foot-a-day rock or 5-foot-a-day rock or whatever, depending on how hard it was and how much footage you could make in a day’s time. That’s part of the reason that a lot of the wells in this region of the country were shallow, because they would not care to spend that much time drilling a well.”
Haupt Well & Pump serves the entire state of Wisconsin, but Haupt says they are careful about measuring distance traveled against job size. For that reason, most of their residential projects are near headquarters, while farther jobs typically involve municipal wells. He says his biggest challenge — arguably a good problem to have — is keeping up when demand and workload are high.
Q. What do you do and what keeps you coming back every day?
A. Basically I manage the business, but my day is talking to customers and trying to help the guys line up work and I do price out the invoices. I think the primary issue is dealing with customers. … A guy should think seriously about slowing up, but quite frankly, I figure if I work like a young man, I’ll probably stay a young man. I do get a certain amount of satisfaction out of being involved and I guess that’s probably the overwhelming part of it. I like working with our customers and the crew, so when that all changes, then I guess it’s time to hang her up.
Q. What does a typical workday involve?
A. My discussing things and answering questions for customers and helping schedule wells and pump repair and that sort of thing. I do try and help customers with their water related questions. I don’t go out on the rigs anymore. That’s not a part of my challenge. I spend about 50 percent of my time in the office and 50 percent on the road.
Q. What does it take to succeed in what you do?
A. I always tell customers we want to treat them the way we would expect to be treated ourselves. We’re not in it to see how much money we can make. We’re in it to supply water to our customers in a reasonable fashion.
Q. What do you wish you knew when you started?
A. When I think about the occurrence of water in Precambrian age rock, where we find good yield wells, that’s a situation that I would say the vast majority of people don’t understand. We have a tremendous record of finding high-yield wells in the granite bedrock, and it wasn’t too often many years ago that even the Geological Survey would advise people that there wasn’t any good reason to drill into the granite because they weren’t going to get any significant water. But we proved that to be wrong and I wish we would have had the ability, although we were quite successful, but without computers and that sort of thing. It just made locating good yield wells in hard rock formations easier. It makes it possible.
Q. What tool can you not imagine working without?
A. Where it’s office related, I guess it’s the technology, the computer and the cell phone. But with drilling equipment, rotary drilling equipment was probably the biggest improvement in the industry in this part of the world.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
A. When I hear that question, I have to chuckle because my dad told me when I was a kid, “If you can’t pay cash for it, you don’t need it.” And I was probably 5, 6 or 7 years old when he told me that. Not to be flippant about that, but some folks don’t think much of borrowing tremendous amounts of money to acquire equipment, and I don’t know if that was considered advice or if that was just a father’s way of dealing with his kid after asking for something. But I prefer to pay for things when they’re purchased rather than to take out loans that are enough to break the bank.
Q. How would you describe the present state of the industry?
A. The biggest problem I see with the well drilling industry is finding people that want to get involved and work with this stuff is a bit of a concern. When I was a younger man I can remember people knocking on the door and asking if we’re hiring and that’s just not the situation in recent years. I don’t know what to blame that on frankly, if it’s work ethic, if it’s that they think drilling wells is too hard of work, but that’s probably the biggest thing that concerns me, is finding people that are going to want to stay involved in that stuff.