Your Rig Is a Big Part of Your Business

Published On: August 10, 2020By Categories: Business Management, Drawing from the Well, Drilling

Keeping them attractive and well maintained will enhance your reputation and your profitability.

By Gary Shawver, MGWC

Most water well contractors believe their drill rig is an important part of who they are, both as a person and as a business. And it is. Whether you own one or own several, your drill rig is you.

The author says it’s vital the drill rig is well maintained, both in physical appearance and operational condition. Photos courtesy Shawver Well Co. Inc. in Fredericksburg, Iowa.

When I came back into my father’s drilling business, he decided it was time to upgrade to a newer and more modern drill. It was 1976, and when I arrived at the job, sitting in dad’s yard was a brand-new drill rig that he had bought at the national convention. He was extremely proud and so was I. It was massive and it was red, white, and blue due to the bicentennial year. I have many fond memories of that drill.

Drill rigs represent who we are as a drilling business. It is a unique piece of equipment that many who see it don’t have a clue as to what they are looking at. But we do and that rig is ours!

Ensure Your Equipment Is Presentable

Most of today’s contractors have their name displayed in large letters on the rig, both for advertising and to let people know who they are. Many proudly fly an American flag at the top of their mast once they are set up on the job, drawing attention to their rig.

I can remember getting one job from a fellow who called after seeing our rig set up by a highly traveled highway and stating that “he wanted us to drill his well because we had an American flag flying from the top of the derrick.” No hard selling on that job!

Realizing this piece of equipment represents who we are, it’s vital it is well maintained, both in physical appearance and operational condition. While it doesn’t take long to get a rig dirty on most jobs, it’s important to keep the rig relatively clean. Perception is vitally important to one’s overall reputation. How the rig looks will often set the tone for your potential future customers as well as the current customer you’re servicing.

Yes, it takes time to clean and pressure wash a rig, but it must be done. You as the owner of the company need to find the time to work in the vital part of keeping your equipment in a presentable condition. There are various ways this can be done, and I’ll get to a couple of those soon.

Maintain Inventory of Repair Spare Parts

A well-maintained drill rig will get your job done quicker and more efficiently if it is up and running. All drills take maintenance and eventually repairs. If you’ve owned a drill for any length of time, you’ll know what to look for in eventual repairs. Keeping those parts in stock in your own shop will minimize your downtime and maximize your profitability.

I made a rule that if we had a failure of a part, we always ordered a second part to have on the shelf so we could be back up and running in as little time as possible. There is nothing worse than sitting on a customer’s jobsite with a broken-down rig for three or four days for lack of a part. If that rig could have been drilling someplace else when that job was done, that’s lost profit that one never makes up.

We often had rebuilt water pumps, spare mud pumps, spare hydraulic welders, spare hydraulic pumps, spare winch cable cut to length with hooks on ready to go, and many other such items. This ensured not only minimal downtime, but also showed the customer we’re focused on getting the job done and moving on.

While one may hesitate to tie that type of money up in spare parts, I pretty much had the attitude that if I never used some of those parts, I had the comfort knowing I would not lose much revenue to downtime. When I got ready to sell the rig, I told the buyers we had a spare parts package they could purchase, and I made it attractive so they couldn’t refuse the offer of the spare parts. So, the money I may have lost on spare parts more than made up on the uptime of the drill rigs and the profitability they produced.

Setting a Higher Standard

If, during the busy months, your crews are going from job to job getting the workload done, often there are maintenance issues that develop. These include items that can’t wait until the rig gets into the yard where it is more conducive to work on a drill.

This was often the case at our business, and we asked the crews to keep a list of items needing attention. When a window opened for the rig to come in, a meeting with the support staff and crew took place where everyone went through the list. This was to ensure everyone was on the same page as to what needed attention and that all parts were on hand when the rig came in.

If parts weren’t on hand, they were ordered immediately. Doing this ensured that all the issues that needed attention were resolved and resolved with minimum downtime. This worked well for us and typically both the crew that operated the drill and the support staff worked hand in hand getting the equipment gone through and back out on the jobs, thus maximizing uptime on the drill.

I earlier mentioned keeping your rig and equipment clean. Here’s a couple thoughts to consider:

1. Install a pressure washer on your water tender you can use to rinse off your rig at the end of each job. While some jobs may not lend itself to doing that, I would surmise many will. This isn’t a full cleaning but rather a rinsing of the worst parts to make the rig presentable
to the next customer and all those who see you on the highway. Keeping mud from falling onto the highway is also an added plus.

2. If your firm has a support staff in your yard, you can adjust your hours for some of them and have the rig or support trucks washed after hours when they arrive in from a job. This allows your crew to get the rest they need and the rig to be cleaned and ready to go the next morning.

Both options simply require leadership on your part to outline why you are doing this. Setting a higher standard will typically trickle down to your staff and crews. It also shows them you’re setting a standard that enhances your business image and reputation.


The drill rig is the primary money-producing piece of equipment in your business. They are expensive and they are big. They can be both a source of pride and a big billboard. Keeping them attractive and well maintained will build your perception in the public eye and ultimately enhance your reputation and profitability.

Gary Shawver, MGWC, is vice president of Shawver Well Co. Inc. in Fredericksburg, Iowa. He has been in the water well industry for more than 40 years and is a Master Groundwater Contractor. He served on the NGWA Board of Directors. Shawver is semi-retired, having sold his business to his employees. He can be reached at

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