Todd Allen, President of Radar View, talks about the use of seismic imaging in the construction industry.
Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.
Jay Curry: Hello, Texas. Welcome back. This is Texas Business Radio. We got a great program we’re gonna put out here for you today. We are talking engineering firms, and there’s some very interesting things when you get into engineering. These are very smart people who deal with very complex problems, and our entire program’s going to be about engineering. So, welcome aboard. I want to remind you before we get started here, TexasBusinessRadio.com is the place to go, everything’s there. We have videos of everyone of our guests, we have information about the sponsors, information about the hosts, George, Matt, and myself. Everything is there, beautiful, high definition color video, go there if you want to know anything about Texas Business Radio. Or, if you hear a great story and you want to hear it or pass it along, go to TexasBusinessRadio.com. We also monitor #TBR if you want to send us a Tweet, we’d love to have that. And then we have our famous 24 hour hotline, sits by Matt’s desk and his bed at home, he picks it up. We’ll get it. I don’t care. You can call anytime, we’re gonna get it. We’re gonna get your answers, we’re gonna get it on the air for you. That number is 844-814-8144. Twitter is #TBR and everything’s on TexasBusinessRadio.com. Alright, we’ve got all that behind us. Let’s get into engineering. We have a very interesting company in the studio right now. Todd Allen, who’s the president of Radar UCT, which stands for Universal Construction and Testing-
Todd Allen: That’s right.
Jay Curry: Although you do a lot of stuff, this is going to be very interesting. Todd, thank you for joining us.
Todd Allen: Yeah, thanks a lot for having me.
Jay Curry: So, tell me, Todd, what is Radar View UCT?
Todd Allen: Radar View UCT, we’re a specialty engineering firm. We’re usually working as a sub consultant analyzing problems with buildings or problems underground, giving information that you can’t otherwise get.
Jay Curry: Okay. So, this has got to be pretty high tech stuff. Tell me about it.
Todd Allen: Yeah, we use a number of, I call them cool toys, to look at concrete problems in bridges, or dams, buildings, strip centers, you name it, roads, and highways. We also have a lot of technologies we use to look underground to map underground infrastructure, and that’s the specialty that we have. It gets real technical from there, but that’s kind of a nutshell.
Jay Curry: Right, so if you have any kind of a construction potential problem, so I would think one would be I just built this structure and we’re getting cracking where we weren’t expecting it, you’re the supercharged answer to that?
Todd Allen: That’s right. There’s usually a structural engineer involved who’s already part of the project and when he sees this kind of an issue, they’ll usually call us and get us involved to help them understand, okay, how was it actually built? Was something left out? Was the concrete not mixed properly? Did it not get cured right or who knows what? A lot of different problems it can cause an engineer to really get concerned about his structure, but that’s usually when we get called out, though.
Jay Curry: Okay, so you don’t provide the structural engineer, you’re engineers that understand the technology and what you’re looking at, and you work with them to give them the answers they need.
Todd Allen: Yeah, I call our people NDT specialists, or just specialists, that have lots of experience in how to apply different technologies to learn the information that engineers need to know so that they can make better decisions.
Jay Curry: I also gotta think, you know, America infrastructures having problems, it’s gotta be a big boom for you.
Todd Allen: It is.
Jay Curry: I mean the bridges, some of the buildings, the roads, you name it.
Todd Allen: You name it. We work on every type of structure you can think of from nuclear power plants, to bridges, to dams, to roads, to just a strip center in Houston.
Jay Curry: Okay. You also mentioned refineries, which is a big deal in Texas.
Todd Allen: A lot of Petrochin work.
Jay Curry: What are you doing for them? I guess that whole plant’s probably under cement or on top of cement?
Todd Allen: The entire plant is … its structure, its infrastructure, is mostly concrete and steel. When they have fires, they need somebody to analyze the condition of that infrastructure. We usually get involved in fire situations, and anytime they’re going to place a heavy crane, we examine the ground to make sure there’s no underground void that could cause an issue with the lift. So, there’s a lot of safety reasons why they would use this in mapping underground infrastructure, piping, they don’t want to damage something when they’re digging wholes and things like that.
Jay Curry: Yeah, and we were talking before we came into the studio and you mentioned that sometimes the pipeline companies and companies where it’s buried by, they don’t really know where it is, so you come along and you do a geophysical survey, is that what they call it?
Todd Allen: Yeah, I mean, most construction companies in Texas know about the 811 system, which is a free phone call that you can make and get utilities marked out, but when you move onto large, private facilities, universities, hospitals, and things like that, lots of land, refineries, that system no longer works on those areas, and so that’s where we come into play.
Jay Curry: So it’s really a specialty company, though, right? You’re not just chasing everything.
Todd Allen: Everything we do is pretty niche-type services, it’s information that you don’t need every day. As a construction company, you really don’t want to use us. If you do, there’s probably been an issue on your job site. But, as an owner, owns the facility like the Galleria, for example, we do work there all the time because they’re always doing some kind of a change to their buildings.
Jay Curry: You have a very unique competitive advantage, I think. Can you explain that?
Todd Allen: Yeah, we have a number of competitors to small parts of our business, but we are an engineering firm, and our methodologies are proprietary, and the way we go about analyzing a structure for an engineer, we kind of speak their language. We give them the information you really need rather than somebody just that doesn’t really understand the core problem with the building and they’re just giving information that isn’t too meaningful, so that’s been kind of the niche that the engineers and owners really understand about us.
Jay Curry: One thing that I was impressed when we were talking before we came on was your total commitment to very thoroughly following the methodology. No shortcuts, everything is as good as it can get. The quality is … you just won’t back off of that to cut a few dollars.
Todd Allen: That’s been some of the struggles over the years as we’ve had a few competitors that have moved in, however we still get work from our clients because they have told us that they recognize that we’d take the extra steps and create a real picture, a radar view like they call it, of what’s inside their structure, or what’s underground, whereas somebody else just doesn’t quite go to that length.
Jay Curry: Now sometimes you do more than just … I can picture going to the hospital and have a scan of my body and you get colored scans and stuff, but you guys do 3D work-
Todd Allen: Yeah, we can create a 3D model of underground infrastructure, underground sinkholes and voids, inside a concrete a structure, inside a beam or a slab, we can create models of exactly how the reinforcement was placed and so that really gives engineers, or construction managers, or facility owners … helps them understand what they need to do, the information they need to move forward on their projects.
Jay Curry: Yeah, and again, it’s not a structural engineer that goes off and does this, this … You are really specialist in, there’s problems buried in there, and you work with the structural engineers, and you provide them with not just the pictures, but advised council what this could be, what that is, those types of things. It’s much more in depth.
Todd Allen: That’s right. And they need information. Some of the engineers we work for, they do some of the testing themselves, however when it gets down to it and they really need the kind of in depth view that we give them, that’s when they call us and we do that quite a bit and in niche type situations.
Jay Curry: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So you’re doing work all over. You have offices where?
Todd Allen: Yeah. Primarily we’re in Texas, and then in Illinois, in Chicago area. We travel all over the country. We’ve traveled to the middle east, Hawaii, anywhere that an engineer knows about what we can do, they like to bring us in. So that’s kind of how it works.
Jay Curry: So, we have just a minute or so left. Tell me about some of the interesting tools and toys, you called them. Only an engineer could call this stuff toys, but …
Todd Allen: Yeah, I call them toys. Anything that’s electronic, computer based, but it allows us to look inside or to see something that you can’t see with your eyes. It could be infrared technologies, ground penetrating radar based technologies, ultrasound sound based techniques, magnetometers, all kinds of exotic geophysical instruments that we have to help look into the ground, or look into a structure, and see what you can’t see.
Jay Curry: Are you seeing a lot of change in technology because it’s happening everywhere else?
Todd Allen: Technology is changing very fast. Computers have helped a lot. It’s become easier to use, but it’s still a very niche … You need to understand what you’re looking at, so technology is not necessarily doing it for us yet.
Jay Curry: So, I picture this operation in Chicago and here that goes all over the countries, so you’re shipping these tools, and you got a whole line up of tools, how in the heck do you decide which one do you use? I mean, do you know instantly based upon the problem or do you have to analyze it?
Todd Allen: Yeah, clients will send us photos or really describe the problem in detail, and that helps us understand what kind of approach we’re going to take, and that’s really what it takes.
Jay Curry: Very interesting story. Todd, if somebody wants to learn more about your operation at Radar View UCT.
Todd Allen: On the website. They can go to our website, RadarViewLLC.com or to UCTGroup.com. Or they can call us 800-557-3134.
Jay Curry: There you go. Folks, we’re going to put that on Texas Business Radio, so if you didn’t write it down, check it out. It will be there for you. We’re going to have to take a break, pay a few of our bills, but we’re talking engineering. You don’t want to go anywhere, ’cause this is good stuff. We’ll be right back.
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Jay W. Curry
Along with hosting “Texas Business Radio”, Jay is a Professional Certified Coach and Master Chair facilitating four Houston-based Vistage peer groups. In addition to being a best selling non-fiction author, the 2015 release of his award winning novel, Nixon and Dovey: the Legend Returns, adds novelist to his title. Jay holds a BS in Mathematics from Oklahoma State and an MS in Computer Science from Kansas State. You can learn more about Jay HERE.