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U.S. Helical Pile Industry 2014 Review & 2015 Outlook

by Bill Bonekemper

Publisher & Editor-in-Chief

November 19, 2014

Recently HPW conducted its third annual helical pile industry survey.  This year a total of nine helical pile and helical anchor manufacturers and one distributor participated in the survey - all of which are based in the U.S.  The nine participating manufacturers included:

Earth Contact Productswww.earthcontactproducts.com

Empire Pierswww.empirepiers.com

Foundation Supportworkswww.foundationsupportworks.com

Grip-Tite Foundation Systemswww.griptite.com

Helical Anchors, Inc. - www.helicalanchorsinc.com

IDEAL Group, Inc. - www.idealfoundationsystems.com

MacLean Power MPS Civil Divisionwww.macleandixie.com

Patriot Foundation Systemswww.patriothelicals.com

Ram Jack Systems Distribution www.ramjack.com

The participating distributor:

Viking Helical  –  www.vikinghelicalanchors.com

HPW also contacted or attempted to contact six additional U.S.-based manufacturers for the survey, but they either did not respond or declined to participate.

Topics of the Survey

  • Helical Pile and Anchor Sales for 2014 Versus 2013
  • Private Versus Public Funded Projects for 2014 Versus 2013
  • Square Bar Volume Compared to Round Shaft Volume in 2014
  • Opinions and/or Plans About the Future Market for Larger Diameter Helical Piles
  • Assessment of Solar and Wind Turbine Projects in 2014 Versus 2013 and Forecasts for 2015
  • Overall Forecasts and/or Predictions for Helical Pile and Helical Anchor Sales in 2015
  • Overall Opinion of the Impact of ICC-ES Code Certifications for the U.S. Civil Construction Market

Note:  For this survey, HPW did seek to distinguish between sales to the civil construction market versus the utility market.  Although some but not all participants sell helical products to both markets, the survey results do include sales into both markets.  However, the numbers and the projections are based largely upon sales to the civil construction marketplace.  

Helical Pile and Anchor Sales for 2014 Versus 2013

While two companies reported sales for 2014 were very close to sales in 2013, the other eight companies reported growth ranging from a low of 5% to a high of 100%. The mean or average increase in sales in 2014 versus 2013 for all ten companies was 34%.  The median increase was 13%.  

Private Versus Public Funded Projects for 2014 Versus 2013

The general input from all ten participants was that public funded projects have continued the decline that started late in 2011 and continued throughout 2014 due to the lack of federal funds.  While only one company reported strong sales from publicly funded projects (60% of total revenue) in 2014, the average ratio across all participants was 88% privately funded and 12% publicly funded projects.

Round Corner Square Bar (RCS) Compared to Round Shaft Volume in 2014

Three of the survey participants offered only round shaft helical products in 2014.  Of the seven companies that sell both products, sales volume percentages for two of the companies were reported at 2% and 51% respectively for RCS sales versus round shaft.  Of the remaining five companies that offer RCS products, the sales ratio averaged 10% RCS and 90% round shaft.

Opinions and/or Plans About the Future Market for

Larger Diameter Helical Piles

Note: For this survey, HPW considered larger helical piles as 4.5” and greater in diameter.

Last year’s survey on this topic produced a mixed bag of replies and data to put it mildly.  This market segment produced the widest disparity in reported sales and the largest difference of opinions with respect to the future for helical pile products ranging in diameter from 4.5” to 8.63” and larger.

What a difference a year makes.  One survey participant reported that 65% of all round shaft sales were for piles with a 4.5” diameter and larger.  Three companies cited significant increased interest in 5.5”, 7.0” and 8.63” diameter piles, and all three companies expect significant growth in this sector in 2015.  One company expects to see increased sales in larger diameter piles including 8.63”, 12.0” and even larger.  Of the remaining five companies, two reported some but not a lot of increased interest in larger diameter products, while three companies reported very little interest from customers or projected growth.

Assessment of Solar and Wind Turbine Projects in 2014 Versus 2013 and Forecasts for 2015


Only one company reported landing a solar project during 2014 for 3500 piles, and one other participant said the company continued to be successful in this market but with a reduction in overall opportunities.  Other participants labeled the solar market as flat or dead with no reason to believe 2015 will see much of a change unless new federal funds are made available for growth.

Two companies expressed more interest in the wind turbine category than for solar. Both companies suggested that the requirements for these deep foundations are very complex and technically challenging due to the huge loads and vibration factors. However, both companies feel they are well positioned to pursue the wind turbine market, while none of the remaining eight companies currently have any plans to do the same.

Overall Forecasts and/or Predictions for Helical Pile and Helical Anchor Sales in 2015


The outlook for sales growth in 2015 from nine participating companies is very positive, while only one company is uncertain about the prospect for growth in 2015. While two of the companies are projecting growth rates between 50% and 100% for 2015 over 2014, the average or mean growth rate is projected to be 29%, and the projected median growth rate is 23%.

Opinions Concerning the Impact of ICC-ES Certifications on the U.S. Civil Construction Marketplace


As part of the survey, HPW questioned each participating company about their opinions on the impact that ICC-ES certifications are having in the U.S. civil construction marketplace.  Of the ten companies participating in the survey, three manufacturers currently have ESR reports for one or more of their helical products - Foundation Supportworks, MacLean Power MPS Civil, and Ram Jack.  As you might imagine, these companies have positive feelings about ICC-ES certifications, and each company reported that they are beginning to see more and more ESR reports being required in bid specifications.  The feeling is the certifications legitimize helical pile products in the eyes of engineers and building officials.  

Of the seven remaining companies, opinions on the importance of having an ESR certification varies widely.  All seven stated that not having certifications has not affected their sales efforts in a measurable way.  One company commented - “load tests are still king,” while another company made a point about the fact that the ICC-ES AC358 Acceptance Criteria only covers piles with a 3.5” diameter and smaller. “Therefore, we don’t encounter many problems at all when submitting bids for larger diameter helicals,” the company representative stated.

There was a consistent opinion from all ten participating companies - AC358 needs to be modified for several reasons - 1) it should be a requirement that all applicant’s products submitted for certification  must be load tested, 2) the overall process needs to be simplified so the cost and time required can be reduced.  Two of the participants made the point that AC358 needs to be expanded to include larger diameter helical piles.  

Summary

Product sales in 2014 have exceeded the 2013 results for all but two companies participating in the survey.  Nine of the ten participants believe the upward trend will continue into 2015.  The participants in our survey vary greatly in size and annual revenues, and our readers need to consider this when contemplating the data. Nonetheless, it is certainly a positive sign to see the privately funded projects continuing a steady recovery and providing fuel for growth.  Absent any significant economic calamities, the outlook for continued growth in 2015 for our industry is certainly positive.

HPW would like to thank the ten companies that contributed to our survey.


Please send comments or questions to:


Bill Bonekemper

bbones@helicalpileworld.com

513-386-8158