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Recently HPW conducted its fourth annual helical pile industry survey. This year a total of eight helical pile and helical anchor manufacturers and two distributors participated in the survey. Seven of the manufacturers are based in the U.S., and GoliathTech is based in Canada. The eight participating manufacturers included:
Earth Contact Products – www.earthcontactproducts.com
Empire Piers – www.empirepiers.com
Foundation Supportworks – www.foundationsupportworks.com
GoliathTech Screw Piles – www.goliathtechpiles.com
Grip-Tite Foundation Systems – www.griptite.com
Helical Anchors, Inc. - www.helicalanchorsinc.com
MacLean Power MPS Civil Division – www.macleandixie.com
Ram Jack Systems Distribution – www.ramjack.com
The two participating distributors included:
Viking Helical – www.vikinghelicalanchors.com
Danbro Distributors - www.danbro.com
HPW also contacted or attempted to contact nine additional manufacturers in North America for the survey, but they either did not respond or declined to participate.
Topics of the Survey
- Helical Pile and Anchor Sales for 2015 Versus 2014
- Private Versus Public Funded Projects for 2015 Versus 2014
- Square Bar Volume Compared to Round Shaft Volume in 2015
- Opinions and/or Plans About the Future Market for Larger Diameter Helical Piles
- Assessment of Solar and Wind Turbine Projects in 2015 Versus 2014 and Forecasts for 2016
- Overall Forecasts and/or Predictions for Helical Pile and Helical Anchor Sales in 2016
- 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.
Helical Pile and Anchor Sales for 2015 Versus 2014
There were some huge differences in unit sales in 2015 over 2014 among the ten participants. One company reported a 40% decline in business, which was entirely credited to the severe decline in the oilfields market. Two other companies reported 0% growth in 2015. The remaining seven companies all reported growth ranging from a low of 3% to a high of 80%. Of course the relative size of these seven companies varies significantly, which can skew the numbers. The mean or average increase in sales in 2015 versus 2014 for all ten companies was 18%. The median increase was 13%.
Private Versus Public Funded Projects for 2015 Versus 2014
The general input from all ten participants was that public funded projects in 2015 continued at about the same level as in 2014. While only one company reported strong sales from publicly funded projects (over 50% of total revenue) in 2015, the average ratio across all participants was 80% privately funded and 20% publicly funded projects.
Round Corner Square Bar (RCS) Compared to Round Shaft Volume in 2015
Four of the survey participants offered only round shaft helical products in 2015. Of the remaining six companies that offer RCS products, the sales ratio averaged 21% RCS and 79% round shaft. However one company did report that 80% of its sales were RCS products.
Opinions and/or Plans About the Future Market for
Larger Diameter Helical Piles
Note: For this survey, HPW considered larger diameter helical piles as 4.5” and greater in diameter.
Generally speaking, larger diameter helical pile sales are increasing, but there is a significant difference of opinions with respect to marketing and manufacturing plans for larger diameter piles. While two manufacturers see growth potential in sizes ranging from 8.63” to 12” diameter products, most manufacturers are focused on 4.5” to 7” products. One survey participant reported a large increase in the number of inquiries about larger diameter helical piles in North America and also from international markets. From all participating companies there was not enough data on percentage increase or decrease in product sales of 4.5” diameter and larger products, but the general consensus indicated a slow to medium growth pattern.
Note: HPW realizes there are several helical pile manufacturers in North America that are aggressively pursuing large diameter helical pile markets, however these companies chose not to participate in this survey.
Assessment of Solar and Wind Turbine Projects in 2015 Versus 2014
and Forecasts for 2016
This topic provided very interesting feedback from the participants. While a couple of companies see solar projects continuing to grow at a relatively slow but steady pace, only one company reported having robust solar sales in 2015 with another strong year projected for 2016. The other seven companies labeled the solar market as flat or dead with no reason to believe 2016 will see much of a change unless new federal funds are made available to fuel growth.
Only one company reported landing a wind turbine project in 2015, and none of the companies see any significant change for 2016 with the lack of stimulus funding being the major reason.
Overall Forecasts and/or Predictions for Helical Pile and Helical
Anchor Sales in 2016
The outlook for sales growth in 2016 from the ten companies is positive albeit slightly lower than 2015. One company is projecting a big year with as much as 80% growth in revenue over 2015. At the other end of the scale, one company is projecting that 2016 revenue will be very close to its 2015 revenues. The mean or average 2016 projections for all ten companies is 27.1%, and the median projection is 22.5%.
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 and their distributors 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.
In contrast to last year’s opinions on this topic, the five remaining manufacturers participating in the survey feel that having an ESR for one or more of their products is becoming increasingly more important. In fact, all five companies stated that obtaining an ESR is something that is currently in process or will be soon.
Several of the companies commented about the fact that the ICC-ES AC358 acceptance criteria does not include provisions for helical piles with diameters larger than 3.5” nor does it include provisions for hollow square tube products. These two issues are currently under consideration by a group of manufacturers commonly referred to as the “ad hoc committee,” CTL/Thompson - the ICC-ES certified testing laboratory, and by the engineers at ICC-ES.
There was a consistent opinion from all ten participating companies that 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) larger diameter piles need to included, and 3) the overall process needs to be simplified so the cost and time required can be reduced.
Product sales in 2015 exceeded the 2014 results for all but one of the companies participating in the survey. Seven of the ten participants believe the upward trend will continue into 2016 although at a lower rate of growth. Two companies are anticipating significant growth. 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 2016 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:
U.S. Helical Pile Industry 2015 Review
& 2016 Outlook
by Bill Bonekemper
Publisher & Editor-in-Chief