A Trenchless Triumph

An MBM auger boring machine at work in a trenchless construction jobsite


As one of the oldest continuous manufacturers of auger boring machines in the U.S., Michael Byrne Manufacturing (MBM) has been a driving force in trenchless technology with advancements in technology, safety, and other innovations like its own custom gearbox.

The company's rugged, heavy-duty auger boring machines are designed to take on demanding trenchless construction projects. Auger boring is a trenchless application in which a steel casing pipe is jacked through the earth to form a horizontal bore. Just as important as having a ruggedly built machine is having a reliable engine that can power through the most challenging bores. That's why MBM turned to John Deere industrial diesel engines for their continuous power and performance.

A Family Legacy

For over 50 years, MBM has been a family-owned and -operated business. The company was started in 1966 in Mansfield, Ohio, by namesake Michael (Mike) Byrne. MBM is now led by Mike's son-in-law, Jim Weist, who is the owner, and Mike's granddaughter, Leslie Weist, who serves as vice president of operations.

MBM serves a global customer base, and its auger boring machines are utilized across a wide range of applications, including infrastructure development and installing underground utility lines such as water, sewer, gas, oil, electric, telecommunications. The company offers machines from 24 inches in diameter all the way up to 84 inches. MBM is known for "overbuilding" its machines; but with the uncertain terrain of auger boring, the company is committed to providing customers with the most robust machines that can drill through whatever they may come across.

Like many in the off-highway industry, when Final Tier 4/Stage V emissions standards were rolled out, MBM had to redesign their machines around Final Tier 4 engines in order to be emissions-compliant. The company turned to John Deere distributor Superior Diesel for support in navigating these changes.

Two construction workers wearing safety vests, goggles, and hard hats standing in a construction worksite looking off into the distance


Trusted Collaborator for Final Tier 4 Transition

The transition to Final Tier 4-compliant engines had a major impact on the auger boring industry due to the physical size required by these new engine platforms.

"Everything had to be redesigned to fit around that. Where these machines operate makes it even more difficult because they're typically down in trenches with trench boxes that have cross beams on them that pose height limitations," says Jim. "Auger boring machines have gotten much taller than they were before. It really impacted our customers and how we design our machines."

The experts at Superior Diesel were there to support MBM through this transition as the companies worked together to redesign the machines. MBM was looking for an engine package that offered the most compact envelope possible while still meeting horsepower requirements. Superior Diesel helped put together two engine packages using the John Deere 4.5L industrial diesel engine, offering 140 hp (104 kW), and 6.8L industrial diesel engine, offering 250 hp (186 kW).

"One thing we wanted was a proven, reliable engine — something that had plenty of testing on it and a history of working in tough environments. Knowing that these engines are used in other construction equipment applications that are run in harsh environments gave us confidence in going with John Deere," says Leslie. "The John Deere global support system was another factor in our decision because we know that no matter where our machines go in the world, if there's a problem with the engine, they'll be able to find someone to help get it fixed."

The auger boring machine redesign also required MBM to adapt its hydraulic system. Superior Diesel helped to design a drop-in solution that gave the machine more hydraulic power and versatility to use auxiliary hydraulic power on other equipment or attachments if needed. Together with the new engine package, this solution strengthened the thrusting capabilities of the auger boring machines.


New Auger Boring Machine Put to the Test

MBM's redesigned D60/72-1.5 auger boring machine was put to the test by long-time customer Pacific Boring when the tunneling contractor was tasked with installing a new 60-inch drainage culvert on San Miguelito Road in Lompoc, California. Pacific Boring has been working with MBM equipment since the '80s.

"We're a small company but we work on really big jobs. Pacific Boring specializes in trenchless work, so we're always drilling under railroads, highways, those types of infrastructure projects," says Steven Gallyer, president of Pacific Boring. "We're seeing more and more of these types of projects, especially on California's Central Coast, as culvert infrastructure fails and the heavy rains wash out roads and highways."

After a large winter rainstorm caused significant damage to the highway, Pacific Boring was hired to replace a damaged drainage culvert that couldn't keep up with the flooding. Santa Barbara County officials were counting on the contractor to get the new culvert in place before the highway was eroded further. But the job was not without its challenges. The area in which the crew would be working was steep, rocky terrain with unknown and quickly changing ground conditions.

"Originally we were looking at doing the job with a tunnel boring machine, but we just knew that it wasn't going to make it through the rocks, cobbles and boulders. We swapped to an auger boring machine that would allow us to remove the augers from within the casing and go to the front of the machine and deal with boulders as we encountered them," says Gallyer.

The project required the team to install 140 feet of the 60-inch casing at a slope of negative 15 percent. Most auger boring machines run on a flat or almost flat surface but with the extreme jobs that Pacific Boring takes on, the contractor needed a machine that could handle steep grades when boring. MBM specially designed Pacific Boring's machine with extra-heavy-duty drives to hold it in place so it doesn't slide while it's boring. And thanks to the John Deere 6.8L industrial engine, the machine also had the reliable power that would be needed to complete the job.

"Having the horsepower obviously lets us get through multiple ground conditions, even as they change and we fight our way through them," says Gallyer. "You don't always know what you're going to run into, especially on emergency jobs like this where we do hit boulders and cobble-size material and other buried obstructions. It's absolutely essential that we have the right engine size and the power to be able to perform the work."

As the crew navigated tight timelines, variable ground conditions, and the steep grade, the MBM machine engine powered through to successfully complete the project ahead of schedule.

"We actually daylighted or reached the receiving side two days before we originally anticipated we would," says Gallyer. "Even with all of the issues we had — unforeseen obstructions, boulder-sized rocks, repairs that we had to make to the drill bit because of the unforeseen ground conditions — we were able to get through it, and everyone's happy."

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